Experience is the second requirement for becoming an architect. In most states, candidates satisfy the formal requirement for experience by participating in and completing the Architect eXperience Program (ADP), a program of the profession.
However, early exposure to the profession through the experiential programs often offered through your institution is important. These programs may consist of
- shadowing an architect before you begin your formal education
- a credit-bearing internship while in school
- a career-related summer position in an architecture firm
- your first full-time position in an architecture firm
In all cases, you should seek opportunities for experience.
The authors of Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice recommend that schools, practitioners, and local and national architecture organizations collaborate to increase the availability, information about, and incentives for students to gain work experience during their education.
Architecture begins where engineering ends – Walter Gropius
Acronym for a Successful Career Search
By applying your talents as an architecture student to the career search process, you will be able to design your own career, rather than just letting it happen. You will want to be more creative in organizing your job search and selling yourself to prospective employers. While not guaranteed, the following words, spelling out the word ARCHITECT, may assist you in finding a position. They are:
The first step in any search for a position involves assessing yourself. Assess what aspect of architecture inspires you: programming, design, interior architecture, construction management, etc.; what is it that you desire to do within an architecture firm and what are you able to offer a prospective employer. Ask yourself the question — Why should this firm hire me? What would your answer be? Constantly evaluate your interests, abilities, and values and how they match those of your current or a prospective employer.
Research is critical to the job search process. What positions within an architecture firm can best utilize your skills and knowledge? What employers have such positions? Do not limit your job search to the architecture profession; the best employment opportunities for you may be with an interior design firm, a construction firm, or an engineering firm; again, be creative in your search.
Connections are crucial for a successful job search. Regardless of the career field, over 60% of all openings are obtained through networking. As a novice job-searcher, you should be adding five to ten names to your network monthly. Local monthly AIA meetings are one of the best places to perform your networking by talking with principals of your local architectural firms. Listen. Learn. Talk. Remember, every conversation is a possible job lead. The more ears and eyes you have looking for you for the positions you want, the more likely something will materialize.
If you read any book on job searching, you will quickly learn that the most effective method to learn of employment opportunities in NETWORKING, but most people, especially students do not know what networking is? Simply put, it is informing others around you of your intent in gaining experience and asking if they may know of any leads for you. In a school setting, this may include classmates, professors, and staff. Another excellent idea related to networking is to approach guest lecturers or architects that may be on your juries. Ask them if they hire students for the summer or part-time positions. They may not always be too responsive, so politely ask for a business card for you to follow-up.
Help with your search can be gained from a variety of sources. A good place to start is the Career Center; touching base with a career counselor can be a great place to begin as they can help you target your job search. Most local AIA chapters have job boards for use by job searchers or may have a list of area firms for research. Public libraries are another valuable resource; they have a multitude of resources that may be of some assistance. As well, you should seek support from others, especially family and friends; talking to them can be a big boost to your job search.
Undoubtedly, most programs in architecture promote employment opportunities within the area of the program. When seeking students to perform entry-level tasks, many firms will send a position announcement outlining the duties and responsibilities, qualifications, and contact information.
If you were unable to secure your ideal position after graduation, consider an interim job. An interim job provides you with a regular income but is only a stopgap solution; you have no intention of staying on a permanent basis. Ideally, interim jobs allow you to continue your job search, connect you with a wide variety of people for networking, and build upon your skills.
Critical to the job search process are your resume, portfolio, ability to write cover letters and to interview; they are very important tools to communicate your “self” to potential employers. Are your tools in top form? If not, practice your interviewing skills, rework your resume or have someone critique your portfolio.
As with any discipline, having a resume is essential when conducting a job search. Just as critical is a well-crafted cover letter. While it is not the intent of this article to duplicate the rigors of resume writing or other aspects of the job search, what can be shared are insights to these necessary tools. For the resume, keep is simple and straightforward providing information from your background and experiences that demonstrate your abilities. Do not be afraid to include skills learned from studio or other classroom projects under a section entitled – course projects. If you have not worked formally in an architectural office, you can still promote your drafting, modeling-building, and design skills learned in studio.
Another idea for the resume is the inclusion of graphics! With the ease of scanning drawings and graphic publishing softwares, placing an image on your resume can be powerful; however, exercise caution as the image may make reading the resume more difficult. Rather than including graphics on your resume, you could create a one-page portfolio.
For most, cover letters are an afterthought, when, cover letters serve as the introduction to you as the prospective employee. Most cover letters are typically three paragraphs: 1) introduces yourself and explains the purpose of the letter; 2) sells your skill set and makes the match for the employer; and 3) provides the terms of follow-up. Regardless of the letter, be sure to address the letter to an individual, not a “Dear Sir/Madam.” If you do not know the name of the individual, take the time to contact the firm and ask. Be persistent if the firm is reluctant to provide this information.
Finally, remember, the purpose of the resume/cover letter is to get an interview!
Just as important as the resume and perhaps more important is your portfolio. As architecture is a visual based discipline, the portfolio provides a direct link for the employer to your skills as an architect. For this reason, you will want to provide images that demonstrate all of your architectural skills – drafting, model-building, drawing, design, etc. As well, you want to provide some drawings from projects from beginning to end. In other words, do not only include finished ink on mylar drawings. These will allow the employer to see your thought process as it relates to a design problem.
The key to a successful interview is preparation and practice. Prepare by reviewing possible questions that may be asked of you and researching the firm. In addition, develop answers to questions by demonstrating how you are able to address a firm’s needs and how you stand out from other candidates.
At this point in your career, you may feel as if you have little experience. This may be true, but recognize that, in many cases, employers are hiring your potential. If you do not have the experience needed, consider trying one of the following to obtain it: 1) part-time work, 2) volunteer work, 3) informal experiences, 4) temporary work. Plus, recognize that what you are doing in studio is experience -- you design, build models, draw, and use the softwares.
Searching for a job is a full-time job which means 9 to 5. As a former architecture student, I recognize that you are too busy with various commitments, but devote every possible minute to your job search, doing so will pay off. In fact, if you have not already done so, start your search now! Do not wait until next week or next month.
Realize that you are going through a major life transition, that of entering the profession of architecture. In addition to your new job, recognize that all aspects of your life will be affected. Summer vacations are a luxury of the past. Finally, there are financial adjustments as you begin to receive an annual salary and have new expenses.
It may be a tough job market, therefore, be assertive, learn the job search process, and do not be afraid of rejection. Searching for a job is a skill you will be using throughout your life.
Be assertive, learn the career search process, and do not be afraid of rejection. Searching for a job is a skill you will be using throughout your life.
A Final Thought!
The answer, in a nutshell, is:
"Thru your research and then thru your contacts." -- Richard N. Bolles