An overqualified entry-level?

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    I have been working as a project designer for 7+ years overseas and will be returning to the states soon. I have been looking at many job listings for mid to senior-level positions in America and they all require construction documentation and management experience. My problem is that I have none of these skills since I have been mainly been doing concept and schematic designs while working overseas (with very few built work). So my question is, are my many years working as a project designer overseas meaningless? Do I basically need to go back to square one as an entry-level? Will anyone in America even hire an entry-level who has worked 7+ years? Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    Leslie B Wagle

    I was hoping someone with more insight into hiring in larger firms would answer this, but I’ll try and just offer general wisdom. Just go with emphasis on your strengths. You don’t have to exaggerate them but don’t get discouraged by what you “haven’t” done already. Everybody starts somewhere, gathers what experience is possible, and keeps zigzagging through a career, hopefully upwards but it’s not always possible to get very specific on what the next step will look like. Some people start more in construction detailing/field work and worry from the opposit side, how they can get to the point of being trusted with some schematic design. Not everybody gets to do both in the early stages. Think hard about ANYTHING that got built (we often don’t have much control over that) and even if you only had a role in it, document that. Say what you’d like to try to do more of, and don’t expect to start several rungs above where you are. Someone out there will be looking for you. You don’t say why you want to change but consider that large busy design/build firms are most likely to need schematic without construction documents since they have both a record and existing skills to finish a job from good concepts, sufficiently illustrated to sell to their incoming clients without having to be sent out for multiple bids.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Leslie always has good practical advice. I’d second the notion that you should not let yourself get down on what you have not done and work with what you have done because that is 100% more than the person who has yet to do anything. Keep plugging away and don’t be afraid to look at getting experience in slightly different ways as you wait for the opportunity that you want to have to open up.

    I had a hard time 20 years ago. Part of that was because I live in Massachusetts with a lot of prestigious schools around and I went to a school that was not going to be a jewel on a company website and quite honestly I was very weak with drawing skills. I took a “filler job” in a small civil engineering company which turned out to be a great thing for me because I gained huge experience in site planning and dealing with regulations. I had no idea that it was going to benefit me very well to get to exactly where I wanted to be from the beginning.

    I’m just saying to keep plugging and take the experience that you can get because one way or another it will open more opportunities either through experience, networking, or learning where more opportunities lie.

    The worst thing that I ever did was to dwell on what I had not done or what skills I did not have. The best thing that I did was to apply what experience I had and use the skills that I had to grow more.

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