Once you have a city in mind, how do you find a job?  More to the point, how do you get your portfolio in front of the right people?  What follows are three effective ways to reach out to potential employers, the first step to getting hired.

Developing a List of Target Companies:

As a rule, targeted searches are much more effective and are easier to manage than a scatter shot approach.  A useful way to develop a list of target companies is to organize them into tiers.  But first you have to know who the players are.

There are several ways to search firms in your target community.  A simple Google/Bing search will give you an idea of firms in your target community both large and small.

Another way to investigate opportunities is to reach out to the Chamber of Commerce.   Chambers are more than willing to help and often have membership directories they can send.  Reaching out the local chapter of the AIA, NCARB or other organizations representing your field is also wise.  These groups are invaluable because they often have contact names and numbers for local firms as well as hands-on knowledge on each.

Once you know who the players are start collecting as much information on each firm as you can.  Some important information you will want to gather are:

  • Size of firm
  • Type of architecture or design they do
  • Annual income, average project size
  • Are they hiring
  • Continued education opportunities

These are just a few questions you will want to ask but in general, if you can find the answers to these questions you will have a good idea of a firm’s success, how it treats employees and if they are growing.

Once you have your list of firms and some basic information on each one, divide them evenly into three tiers.  The top tier will consist of the firms you are most attracted to or closely match your skill set.  The second tier my not be as interesting or may be interesting but not a match with your background.  The third tier should consist of the firms or companies that you may not be interested in but would work with the get a foothold in a community.

Reaching out to your target companies:

This section is not about applying to positions; it is about marketing yourself to firms.  There are several ways to go about doing this, each having their own pros and cons.  A few methods that I feel are most effective are: cold calling, working with a recruiter and networking.

Cold Calling

Cold calling is just what it implies, calling into firms where you have no connection.  You don’t know much about the person you are calling and they don’t know much about you.  While this can be uncomfortable there are ways to “warm” up a cold call.

First, send an email.  If the company is small, reaching out to the owner or one of the principals is acceptable.  When reaching out to larger firms or corporations you will be better served by emailing the Human Resources department.

Do not send your cover letter, resume or portfolio in the email, you will send that information later.  This email is for a general introductions and information gathering.  Keep the email light and simple, no more that three or four short paragraphs.  As you conclude the email tell your contact that you would like continue a discussion and that you will follow up with a phone call.

Second, and most important, follow up with a phone call.  While some people may respond to your email and may even set up a time to talk, others will not.  It is important to follow your email up with a conversation if you say you will.

The follow up call keeps you front of mind and demonstrated your follow through.  When you call into a firm, reference your email and state that you are calling to talk more in depth about your background and the firm in general.

Keep the call light as well.  Let your own interest guide the call. Do you want to know how many Senior Project Managers they have?  Ask.  Also be prepared to talk in general about your background.  You never know, this simple phone call could become your first interview.

Connect with a Recruiter

A professional recruiter or staffing firm can be a great advocate for you as you look for jobs in a new community.   A good recruiter can do all the heaving lifting for you and may be able to get your information in front of people you couldn’t on your own.

With any relationship, trust is key.  Your relationship with your recruiter is no different.  It is important to find a recruiter you are comfortable working with and that you trust will have your best interest in mind.  To do this, interview them.  Ask questions to determine if they understand your field and the market.  Find out how successful the have been in finding people jobs in the past.  A good recruiter always know their “fill ratio”, the number of people they have found jobs.

It is also important to get an understanding of how they will be presenting you to a potential employer.  Is there a presentation packet?  Will you be submitted individually or as part of a larger group.  Also ask if the recruiter charges the candidate.  If a recruiter charges the candidate to find a job, do not work with them.  Reputable recruiters are paid by the firm or corporation to fill positions.

There are many benefits to working with a recruiter.  Recruiters speak to people in the industry everyday and have an understanding of markets across the country.  They usually have established relationship with firms and can help you side step the “resume pit” many resume seem to fall into.  Recruiters are also well networked.  They have their ear to the ground and may know about positions before they are officially posted, giving you a valuable head start.

Another benefit to working with a recruiter is the advice they may have about your resume, cover letter and portfolio.  They will also have a good understanding of salary ranges in a given community as well as other cost of living factors.


You probably hear the word networking so many times in any given week that is has almost lost its meaning.  You network the computer and you probably post updates to your Facebook or LinkedIn network on a regular basis.

The networking you do when job hunting is a little different.  Here the goal is to leverage the people you know or may meet to help you find a job.  As with anything there are a few rules to help you be successful.

The first rule of networking is that networking is a two way street.  Like any relationship it is a give and take.  Make sure you invest back into it your network whatever you take out of it.  The second rule is to always be nice.  This might seem obvious but the very nature of a network is people connected to other people who know other people.  Being nice to everyone will guarantee a successful network.

The third rule of networking is to be fearless. When you start networking, reach out to any connections you have.  Let them know you are looking, where you are looking and ask if they know anyone who knows anyone in your target community.  When your networking starts to bear fruit ask as many questions as you can.  It is also a best practice to ask people you network with to recommend you to people they know.

Remember to leverage any connections you have made while developing your list of companies.  Local members of the AIA, NCARB or ASID groups are wonderful connections to make and keep.