25+ Things to Consider Before Accepting Your [Architecture] Dream Job

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Getting that elusive job offer was not a smooth ride! Finally, your hard work has paid off, and you’ve bagged that role you’ve been aiming for. So, what next?

You should determine whether this job will keep you productive and satisfied. That’s all that matters in the end, don’t you think?

The employer has done a lot of headhunting before giving you that job; similarly, you should get into the details before you accept that job offer. And in most cases you’ve got your desired (architectural) role after hours of preparation, talking to people endlessly and going for frequent interviews.

You’ll be dedicating hours of work and effort, to an organization so you must ensure that it’s all worth it. The journey to success is bitter and sweet, but when you’re happy with the present role, it’s like you’ve fought half your battle to success.

We’ve compiled a small checklist that should help you make an informed decision. Try to go through the points carefully before you give a heads up to taking the new job.

Let’s get started!

Things to Consider Before Accepting Your Dream Job

  1. Contract type

Your employment contract can vary based on different factors. Most often, it could be determined by the number of working hours; however, this might not be the case in certain situations. Before you accept a job offer, it is always advisable to check the available options. Here are a few common types of contract that is usually found:

  • Consultant

This type of contract is common for short-term employment, as it helps to reduce the obligation and cost to the employers. However, the base salary is pretty high for a consultant role, as you’ll not be eligible for other bonuses and benefits.

  • Direct hire

These contracts are offered generally for permanent positions. It’s a standard contract, and it comes with a host of other benefits which includes- parental leave allowance, holiday entitlements, sick leave, pension benefits, etc. Your salary is set out from the beginning itself; however, this contract is more binding as it comes with Non-Compete Clauses (NCC).

You might be asked to sign separate agreements which aim to prevent ‘moonlighting.’ This indicates that if you’re opting for additional employment, alongside your regular job, you might be facing problems with misconduct. Therefore, we advise you to check the contract accordingly to be aware of these clauses.

  • Contract-to-hire

In the contract-to-hire agreements, you’ll have a set duration that you’ll be working for the employer. This period usually ranges from 3 to 6 months. Moreover, at the end of this period, the employer will decide whether you’ll be selected as a full-time employee or not. 

In the contract-to-hire relationships, both the employer and employee tend to benefit from this trial period. You get to experience the work environment, culture, and job responsibilities before you set out to commit working with this firm. 

Each contract comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. You need to weigh them out, to understand if you’re getting sufficient benefits and financial security from this contract.

  1. Internal support

This can be one of the significant benefits of working in a large organization. When you get the assistance of different teams within the firm, it gradually helps you to perform more efficiently.

You‘ll also be receiving various training opportunities that will be helpful for your progression. If you grasp the training lessons with perfection, it shows your willingness to grow with the business.

In a larger office, you’ll often find specialists in different functions of architecture like 3D modeling, construction detailing, model making, graphic design, etc. Therefore, whenever you need guidance with a particular topic, you can go forward and seek for help. But, in the case of smaller organizations, it might take you hours to an end to find for a solution. 

  1. Salary

It is essential to assess the base salary before accepting a job offer. Every architect deserves to get paid somewhat in line as per the average expectation of that job role. Moreover, as you receive the contract, don’t be in a hurry to sign it by just seeing the quoted salary. You should consider the other compensation factors before you make a decision.

The commission schemes of the organization should also be clear to you to understand the complete package that you’ve been offered. However, if you aren’t satisfied with the salary structure, you can speak up to the employers. 

But, you need to be aware that salary negotiation can get a little tricky. The salary components also depend on the market conditions, location, size of the firm, and your skills and qualifications.

  1. Bonus scheme

To understand the bonus scheme you should consider focusing on the full package. You’ll be receiving a bonus in many different forms such as- year-end bonus, 401(k ) profit sharing, firm performance bonus, stockholder bonus, licensure bonus, quarterly profit sharing, etc.

You can speak to the former employees, and even the hiring manager to help you understand the bonus scheme in detail. Most firms don’t usually state the exact amount for the bonus, because the different categories that come under it are not guaranteed and instead discretionary.

