Assistant Architect by Xi He Qing Ling
Chapter 2: Job Hunting
Almost all of the cover letters he sent out came to naught. Only one German foreign firm had gotten back to him with an e-mail gently declined his application and explained to Zhang Siyi that all the positions at their firm for interns and assistants were already full for the year.
Yes, it was already August and the entry level positions in the better companies have long been full. Knowing that the domestic construction market was experiencing a low period, he was so stupid for giving into Fu Xinhui encouragement to travel and have fun in Europe for one month after graduation. Three to Four percent of people in the business were suffering from lay-offs and pay cuts. Some companies couldn’t even afford to pay their existing staff, let alone hire new people.
Although not as prestigious as Cambridge or Oxford, Zhang Siyi graduated from a university with a famous architectural program in the United Kingdom. However, these names add little value to a student with an undergraduate degree which can only be used as a small stepping stone for Zhang Siyi’s job search. Since the construction market peak has passed in most developed countries, Zhang Siyi thought returning home was the only way forward with his career. However, because of the current saturated domestic environment, the door that he thought was once open has now been slammed in his face.
He was competing for a position amongst all of the graduates of various architecture programs from all over the world with advanced degree as well as the well-known and prestigious Universities of China. Then there were people like Zhang Siyi who were forced to find the leftover scraps.
In fact, if Zhang Siyi had chosen a different career path, it would be quite simple to get a job, especially in a big city like Haicheng. Since many positions in the city could be filled with little training, many travel agents or leather product companies would welcome him.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, he didn’t know getting an Architectural degree would cost so much and become such a burden. There were unforeseen expenses in the learning process that he had to shoulder like the cost of specialized pens for drawing, artist markers, materials for building models, printing fees, etc…. Even with his amounting debt, he couldn’t abandon his hard work!
Why did he want to study architecture in the first place? Zhang Siyi had forgotten. Perhaps, just because it sounded cool.
With the lack of academic qualifications and professional experience, Zhang Siyi wanted to update his portfolio. After all, now that he had the trained eye of an architect, looking back at his work from lower grades, he only had one word to describe them; shit. Now, he was working hard retouching his designs to see if he could make his work more appealing.
This was his last chance. If he still couldn’t make things work at his current level, he would have to rush back home and ask his family to send him abroad to study for a master’s degree…
Grasping his head in worry, Zhang Siyi was about to start work when he felt his stomach’s protest. One great thing about returning to China was the cheap food and the convenience to eat. Zhang Siyi stayed in the UK for four years and ate enough hamburgers and fries for a lifetime. When he came back, he fell in love with Haicheng and never wanted to go back.
He ordered takeout and returned to his room to wait for the food. When he finished eating, he started feeling sleepy. Since it was early in the morning, he decided to take a little nap first and then work later. Zhang Siyi comforted himself and slept but, when he woke up, the sun was already well passed its zenith.
He glanced at the time and secretly swore then quickly climbed out of bed to wash.
In the living room, one of Zhang Siyi’s roommates was glued to the couch playing games with the mobile phone. The one who was suspected of being gay with in the dispute between Zhang Siyi and his girlfriend this morning, Fu Xinhui. His other roommate’s name was Jiang Hai. The three of them were classmates in the UK while they were studying. There were more than ten students from mainland China in his architectural program who have returned to the country and planned to find jobs in Haicheng.
“Are you awake?” Fu Xinhui looked up at Zhang Siyi and asked lazily: “What do you want to eat for dinner?”
“I feel like I just ate so I’m not hungry.” Zhang Siyi replied and went into the washroom with a heavy heart. His thoughts seemed to echo his girlfriend this morning. Repeatedly questioning the phrase ‘What are you doing all day?’ Yes, what was he busy with? How does it feel not doing a single thing all day long?
“You just ate?” Fu Xinhui asked.
