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How did you find your job? Part 5 of 5: Al Weisz AIA, LEED AP

Al Weisz AIA, LEED AP was unemployed for 16 months after being laid off from a small residential firm in November 2008. In March, he started working for the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management, where he leads energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects at state-owned buildings.

How did you find your new job?

Every day, I was looking at www.architects.org/classified and Craigslist. Then I started looking at state jobs, at mass.gov. I applied for my current job in the middle of August 2009. I was coming home from a BSA event one day last October when I got a call back from the state—some three months after I applied. They asked, “Can you come in for an interview tomorrow?” Then, I didn’t hear anything again until January. I got the job offer at the end of February and finally started here March 15. It entailed an awful lot of hurry up and wait.

Did you do a lot of networking during your search?

I attended the BSA’s monthly Career Resources Network sessions, as well as its BIM Roundtable and Small Practices Network meetings. And once I did get my first interview with the state, I asked everyone I knew if they had any contacts in the division. A few architects had worked with that group, and a friend worked in this office.

How did you stay positive while you were unemployed?

I tried to keep in mind that I had only lost a job; it wasn’t the end of my life. The BSA was hugely helpful through the monthly Career Resources Network lunch sessions. I tapped into a community that way, and it was positive reinforcement to see that I wasn’t in it alone.

Did you ever think about starting your own practice?

I did. And I picked up the occasional project that popped up here and there, like helping my brother-in-law design a screen porch for his house.

Did you ever think about leaving the architecture industry?

Yes, I considered leaving to become an engineer, which was my first degree.

Five years ago, would you ever have thought you’d be in this job?

Absolutely not. I never would have imagined myself doing what I’m doing now. But it’s fantastic. I’m using both my architecture and engineering skills in doing energy retrofits for state buildings and getting to work with solar panels, wind turbines and geothermal wells. I’m making tons of connections with green-energy suppliers and installers. It’s really a great experience and a great opportunity.

What are you working on in your new job?

My first project was at the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office in Northhampton. We put solar panels for hot water on the roof of that building. You generate hot water for nothing once you buy the equipment, and it is used every day, which is fantastic. Later, I’ll be putting solar panels on some state colleges in the area and also on a recycling plant in Springfield.

What resources do unemployed architects need that the BSA isn’t currently providing?

I think it would be useful to have access to metrics, such as how many architects there are in the city versus how many architecture jobs there are. I don’t know if it is possible to compile that kind of data, but it would have been helpful to understand the supply-and-demand situation.

What advice would you offer to those who are still unemployed?

The hard part is keeping your spirits up. Try to enjoy the downtime. It won’t last, and, looking back, it was actually a low-stress time in my life. I was not rushed anywhere. There were no deadlines to meet. My family had to cut back our spending, but the extra time with my kids was great.

And keep looking and networking: You never know where something is going to pop up. Everyone is taking their time hiring. And once you get an interview, you still may need to prepare for a very slow-moving process, but keep the faith.


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.