  1. Sick leave

This is the time off that is exclusively for when an immediate family member or you have fallen ill. If you aren’t able to work because you need to take care of them, you can take the day off as sick leave. You can also accumulate this leave by month or pay period. You can accrue this leave at a rate of maximum ten days per year, with this being the standard.

Some organizations operate based on the honor system, but in some instances, you might have to show your doctors report for claiming the leave. If there isn’t a fixed number of days for sick leave, then problems may arise with people misusing this privilege.

  1. Public holidays

You need to check out the number of public holidays in your country. However, in the US, the standard is approximately eight public holidays.

  1. Vacation

It depends on how the duration of your vacation is calculated in the firm. You can earn that vacation at the end of the year, and it can be used immediately. The standard vacation time in Europe is around four weeks, while in the US it’s roughly two weeks or more. However, the vacation time is one of the negotiable aspects of your contract.

For those in need of a more extended vacation can also negotiate for the additional vacation time. The unpaid or less desirable leave can be collected along with the personal time off (PTO). When you’re about to negotiate for your vacation, always stay aware of what’s given in the contract.

  1. Vision, dental, long term disability and life insurance

These are some of the standard benefits that are offered by an organization, apart from the medical benefits. 

It might sound pretty amazing to have such coverage but ensure that you look into the cost that you’re indirectly paying for these benefits. Most often, it’s less out of pocket, so the expense for it shouldn’t affect your decision to accept the job offer. 

  1. Medical

This component is vital for jobs in the US. In other countries, for instance, in Canada and parts of Europe, it includes public healthcare. It depends on the coverage that you’re opting for. However, your medical expenses can be higher than $10,000. And you’ll be facing more problems when you’ve got a big family to take care of.

In most cases, it’s almost ineffective to negotiate for a different package or provider other than the given options. Therefore, it’s generally not advisable to negotiate the medical facilities, and instead focus on other components. 

  1. Retirement: 401(k) plan or similar

This standard program comes with minimum employment eligibility, to participate in it; you usually need around 6-12 months of employment. You can find many firms that provide this program where you can contribute your tax earnings to a retirement plan. Just like your medical plan, you don’t have the privilege to negotiate this program.

Therefore, your retirement plan depends on the law and provisions of the program that your organization is following. Contributing even one or two percent of your salary to the retirement plan can make a huge difference later. So, ensure that you understand the 401 (k) plan to be able to take maximum advantage of the opportunity.

  1. Profit-sharing or 401(k)

The profit-sharing aspect in the 401(k) is the pre-tax contribution which employers make to the retirement accounts of their employees. This contribution is usually made at the end of the year; it’s a type of bonus that comes with tax benefits. Each firm has a different policy when it comes to the percentage of the contribution made, which either has a fixed interest or it’s discretionary.

Your contract should have all the details about the terms of your package. The employers have the option to choose their contribution vesting schedule. However, it’s based on your length of service. 

For instance, with 20% vesting per year, you can yield an excellent benefit over time. However, you need to consider how long you’ll be working in this firm if it’s for a short duration you should opt for other compensation benefits.

  1. Continued education

With continuing education, the company helps the employee to improve their skill set, which is excellent for the fast-paced architecture profession. It not only helps in boosting your career, but it’s beneficial for the long-term success of the organization. 

With additional training classes like Revit or BIM, you’ll be updated with the new software in the market.

For instance, if you don’t know how to use a particular software, the education benefit allows you to learn this new topic. It also guides the entire team to move in the right direction. You’ll get the opportunity to learn and grow along with the organization.

  1. Professional benefits

For an architect in the US, you’ll find many organizations that pay for your certifications, conferences, Intern Development Program (US) and the AIA memberships. This total sum might be adding up to a few thousand dollars per year. Some of the architectural firms also cover the cost of getting the architectural license like Part III (UK) or Architecture Registration Exams (ARE).

