199 No’s; 1 Yes

Architecture school was a long five-year journey of tough studio classes, critiques, presentations, competitions, lectures, and an 8-month internship, not to mention very little sleep. When graduation came, my family and I were elated! I was going to become an architect!  My career dream that was spawned in an 8th-grade shop class was coming to fruition. Except for one slight problem called a recession.

Who would have known that the year I graduated, our economy was in a slump? No one was hiring young emerging architects. It didn’t matter how nice my portfolio and resume looked. No one was building, therefore no one needed an architect.

Missions for a Summer

I spent my summer after graduation serving at a Christian hotel and conference center located in a 15th-century castle in the Austrian Alps. It was a great experience, stretching my understanding of who God is and the world He made. I returned to Kansas thinking I would find a job in no time. Was I wrong!

Anywhere but Kansas

Having seen the world, I did not want to settle back in Kansas. I was young and it was time to experience other places. I applied with 200 architectural firms across the USA; Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Kansas City, Seattle, Portland, Colorado Springs, Austin. Name the city, I probably applied there. 

Rejection after Rejection

After a while, the rejection letters choked the mailbox. It got so bad that I didn’t want to open another letter. It wasn’t as if I had poor academic grades. I graduated on the Dean’s Honor Roll. My senior design thesis was recognized as one of the top of our class. The university kept my design model and presentation.  It was the Wichita Museum of Flight.  I spent my 8-month internship at a firm in Oklahoma working on plans for a $25 million hospital expansion. All of that didn’t seem to matter.

Things Got Very Dark

After a very adventurous summer in Europe, coming home to countless rejections, sent me into a very dark and discouraging place. Feeling dejected, my mom suggested I spend a weekend hanging out at my now alma mater seeing friends.  I recall stopping by the school of architecture office. “Are you David Riffel?” the secretary asked. “There’s a John Howard looking for you. He called here asking to talk to you.”  “How did he know I was here?” I wondered.

When I got home that Sunday night, my mom told me a Mr. John Howard called asking for me. John was a partner with a local architectural firm, Howard & Helmer. Monday, I called him. He had seen my resume and wanted me to come in for an interview. Tuesday, I cleaned up, grabbed my portfolio, and drove across town. I was nervous. Of the handful of interviews I had to that point, every one of them was a rejection. No job offer. Why would this one be any different? “Thanks for coming in. We’ll keep you in mind,”  John said.  Frankly, it sounded like another fail.

That afternoon, I mowed my parent’s lawn and started to figure out what other jobs outside of architecture I could apply for. Things were not looking up. I was confused and my propensity towards discouragement quickly surrounded me. 

Over the sound of the mower, I heard my mom yelling from the house “John Howard called. He wants you to call him back.”  It had only been a few hours since my interview. “David, we’ve considered your resume and would like to extend an offer.” We settled on a starting salary  Was I hearing what I just heard?  Was I being offered a job?!  “ When can you start?” “Tomorrow!”  I hung up that phone believing God existed!  

199 No’s; 1 Yes!

I was their first technical employee. The firm had landed a contract for a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. They needed good drafting help. When they saw my portfolio included plans for the hospital in Oklahoma I worked on, they were convinced I had what they were looking for. 

It’s been over three decades since I was hired. I am still with that firm to this day. Five years after being hired, I sat for my licensure exam, becoming a registered architect in Kansas. Eventually, I was offered a partnership. The two founding partners have long since retired and now I am one of the senior partners in the firm. We design buildings of all types, from K-12 schools to hospitals, senior living, offices, retail, industrial, and churches. 

Underneath it All

I’d like to say that it was my persistent tenacity to find a job that got me that job offer. The truth is God was sovereignly working behind the scenes to locate me where He wanted me. Could I have worked in some other city than Wichita and have been in God’s will?  Absolutely yes!  But for some reason, he had me here, in my hometown. 

I am Weird

Let’s face it, working at one firm your entire career is not the norm. Most guys find themselves with various employers over their 30-40 year careers. Some even find themselves in different careers than what they graduated or started out in. All I know is when it comes to job hunting, do your part. Get the skills, the training, the education. Apply, learn to present yourself well. Do your part, but in the end, commit your job hunting to the Lord. Even if you don’t think you have a strong relationship with Jesus, let your job search be part of the journey in him refining you as a man.

All You Need is One Yes

One Yes is all it takes. One offer to get you to a place where God can work in you.  Am I the same young, immature architectural graduate I was some 30+ years ago? There have been some very rough seasons in the architecture business, as well as some very rewarding times. All I know is had I not done my part in applying, God could not do His part in hiring me.

Where are you applying yourself?

Warrior On! 

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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