“Well, I went out in the morning. Did you think I slept in all day?” Zhang Siyi snapped. “Although I just woke up at 2 in the afternoon, I wanted to remind you that I woke up earlier than you this morning. What about the pizza from last night?”
“……” Was this guy proud to sleep-in so late? Fu Xinhui thought. He replied: “I’m so hungry right now, it won’t be enough. What about the seafood place downstairs? I just looked at the reviews online and found positive comments about the lobster dinner. Will you go with me?”
When Zhang Siyi heard ‘lobster’, his stomach grumbled. Once again, he thought about this morning’s breakup event. The depression and regrets in his heart gradually surfaced again and as a result, he wanted to eat something to forget about them.
“Well, is Jiang Hai back?” Zhang Siyi asked.
Among the three, Jiang Hai was the only one who transitioned smoothly into a job after graduation. However, his achievement wasn’t due to his own effort. Someone in the family had arranged it early on. Now, he worked in a real estate company.
“I just sent a him message. He said he is working overtime.” Fu Xinhui replied.
“He can’t? More overtime work! How many days has it been this week? I thought that Jiang Hai never worked overtime.” Zhang Siyi finished getting ready and casually wore a pair of slippers to go downstairs with Fu Xinhui.
“With the long work hours necessary to start a job, I don’t know why a new graduate would be so anxious to begin working. Cherish your youth and take it easy!”
When Zhang Siyi heard him, he became angry: “Don’t say that! I went to Europe to play with you instead of looking for a job and now, compared with Jiang Hai, my fortune has reversed.”
Fu Xinhui shook his head and said: “You aren’t thinking straight.”
Frustrated, Zhang Siyi shouted back: “You ‘Young Master’ don’t have to worry about food and shelter so don’t talk to me about what my mental state is!”
Fu Xinhui was a naïve, typical rich second generation person with a family that owned and operated several big companies. It was obvious that such a young master who has enjoyed the blessing of money could rent a house with them and could lesuirely enjoy his time.
Fu Xinhui sang enchantingly: “Come on~ Happy~ … Anyway, there’s plenty of time….”
Zhang Siyi: “…”
When they arrived at the restaurant, they ordered food then Fu Xinhui suddenly asked: “Where were you all morning?”
Zhang Siyi poured a beer and replied as a matter of fact: “I broke up with my girlfriend.”
Fu Xinhui was surprised: “You ran out early in the morning to break up?”
“It wasn’t my intention to break up,” Zhang Siyi sighed. As he retold the events one by one from the morning, Fu Xinhui became more irritated. Filled with indignation Zhang Siyi asked, “I really don’t understand why she suspects something between us. Do we act gay? No! Do you think there is something wrong with her?”
“Hmmm…” Fu Xinhui intently scooped the lobster meat out of its shell and placed it on Zhang Siyi’s plate. “You aren’t thinking about her now, right?”
Zhang Siyi naturally ate the lobster and was silent.
Fu Xinhui looked up and said: “Are you regretting it?”
Zhang Siyi bowed his head: “Well, we were together for two years. After all, if it wasn’t for me and my absence, her temper wouldn’t have become so bad.”
Fu Xinhui enlightened him: “Girls, they all want gentlemen to spend time with. You were used to how things were when you were abroad but now, she is looking forward to being with you since you have returned to the country. Things were different then but, now she sees the difference between her ideal and reality. The gap is definitely not acceptable for her.”
As a result of Fu Xinhui’s analysis, Zhang Siyi became more and more guilty: “What should I do……? Explain it better…? Try to save our relationship?”
Fu Xinhui asked: “Do you think you have time to manage her needs?”
Zhang Siyi frowned: “Hmm… it would probably be better if I waited to find a job first.”
Fu Xinhui smiled: “You are too naive. Look at Jiang Hai. Do you think there would be time to spend with her after work? Your girlfriend was originally a character that liked to accompany people. This profession is destined to cause her emotional stress. She won’t ever feel satisfied.”