Your employer can also cover the cost of Project Management Professional certification (PMP) and LEED certification. Having a licensed professional in the firm can bring a lot of benefits to the employer. Therefore they tend to cover such expenses in part or full. Some organizations also offer you a bonus of about $5000 for successfully acquiring your license. So, it’s a win-win situation.

  1. Business expenses

If you need to travel quite often for business-related meetings, you should check the policy which covers your business expenses. It’s good to be aware of whether the company provides you with a corporate card or not. When the business expenses are not covered, you’ll be personally liable to pay for them. 

However, most companies ask you to keep the bills as the total amount will be reimbursed at the end of the trip. Expense reimbursement is the method of paying you back when you spend money while working on the company’s time. Ensure that the travel expenses are covering your flights, lodging, ground transportation, and other incidental costs.

  1. Stability

After primary education and skills, the other criteria that most recruiters look into is job stability. Some of the firms rule out candidates based on the total number of years that they have worked in their last job.

For instance, in the US, some large architectural companies choose potential candidates that have worked for about ten years, without changing 2-3 firms. Therefore it’s better to avoid being a Job Hopper, especially in the architectural field. This term refers to a person who chooses to change their jobs every few years without a valid reason.

Even though the architectural market might be unpredictable with plenty of frequent layoffs, but your toolbox (skills and experience) will help you land a new job. The same goes for the company, for which you need to research thoroughly to see how comfortable you are with the companies policies.  

If you’re moving to a new place for a job, you should also look into the market conditions there. This will help you determine the other possible aspects for a future opportunity if the company shuts down. 

  1. Office space

The office space is a massive reflection of the organization’s brand. How is the office space? Check if you’re getting a cubicle, an open office or private office for yourself. It can affect your productivity, efficiency, team’s culture, and your general well-being. 

We can’t deny that most of us work best in an environment that suits our preferences, as it improves our focus and overall productivity. For instance, if you get distracted easily, it can get frustrating to work in an open office space. However, for those of you who prefer constant interaction will like to work in the free type of work environment. 

Most companies opt for an open office layout these days, as it helps to save out on a lot of space. But, if you want to work in a quiet area, you’ll have to go to a smaller office or ask the employer for a vacant private office. The right office environment can help you to foster new ideas and create brilliant designs.

  1. Project type

Your project type also depends on your career path and personal choice. Just like whether you prefer working on custom residential houses or large commercial projects. 

Moreover, your long term career goals can also influence your decision. For instance, if you want to start an architectural firm in the long run, you’ll first have a set of job preferences that you would want to try out. And what are the other challenges?

Finally, a clash of choice can arise like, if you’re given a project to design a memorial, but your interest lies in working with residential homes. So, you should select your projects wisely, and read the contract carefully to understand the projects that will be assigned to you.

If you’re not satisfied with the next projects, you can also find out about other prospects. This will help in negotiating the job offer, which should land you in the project of your choice.

  1. Office location

This is the first component that you need to consider before you say “Yes, I accept the job offer”. Ask yourself where you want to live, whether in the city or some other location in the town. 

Are you ready to move to a new country/state? How long will it take to commute from your home to the office? Will you take your car or commute by public transport? Can you cover your living and travel expenses with your salary?

If you seek out for help from other architects in the organization, you’ll be able to get a clear picture. Collect the right amount of information and then make your decision.

However, your focus should be on opting for a job that maximizes your opportunities. For instance, the cost of living in downtown can be expensive, but that’s where an architect has excellent career opportunities. You’ll find more jobs in the city due to the higher population and number of buildings. 

The learning opportunity in urban areas is high, and you’ll get to work in large firms with other outstanding professionals. You should also consider your long term and short term goals, to understand which location will be better for you.

  1. Hours

The number of hours that the organization demands from you for giving the monthly pay cheque is another essential factor. In this profession, overtime work is quite common. 

You’re being prepared to work for long hours right from the time you were in architecture school. Therefore, working almost 60 to 70 hours per week is unsurprising for an architect. Are you shocked by the number?

