GAIN EXPERIENCE AS AN EMERGING PROFESSIONAL
Last week, an article entitled, Gain Experience as a Student, discussed what you might consider doing to gain experience as an architecture student. Today’s article is parallel but when you enter the profession after graduation.
Upon graduation with your architecture degree, the true challenge begins – gaining experience as an emerging professional or more accurately – securing a full-time position with an architecture firm. Searching for a full-time position on your path to becoming an architect is important, but not always easy. Of course, if you have had the opportunity to gain experience while in school, your prospects for full-time position may be improved.
First, the firm for which you worked while a student may be in a position to continue your employment full-time; next, if not, they may be able to refer you to other firms hiring. Finally, new firms you approach for a possible position will likely be more willing to hire you because you have experience; thus, it is valuable to gain experience prior to graduation.
Regardless of gaining experience in school or not, you will need to work in certain settings as outlined by AXP to gain experience as you begin your career in architecture. Ideally, you will need to work under the supervision of an architect, however, AXP allows a few exceptions. As well, be cognizant for whom you work, as your firm will impact your career trajectory
Take care in your search for an employer. Be sure that they supportive of AXP, but will you develop as a professional there.
Aside from a full-time position, another means to gain experience is to volunteer. Leadership and services is a valuable experience to gain – consider contribute your talents in a community-based organization.
Design competitions are another vehicle to develop your skills and gain experience. Entering a design competition allows you to “design” when you may not have the same opportunity in a firm soon out of school. Design work for a design competition can be used in your portfolio.
Mentoring has been a part of the architectural profession long before licensure and AXP; years ago, an aspiring architect (apprentice) would work for a master architect until the architect felt the apprentice was ready to be on his/her own. For different reasons, many emerging professionals do not have a mentor, but you are encouraged to secure a mentor – someone outside the firm for which you work to provide professional support and guidance as you progress through your career.
Did you join student clubs when you were in college? If so, you already know the value of membership in an organization; if not, consider joining now as you embark on your career. By design, professional associations help with your career; regardless of the particular association, each host programming (professional and social) along with conferences and other professional development to advance your career.
Perhaps, the most known professional association in architecture is the American Institute of Architects (AIA). With the AIA, you may become involved directly after school as an “Associate” member; they even provide free membership upon your graduation. As well, the AIA supports emerging professionals through a number of initiatives.
Aside from the AIA, there are many other associations, but others more directly connected with architecture include National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), Society of American Registered Architects (SARA), and Arquitectos. While most associations are national in scope, some are either regional or local; for example, a very active local group is CWA – Chicago Women in Architecture (www.cwarch.org).
For networking purposes, connecting to the profession, and gaining experience, strongly consider joining one or more professional association. But, do not just join; become engaged with the planning and implementing of the association; what better way to gain experience in areas that you may not be able to gain with your employer.
Thus, gaining experience is MUCH more than just completing the stated requirements of AXP; clearly, you need to do AXP to become a licensed architect, but BEING an architect is more than just the requirements.