Zhang Siyi: “…”
Fu Xinhui: “I can’t make this decision for you. You need to think about it for yourself.”
”You’re right. I’m in the mood to find a job.” Zhang sighed with emotion and continued: “Recently, I’ve only felt tired and stressed when I’m with her. It wasn’t so easy being together.”
Zhang Siyi thought about his girlfriend’s speculations and joked: “If only I was really gay. It’s so much easier being with you!”
Fu Xinhui: “……”
When he returned to his room, he thought about sending a text message to his girlfriend detailing his thoughts that were discussed with Fu Xinhui as well as further explaining his current exhausted state. He thought if both of them could take a step back for a little while, they could get over this bump and continue to be together without officially breaking up.
He took a long time editing his text message and modified it back and forth for thirty minutes before finally sending it out. He continued to hold onto some hope that his relationship with his girlfriend would work out.
Not one minute passed when Zhang Siyi felt the phone buzz. He didn’t expect her to write back so soon….
“There is no need to explain further. I thought about it in the morning.”
“Your profession is just too abnormal. I really have had enough. Zhang Siyi, maybe we really don’t fit together.”
“Let’s end it.”
Three text messages connected to three phone vibrations. These three combos let Zhang Siyi once again remember the rhythm of the first ‘sonata’ in the morning.
After reading the messages he collapsed on his bed like a dead dog. Just as he was getting comfortable, the phone vibrated again. Zhang Siyi thought it was a girlfriend –ah, no. Now an ex-girlfriend, who sent something else to complain about. To his surprised, it was a push notification on his mobile phone for a new E-mail!
Zhang Siyi bounced from the bed and rushed to the computer to open his Email…
Re: Job Hunting
With shaking hands, Zhang Siyi opened the mail.
“Hello, Mr. Zhang,
Thank you for your letter. Our architects have browsed your resume and portfolio and are interested in further communication with you. If you are still looking for a job, please bring a hard-copy version of your portfolio on August x-x. The interview at the company will be before 10 am.
If you have any questions, please call Miss Wang in the Human Resource department.
Boundless Architectural Design Firm. Co “
Ahhhhh! Ooooooh yeah…!
Zhang Siyi jumped up from the chair excitedly, holding his head and screamed madly – he finally got an email for an interview !!!
But, wait a minute… Which company was Boundless?
Since Zhang Siyi sent out numerous resumes at the same time to various firms, he lost track of which firms were what and located where. As a result, he couldn’t remember the details about the firm.
Because of his experience studying abroad, the only known example of working in the industry that he knew of was mostly based on his knowledge with foreign private firms. There, working conditions were very good with a relatively relaxed environment and no need to work overtime.
The best way forward to further his career was with one of the big domestic Design Institutes. Working for them in one of their key branches would be the biggest addition to his resume. If they didn’t offer him an opportunity, Zhang Siyi thought he could apply to a few small private companies that were Chinese-foreign joint ventures. The issue with them however was that they carried some risk and thus, weren’t popular in the construction industry.
Boundless was one of the companies he applied to on the first batch of resumes that Zhang Siyi had sent. At the time, his goal was ambitious so he picked the best. Zhang Siyi excitedly checked the Internet and quickly recalled that Boundless was a subsidiary of a large-scale design institute in China a few years ago. It was mainly an elite team of young designers, both domestic and foreign. Compared with foreign firms, Boundless was more grounded and had a stronger background. Even if it was a domestic company, the designs of its projects weren’t rigid or dull at all. In recent years, it has become the first choice for many graduates of architecture.
Hmm… I see that the threshold of this company is extremely high and rarely recruited publicly so how can I suddenly receive an email from them?
Zhang Siyi was both nervous and excited. When he originally looked at the relevant website data for his application to Boundless, even though he wasn’t expecting anything, he took a chance to apple. Zhang Siyi didn’t know it would take so long before he would receive a reply. Is this the legendary darkest hour?