Summer Portfolio Workshop

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Tonight, us at SONA Victoria put together a portfolio workshop for students to engage with local architects, at the much appropriate venue of the MPavilion (official website here) by Sean Godsell. I did unfortunately end up arriving late, working in Melton, traffic and then finding a car spot, so I missed out on hearing the guest speakers. However I did get a chance to wander around, listen to a few architects critique other student’s portfolios, asked a few questions myself and got some really great advice. I did think of hoarding the following information but I would be quite the jerk.

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Keep in mind the following advice presented here may work for some firms, but may not work for other firms. Each firm is different, they may have different view points, styles, requirements and such. That’s my little disclaimer.

Q | How do I approach you for work? Email? Phone? Visit?
A | A couple of the architects there said they weren’t a fan of email as it can be quite impersonal, while some encouraged a ‘ring first, then email’ approach. One architect in particular told us a tale of receiving an email from a prospective employee, they went on about how they would love to work for their firm and all that, except the architect noticed something that is downright embarrassing. The prospective employee CC’ed in 50 other architecture firms, which made it visible to all the recipients, so that a definite no-no, and hence their views on email. One architect said to go in and see them with a sample portfolio to drop off, and even stalk the architect (within reason, not illegally) in order to meet them to get noticed.

Q | Do I tailor my portfolio to the firm I want to work for?
A | I have heard this piece of advice before but never did people elaborate on their response, they would just say ‘tailor your portfolio to the firm you want to work for‘. I took this to mean if the firm did residential work, only show residential work, or if they did industrial projects, try and include industrial projects, however turns out (according to this architect I spoke to) I was wrong. Tailoring your portfolio doesn’t mean having to change the content all the time, it can be something as simple as changing the cover page which has some connection to the firm.

Q | What do I put in the portfolio?
A | This is always tricky, what to put in the actual portfolio. Some architects there said to tailor the portfolio for the position you want to have, that is if you want to be the render guru, mainly show hero-shots of your projects or if it’s drafting, show documentation. If you want to be a more all-rounder, show a bit of everything. One architect said if you have any drafting experience, include it as it is well regarded. Another architect spoke more about why are you including these particular projects, and what does the drawings/images tell the reader about the project. Why did you include that messy sketch? Why did you include the roof plan? Another architect said to avoid too much text as some days they don’t have a lot of time to sit down and read through slabs of text.

Q | What size, and how many pages?
A | Again, this depends on the architect and their personal opinion, however there were some good points. In regards to paper size, use something that can be efficient to reproduce, transport, store, etc. If you want to go down the A5 or A4 paper size, ensure that any plans (sections, elevations, floor plans) you need to scale down to fit don’t become too small and illegible, that is something critical. One student had a portfolio at A5 size, and on one page they had plans, sections and diagrams, but everything was quite small and hard to read. The architect suggested removing everything and dedicate a page to the section or diagrams, as in blow the plan up in size. For number of pages, one architect said 20 pages or less, another architect said however many you need to get across your work. One architect said not to pad out the portfolio just to make it bigger, and it should be relative to your experience.

Q | What about my CV?
A | One architect said the main headings they look for is SOFTWARE and EXPERIENCE, and in my case, being a SONA representative is a great experience to include. Any work experience you have, make sure to include and another architect said not to include Word, Excel and Powerpoint under software as it is laughable seeing as everyone knows the software.

Q | Were there any other tips?
A | Getting back to the ‘stalking architects’ advice above, when applying for jobs you need to make yourself stand out from the rest. If you are graduating with 50 other students, chances are majority of them are looking for jobs, then (In Melbourne), there are 3 other universities, with more students to compete against. If you have to use social media to engage with architects, or take them out for coffee to go over your portfolio, do so, be creative not only in your portfolio and projects, but also your approach.

That was about it, I only had a couple main questions I wanted to ask. I wish I had made the talk at the start, and I didn’t think ahead about writing this post, so I should have asked more questions. I do hope however the above is helpful for you, and if you have your own personal tips or some you’ve heard from architects, please share in the comment section below.

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