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How did you find your job? Part 3 of 5: David Krawitz

A registered architect, David Krawitz worked for more than eight years as an architect at Perry Dean Rogers | Partners Architects and then shifted career paths about 17 years ago to work in corporate real estate at Fidelity Investments. He was laid off by Fidelity at the end of 2008 and just started a new position as a senior project manager with Joslin, Lesser + Associates, an owner’s project-management firm in Watertown. There, he handles almost entirely public projects, including in-state college campuses for the University of Massachusetts Building Authority and for the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which oversees all the K­–12 school construction in the state.

The BSA recently caught up with Krawitz on lessons learned from his job search.

How did you find your job?

I got in front of as many people as I could, hoping they would think of me if the right thing opened up. I spent 18 to 20 months doing informational interviews with my network, trying to build off my list of contacts and expand it considerably. I talked to people working in a wide range of firms, companies with corporate real-estate departments, institutional planning offices, project-management firms, real-estate-investment firms and firms that manage real-estate-investment portfolios on behalf of colleges and university endowments. I aimed for four informational meetings per week and was generally able to get at least three new potential contacts from each interview.

I also attended the Real Estate Academic Initiative conference at Harvard University and other professional conferences held by CoreNet [Global] and SCUP (the Society for College and University Planning). I have an interest in acoustics and theater planning, so I went to the BSA Performing Arts Design Committee meetings, which I found to be very helpful, as were the BSA/SCUP College and University Roundtable, the BSA Owners’ Project Managers (OPMs) for K–12 Schools Committee and the BSA K–12 Educational Facilities Committee.

I perused many job boards and applied for positions in architecture, facilities planning, project management and real-estate-investment management—and came close on a few. The comment that best summarized the job search experience was from a recruiter with whom I had a nice interview. She said, “You are overqualified for this role but not nearly as overqualified as the other people we are considering.” I also found that if I had no connection to a firm, it was almost impossible to get my resume looked at. One hiring manager told me that companies are receiving literally 600 resumes for every position posted.

One place that I been referred to by several of my contacts about six months ago was an owner’s project-management firm, Joslin, Lesser + Associates. They did not respond to my request for an informational meeting at that time but contacted me in early July when they had an open position and then hired me in a matter of days as a senior project manager.

How did you approach informational interviews?

For each informational interview, I had to consider who I was talking to and what I’m trying to get out of the meeting. If you ask your contacts outright if they have a job opening during an informational interview, they’re going to say no, and the discussion is over very quickly. The purpose of an informational interview is to seek advice and guidance on companies or people you might speak to additionally and what types of roles might be a good fit for your skills and interests. You use the opportunity to engage in a discussion, rather than to try to get people to produce a job they probably don’t have.

You are trying to come away with three or four names of people they can introduce you to. In an ideal world, your contact will send an email after your interview, introducing you to their contacts and asking those people to meet with you. I met with the head of real estate at Lesley College. He was prepared for me because he had gone through this process himself. In addition to talking to me for an hour, he had a sheet on which he had photocopied 16 business cards of people he thought it might be worth talking to.

But at a minimum, you hope to come away with permission to use their name. So you can write an email, for example, that starts, “Dear Bob, I just talked with Sam, and he thought you’d be a great source of advice for me.” Sometimes, I’d wait until two or three people from different places referred me to the same person, so I could say “Dear Bob, I just talked with Sam and Joan and Jane, and they all independently recommended that you’d be a great source of advice for me.” That seemed to carry more weight.

What resources did you find the least helpful in your search?

I did not generally find conferences that helpful, mostly because they were flooded with other job seekers. The amount of time you typically talk to someone at a conference is quite brief, and it’s hard to make an impression. Plus, the person isn’t in their office, where they can look things up to help you. I really believe 30 to 60 minutes face-to-face in a dedicated informational interview is worth 10 times more than shaking someone’s hand at a conference and hoping they remember you apart from the other 40 people they shook hands with.

I went to the first BSA Career Resources Network meeting, and there were maybe 15 people. I went the second month, and there were 40 people. I went the third month, and there were a couple hundred attendees and then I stopped going. With that many attendees, we spent the whole time going around the room doing introductions, which was helpful only in terms of hearing which firms had layoffs and weren’t hiring.

Did you have to settle for less money than you were earning previously?

I took a significant pay cut. I was working for a private company in financial services, which was at the very high end of the pay scale. I’m now working at a company that grew out of an architect’s office, and the pay reflects that sensibility.

Do you like your new job more or less than your previous one?

I am more satisfied here in many ways. Almost everyone here either used to be an architect or worked in construction. It’s a very good firm and committed to doing the best job possible.

Did you ever think about striking out on your own?

I did talk to a friend about small-scale real-estate development, where we’d buy houses, renovate them and sell them. You don’t need an employer to do that, just money. But, ultimately, I felt holding out for a job with a steady income stream was better than risking money I had put aside to cover continued unemployment on one project where I could go belly-up.

What could the BSA be doing better to help the profession?

My big-picture comment is that architects suffer from undercutting each other and competing on the wrong things. Architects think they compete on their proprietary information, which they don’t share. This is so detrimental to the profession. If a doctor comes up with a new process for a heart transplant, he writes it up for a professional journal and presents it at a conference. He doesn’t assume that he is going to compete by saying he’s the only one who can do heart transplants; he competes by doing them better or simply providing a good service. Architects, however, tend to hoard details and specifications, which then have to be reproduced endlessly from firm to firm, to no advantage. The real value add by architects is the intellectual concepts they bring to framing a project and designing it. By not sharing details and therefore not knowing which are good, we not only re-create details, we re-create bad details.

The BSA could foster a culture shift by creating a shared library of details, specs and materials. The amount of space dedicated to materials libraries in Boston alone is staggering. And a one-person firm needs access to a library as much as a large one, but can afford it less. Perhaps the BSA could create a central massive materials library that’s accessible to all.


Genevieve Rajewski is a Boston-based freelance writer who covers science, nature, animal issues, travel, food and passionate people for acclaimed publications such as Smithsonian, Washington Post Magazine, Wired.com and The Boston Globe. Her website is genevieverajewski.com.