Getting and Making the Most of Your First Architecture Job
If you are an Emerging Professional, securing your first architecture job seems like a tough task. We’ve been there. We get it. The internship and first year design job market is competitive, and you are worried that you won’t find the right firm. Here are tips from both a commercial and residential architect to get you headed in the right direction. Our own Laura Davis and her husband Bob Davis remember their school days vividly and offer their advice.
- Create a brag sheet: This is not a resume. Instead, it is an exhaustive list of your strengths, achievements, experiences, projects, education, etc. to better identify to yourself what you can offer a potential employer. Include the following:
- Any relevant architecture experience
- Every degree you hold and continuing education class or seminar you have attended
- Experience gained in unrelated areas (i.e. teamwork from restaurant job, building experience from construction, etc.)
- All jobs you’ve held (related to architecture or not)
- All past professional or academic projects completed
- Every professional qualification you have and professional affiliation you are a part of
- Sketches/drawings you have completed
- Renderings of Photoshop work
- Any design competitions you may have participated in
- Any volunteer work
- Places you have lived/visited
- Challenges/problems you have solved
Keep this information as a personal document and update it frequently.
Using this list, create a collection of the most relevant experience to the role(s) you are applying. These shortlisted items will help you build your resume.
CLICK HERE for information on how to write the perfect architecture resume (CV).
- Contact your network: Many new hires come from word of mouth so start building a list of your existing network including:
- Your current or past college professors (many are connected to other architects in the community)
- Fellow students/alumni who are working for architects
- If you don’t already have one, create a LinkedIn profile
- Join LinkedIn architecture groups so you can stay informed on the latest career news and available positions
- Do your research
Begin extensively researching the firms you’d like to work for and create a summary of each firm including their name, location, longevity, number of employees, the projects they specialize in, up and coming projects, their ownership structure, their past record for hiring interns, architectural associates, etc.).
Rank your list in order of most to least desirable and begin applying in that order. Consider creating a spreadsheet to keep track of your applications.
CLICK HERE for information on where to apply for architecture jobs online.
- Targeted Approach
Don’t send a generic application to a multitude of offices. That approach rarely works. Make sure you are taking the time to put together a targeted, well-researched application that emphasizes your relevant work for each firm.
CLICK HERE for examples of architecture resumes, cover letters and portfolios.
The internship schedule generally follows the university semesters with most openings being filled in May-June for the summer break. If you are a student, start your internship application early (January to March).
- Be Persistent
Don’t wait for a firm to follow up with you. Be diligent and follow up on your application with a phone call. Let firms know in your cover letter when you will be calling and then do so. Follow up that call up with a second call if you haven’t heard anything in approximately a week. While this may sound overly aggressive, it is essential to show your persistence.
The key to your success is putting together a convincing application that highlights your relevant experience and presents your unique abilities. If you are willing to put in the time and stay focused you will be rewarded.
Need more advice? Take a look at the following 5 tips from ArchitectsGuide.com on how to get a position in an architecture firm.
Got an job? GREAT! Now follow these 11 important tips to make the most of it:
- Everything is important on a job. Do the best of whatever you are asked to do.
- Make an impact and go the extra mile to get noticed and you won’t get lost as an architectural associate.
- The very best architectural associates don’t dig themselves into a hole or hide at their desk. They engage.
- Even the most minor details can have a huge impact on everything else. Every line on a page means something—be thoughtful about your work.
- Every drawing is related to every other drawing. Nothing happens in a vacuum.
- In a residential office, you have to do a little of everything, which is also how you learn.
- In a small residential firm, your mentor is usually the firm owner. As opposed to a large commercial office where your mentor might be a project manager in your department.
- Keep your earbuds out and your brain engaged! Listen to everything around you, ask thoughtful questions, be resourceful, and soak in everything you can learn.
- Skills of a good architect are universal regardless of specialty.
- The best design professionals realize they are part of something big.
- Sign up for The Architectural Experience Program through NCARB to start documenting your work experience.
Interested in more tips for design professionals? Listen to our podcast 18: Tips for interns and architects who hire them.
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Laura Davis is a registered architect and interior designer in the state of Texas and Colorado, and a founding member of hpd architecture + interiors. Laura extensive experience includes residential as well as commercial and retail projects. She also has a particular interest in restoration, holding a certificate in Historic Preservation. She is energized by the character of older homes and the stories of those who have lived there. Responding to the needs of the current owner, while also honoring the personality of the original home is a delicate process to be enjoyed.