Fast Track: Help Desk - Build your experience

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The problem

I am a qualified architect, with a diploma in urban regeneration, and would like to work with a housing association involved in regeneration projects. I have some experience through working with a housing committee in a voluntary - and supervisory - role. But although I have been to a number of final interviews, the majority of the jobs seem to go to people already on a temporary assignment with that authority. How do I break into this magic circle of temporary employees, who seem to end up with all the permanent jobs? I am told I lack the necessary experience, but how do I get the experience when I never get past the last interview?

Keith Patterson, Edinburgh

The solutions

Gerald Carey-Elwes, Secretary General, British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) says:

You have identified a common problem - how to get the necessary experience to meet the requirements of potential employers. In your case, remember that urban regeneration covers a variety of professional disciplines - such as legal, financial, surveying, design, planning, landscape, building and engineering. So you may find that a general knowledge of one or several of these other professions will give you an added edge.

Then start trying to identify consultancy firms who are involved in regeneration. On your behalf, I have contacted a leading member of the British Urban Regeneration Association who would be pleased to discuss the possibility of future employment with you. He is Neil Bradbury, Head of Strategic Initiatives at EDI (Economic Development Investment Ltd) in Edinburgh, Tel 0131-220 4424. Good luck.

Charles McKean, Professor of Scottish Architectural History, The University of Dundee, says:

If employers seek relevant experience and you are currently unemployed, use the time to initiate/develop ideas or projects. Research issues, identify problems, and uncover and study solutions achieved elsewhere. Also examine your own locality. Then, in your interviews, reveal this knowledge and offer some positive proposals. In this way, you will be able to demonstrate what makes you particular in a practical and applied way. How many of these organisations, for example, understand the "cultural significance" of the places they develop?

Existing - albeit temporary - employees will be seen as "up and running" by employers, so never vegetate. Develop your expertise, network at seminars and meetings and enter relevant competitions. Then, at the next interview, you too will be up and running - and quite possibly ahead.

Compiled by Carmen Middleditch

If you have a work problem and want expert advice, please write to Carmen Middleditch, Fast Track, Features, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL;

fax 0171-293 2451; or e-mail c.fielding@