However, many of you might not want to invest so much time in your job due to other commitments. So, you should look to work with a firm where work-life balance is prioritized. If you look at the working hour scenario from an objective point of view, you should be able to complete your work within the deadline. 

Meeting deadlines is another challenge that makes an architect work for long hours, irrespective of it being good or bad. To get the job done, you have to sacrifice something or the other. Therefore, it boils down to getting those perfect designs for which you’ll need to put in a lot of hours and effort.

  1. Responsibility

The work that is done by an architect needs to be organized well. Generally, you’ll need to keep the details of the progress of different projects, maintain the records for contracts, the budget, and overall cost. For an assignment writing for example you might be able to outsource tasks but when it comes to creative responsibility or final material lists, things change, organizing is key. However, the number of responsibilities that you get is directly proportional to your salary. When you see the contract try to figure out the following responsibilities:

  • How many people will you be guiding and managing?
  • Is it a new responsibility that you’ll be taking over or you’ve previous experience in the same role?
  • What projects and locations will you be in charge of?
  • What are the different records that you need to maintain?
  1. The job which matches your experience

The new job role is a sure fit if you’ve previously specialized in that field or you’ve prior work experience. But, if you’re looking for a change, you should inform the employer about the possible learning curve. 

Seeking for change is a great way to learn new things. However, the challenges that you take up should match your job criteria. For instance, you have to prepare yourself if you’re shifting from a two-person firm specializing in housing refurbishments to a larger office which designs commercial buildings.

  1. For the brand name on your resume

You might find a lot of candidates wanting to join a firm to get the brands name on their resume. This might be a wrong move in your career. You ask why? Well! You need to work to gain experience in the architectural field, and if you’ve joined a company for namesake, you won’t have much opportunity for growth. 

Firstly, you’ll be waiting to leave after having worked for a few months in the new office. Secondly, this decision won’t be a purely relevant entry on your resume. Therefore, you should figure out the reason you want to accept that job offer, and whether the role is essential for your long-term goals or not. 

  1. Recreational activities

Many of the large firms these days pay close attention to team bonding activities. This is a great move to help build a co-operative workforce. Also, it breaks the barrier that exists between the employer and the employees, which hampers the overall productivity.

When the employer takes the initiative to ensure that the employees are happy and relaxed, it builds your commitment towards the firm. For instance; when the employer organizes a Christmas party with live music, catering services, and games. Some fun stuff also brings in work-life balance.

However, even the ‘lunch and learn’ option is suitable for an architect as you’ll enjoy good food, as well as learn new topics. This profession can get quite challenging at times, with your efficiency level and stress being inversely proportional. Therefore, it’s good to know that the employer tries to infuse enthusiasm to create a vibrant, positive mentality among its workforce. 

  1. Start date

The usual standard is to give a two-week notice to your former employer before you join a new organization. Also, it depends on the need of the prospective employer, so accordingly, you can ask for a later joining date. In the meantime, you can finish off the in-hand project, or you can give yourself an extended vacation till then.

In most cases, when a firm has a vacancy, they need you to join immediately. So, when you’re asked in the interview when you can join them, it’s best to say, “I can join, as soon as possible.” However, while negotiating the job offer, you can choose to bring up this topic again, if need be.

  1. Does the job match your goals?

You need to this answer to yourself whether this job is suitable for your career goals or not. It’s not a job that you can join today and leave tomorrow, so be wise in picking your firm. 

You should invest your time and effort wisely, it’s not always a give and take barter system. Just like how you’re producing work for the employer, they should be helping you grow in your chosen career path. Read up on the duties and responsibilities given in your job description, to clearly understand your role in the organization.

Final words

Now that we’ve come to the end of our guide, it’s time for you to weigh out the pros and cons. This will help to prepare you for what the job offer is bringing to your table. Try to evaluate the intangibles carefully, because your decision stays with you for years to come.

Ensure that you make this decision with a calm mind or sleep on it. And, give yourself the time to figure things out. You’ll clearly understand which job offer is best suitable for you. Deep down you know which one we’re talking about!

We wish you good luck!

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