How to Get Your Dream Job in NYC
19 January 2017
Posted by: Norita Kelleher
Two UL Graduates recount their experiences moving to the city
and share their tips for making it in the Big Apple.
New York City is one of the most iconic in the world and one to which the Irish have been drawn for many generations. Each summer sees UL students and graduates flocking to the city on their J1s and graduate visas.
However a large number of UL graduates are also permanent residents of its five boroughs and UL Alumni were delighted to launch a New York Alumni chapter in the city last May. Although it is now significantly more difficult to gain a working visa than it was in previous times, for many of our alumni, New York is still the ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made’. We caught up with two graduates, who are living those dreams, to tell us about their experiences gaining employment in the Big Apple and to pass on their advice to others who are also thinking of making the big move.
LAURA PEMBROKE, BArch ‘15
JUNIOR ARCHITECT AT SPAN ARCHITECTURE
Since my first J1 in the summer of 2011 I wanted to live in New York. I was immediately captivated by the energy and pace of the city and as a student of architecture I was endlessly surrounded by inspiration. This first exposure motivated me throughout my college years to live there.
Preparing at UL
As a student in UL we had professors/architects from the US visit SAUL (School of Architecture UL) on a number of occasions each semester. I always made sure to attend these and introduce myself at the end. I wanted to become a familiar face to them. Before I moved over I contacted one of the architects who I had met many times whist in UL, and who was at my final presentation in the School of Architecture. I introduced myself and my project (which he remembered) and I asked if he had any advice about moving to the US/applying for jobs and he was happy and eager to help. I met with him shortly after I arrived in New York. Although his firm didn’t have any openings when I got there, he was, however, happy to go through my portfolio and do a practice interview with me.
Before I moved over I did plenty of research into architecture firms based in NY to determine which ones I would like to work for. I approached this by looking at the offices’ websites for projects and from there I applied to architecture firms that were doing the work I was interested in. I checked back in with the architect I had met when I first arrived and fortunately he knew one of the partners in the firm that was top of my list. He gave me a letter of recommendation which really helped during the interview process.
Reading back over this it sounds easy, but from the date I arrived and up to the time 5 weeks later when I got my job offer there were definitely many ignored emails, coffee meetings that didn’t lead anywhere, unsuccessful interviews and planning, strategizing and persistence.
For now, as a Junior Architect at the award winning New York firm, SPAN Architecture, I am focusing on learning as much as possible from the architects and designers I have the pleasure of working with. I plan on spending a few more years in NY before returning to Ireland or the UK to do the professional practice exams and become a registered architect.
Architecture, as a profession, is unlike most others so this advice may not be applicable to everyone. Do try and gain some experience before you make the move stateside. Although it can be tempting to hop on a plane straight after university, having work experience before you make the move can be so beneficial.
I worked for a practice in Dublin for a year before moving over and having that years’ experience changed my status from Intern to Junior Architect increasing my responsibilities and salary. This might not be the same across the board but having experience on my resumé was very valuable.
Try to make as many connections as possible, before you leave Ireland and immediately after you get here. Go to as many networking events as possible. Even if it’s not in your particular field, it can be very useful. At the NY Chapter UL Alumni event in May I met a woman working in marketing but who lived with two architecture students at University. We exchanged contact info and she personally emailed her friends introducing me to them.
The best advice is to pursue every lead. You may take a few knocks before you find the perfect job but, believe me; it will be worth it in the end. Finally, enjoy every minute of it. For me, moving to New York was the best decision I ever made.
Go for it and Good Luck!
DEIRDRE O’BRIEN- BBS ‘09
ADVERTISING, BRAND AND SOCIAL MEDIA EXECUTIVE AT TOURISM IRELAND
My first experience of New York came in 2010. Having completed both my Undergraduate and Masters Studies, I was successful in securing a 2-year graduate placement with Tourism Ireland as part of IBEC’s Global Graduate Program.
The 8 month Co-operative Work Placement which I completed in Brussels as part of my Undergraduate Studies in UL made me an ideal candidate for this program. I completed the first year of my placement in New York. During this time I had the opportunity to live in and experience one of the greatest cities in the world while promoting my beloved homeland.
Permanent Position with Tourism Ireland
I returned to Dublin to Tourism Ireland’s Head Office for the second year of my placement and from here I secured a permanent position with the company. I had the opportunity to work on many exciting projects during this time from NI2012 and the Global St. Patrick’s Day Program to Ireland’s biggest tourism initiative ever, The Gathering Ireland 2013. However I always had a yearning to return to New York. When a permanent job opportunity opened up in our New York office, I jumped at the chance to return and was successful in securing the position - Advertising and Brand Executive.
I’ve been living in New York for almost 3 years now and I’m very lucky because I really love my job. I’m incredibly passionate about the work I do and I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work in an exciting and varied role at the cutting edge of digital marketing. Tourism Ireland is a fantastic organization to work for and provides many training and development opportunities which are extremely important to me.
My path to New York is a little different from most. I was fortunate to have secured my job before I moved across the pond which definitely made the transition a little easier. If you are interested in moving to New York or the US, I would recommend that you consider graduate programs that offer US placements, international companies that provide global secondments, American companies based in Ireland that afford transitionary opportunities. This route assists from a logistical, financial and visa stand point which are often the biggest challenges when making the move to the United States.
My best piece of advice is simply to just do it. The work and life experiences that you will gain from living and working overseas and especially in the US are unrivalled.