The Cost Of Finding A Job In The A/E/P Industry

February 23, 2010 at 10:08 pm 11 comments

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of

This week I received a call from a candidate/ job seeker.  A senior manager in the A/E community, he told me about the increasing costs associated with his job search. He was asked by an engineering firm if he could drive 5 hours (one way), at his own expense, to their corporate office for an interview.  Prior to this request, he was contacted by an “employment consultant”.  That person wanted $5,500 – $9,500 to review his resume and discuss how he should proceed in his job search.  The consultant offered no guarantee that he would have a job after the consultation.

This job seeker also told me that the cost of finding a job has become expensive! Paying to attend professional association meetings to continue his networking, travel costs to firms who won’t contribute to offset costs and exam costs to obtain a new registration or to renew registrations are just a few expenses that tax someone without a weekly paycheck. The good news is that some of the expenses incurred in your job search are tax deductible.  Here is what I have found…but, please check with your tax consultant! Some of the costs that are tax-deductible include:

Employment and outplacement agency fees.

Resume services.

Printing and mailing costs of application/search letters.

Want-ad placement fees.

Telephone calls.

Travel expenses, including out-of-town job-hunting trips.

But you can’t automatically subtract your job-hunting costs from your income — just those that, when added to all your miscellaneous deductions, come to more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. And the expenses must be for a search within your current profession.  If you are looking in a new field, you are out of luck.

In trying to minimize your financial cost you can suggest to firms that you would be available to interview by teleconference.  Visit a local mailing center and for a minimal cost you can utilize their teleconferencing stations.  As for traveling at your own expense for an interview…ASK THE COMPANY FOR ASSISTANCE!  If they told you to travel at your own cost, then ask them to split it with you or ask if they can contribute in some manner.  You won’t know the answer until you try! Firms, like job seekers, are all feeling the financial pinch. But, many firms will step up if you make the request. Hopefully they too understand the strain on the job search.

To continue your face to face networking, you need to approach your professional associations about a reduction in event fees. As in the travel situation above, if you don’t ask for help so you can continue to attend functions, then you won’t know if changes can be offered. Some associations have funds that are specifically designed to help in these types of cost challenges for their members.

The emotional costs of finding a job is becoming a frequent discussion piece on many of the social media outlets. Besides lack of application follow-up from firms, many of those candidates that manage to interview and receive offers are finding limited relocation allowances and low salary offers. To attempt to place a number on the emotional costs of a job search would be out of my expertise. Treating your job search as a full time job when receiving limited positive feedback can be overwhelming and depressing. Be aware of the taxing nature and be kind to yourself.

What are you experiencing and what suggestions can you offer to others?  How are you tackling the process and making it through?

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Career Goals: Don’t Sell Yourself Short! Whose billable time is it, anyway?

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Kerry Harding  |  March 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    As the president of an architectural recruiting firm, I’ve found one of the other unfortunate costs of finding a job in this depressed market is responding to the dramatic salary deflation — especially in markets hardest hit by the economy such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Detroit, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

    One of my candidates remarked the other day that, “100k is the new $80k,” meaning that there are enough highly qualified, desperate unemployed candidates out there who are willing to take significant pay cuts to have jobs that employers no longer have to pay people even remotely what they are worth. When one candidate asked about whether or not there was a signing bonus accompanying an executive level position, one employer responded, “Well, how much are you willing to give us to hire you?”

    The people who have suffered most from this are the graduates of the Class of 2009 who are finding that people with 2-3 years experience after college are willing to work at entry-level salaries, just to remain employed. “What goes around comes around” applies to pretty much every aspect of life and those firms who have exploited people at this time will be struggling to recruit and retain top talent when the economy rebounds — and it will.

  • 2. llah  |  February 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I am an interior designer, downsized from an architectural firm in December of 2008. I have experienced a wide variety of responses to my employment inquiries. Many very kind responses from architectural firms, complete with supportive comments. More frequently however there is no response at all. When the follow up calls are made I have experienced a wide range of responses, some positive and some not. The call is important, yet difficult to screw up the courage to make the contact.

    I have just secured a position in a related field, the pressure is off. Not the best career move, but I am no longer going to be struggling for mere survival. This is after more than a year of gut wrenching searching. I will keep searching for the career move, and I will find it!

    As to the emotional stress of this time, my best advice to those in search of a position in this economy is to find an industry mentor and friend. Keep your skills current. Reach for your faith, find a networking group to generate leads and sharpen your skills. Be open to other skill sets you have used in your lifetime. Find a class like Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” to create a financial plan to survive this time and plan for your next move once your job search works for you. Spend quality time with family and friends. Be passionate about where you want to go and work on the additional skills it will take to get there. Keep smiling, the opportunity to work with a local jobs group, free through my local unemployment one stop agency, allowed me to see that no matter who is out of a job, or what kind of job they held, all job seekers are in the same boat. It is a buyers market, the one with the smile will win out! Your positive attitude is the best advertisement to someone with a job lead or connection. Take care,

  • 3. Sean Catherall  |  February 25, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Another related expense that I am seeing is dues in professional associations (AIA, for example) and state licensing fees that were previously paid by my employer. We need to maintain these memberships and licensure in our job searches, but the cost is high.

    • 4. aepcentral  |  February 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      Absolutely! Something to think about for associations when times are better, perhaps they can build in sliding scales? Maybe they have that now?

  • 5. Dan  |  February 25, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I agree and continue to feel the financial and emotional pain of AEP job searching. I am particularly dismayed by the lack of follow-up communication from potential employers. After taking the time and spending the money to travel to sometimes multiple and distant interviews, the employers simply refuse to return my calls or reply to emails to tell me they have chosen another candidate or they need more time to decide or they deicded not to hire at all. It seems like basic professional courtesy to advise potential candidates where they stand and the status of the company’s decision. But of course, I can’t reprimand them and “burn bridges” for their poor business practice. I guess they figure its an employers market and they don’t have to treat candidates with any respect. Any similar experiences anyone can share?

  • 6. Babette Burdick  |  February 25, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Great post, Carol! And very timely. Job hunting is business development… for yourself! Anyone who has ever been involved in the sales process (even selling yourself to prospective employers) understands how difficult it is to remain motivated and engaged in the face of what can seem like constant rejection… or no reaction at all. You offer some sound advice and address the emotional ups and downs honestly and directly. Your information on how to potentially expense one’s job search is invaluable.

    • 7. aepcentral  |  February 25, 2010 at 10:11 am

      Thanks for your comments Babette!

  • 8. Derek Behning  |  February 25, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Nice article, I agree with the whole thing. I am seeing some video conference / Skype interviews and would like to see more. Emotionally its draining to find a job, spending money is an added stress. I hope we recruiters are not trying to earn a fee from the candidates., Matt, Carol…I haven’t read everything you produced but with your huge audience have you let the professionals we work with know that they shouldn’t ever pay to work with a recruiter?

    • 9. aepcentral  |  February 25, 2010 at 10:09 am

      Hi Derek: Not sure if we mentioned it in a past post but you make an EXCELLENT point. Readers please note: DO NOT PAY TO WORK WITH A RECRUITER… recruiters are paid by the companies that hire them for the expertise in identifying talent. This could be a good discussion for the Civil Engineering Central Group on Linkedin.

  • 10. Unknown  |  February 24, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Whats AEP mean? I’ve heard of AEC, Architeture, Engineering, Construction…but AEP? Arch, Engineering, Planning maybe?

    • 11. aepcentral  |  February 25, 2010 at 10:10 am

      A/E/P stands for Architecture/Engineering/Planning….


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