For some of you, the journey is just beginning, and for other the end is on the horizon, but for me, it’s all over. Architecture school that is. There was a huge sigh of relief as I completed my thesis presentation, followed by a feeling of intense panic as the entire rest of my life loomed ahead. What was I going to do now? Is there even life after architecture school?!
I had been working casually at an architecture firm as a “Architectural Assistant” (what does that even really mean?) and at the point of completion, I hadn’t been offered full-time work. I had no idea what I was going to do if I didn’t get a job. I couldn’t end up back in Canberra!
Nonetheless, I accepted a lease on a new place in Melbourne, because I thought *Surely, I will get an offer soon, from work, or if not, then somewhere else… I mean, I have TWO architecture degrees now* – luckily I was offered a full-time role where I was working as a student. But not before I had started looking elsewhere, and checking out the market.
I will share with you what I learnt in those weeks of panic, and in the weeks since, through observing my friends in their mission to become employed, and through sitting here in and taking in the advice of others in the office.
The architecture industry is saturated, now, I don’t know the numbers of architects in other states, but here in metropolitan Melbourne, there are over 3000 registered architects. I found that out at a Victorian Chapter Council meeting. Tip 1: Don’t just apply at the big firms that you’ve heard about, there are so many other small firms. Think about the hundreds of applications firms like Cox and Hassell receive, there will be less competition at lesser known firms. Have you heard of “Find an Architect”? Google it, find architects in your area, go forth and apply.
There are thousands of architecture students in Victoria, and hundreds of other recent graduates. All looking for a job. This is an obvious one, but get your portfolio together – simple portfolios are often more successful – it’s the content that matters. What I’ve found since working is that “real life” projects in your portfolio help you get a job. Tip 2: If you’re still at uni, pick studios strategically to get a job. While ‘Architecture on Saturn’ sounds like an awesome studio, and will help you procure some amazing images, it has little real life application. Firms want to know that you have understanding of construction and basic engineering, as well as design skills.
The ability to design is important, don’t get me wrong. But what is more important is your ability to use software packages. As a younger member of the team, you’ll be expected to pick up new stuff quickly and end up doing a lot of documenting while major design decisions are left to more senior member of the firm. University of Melbourne heavily pushed Rhino, and while I think it’s the best software to use, the majority of firms will use AutoCAD, Revit or Sketchup. Tip 3: While you’re waiting around for a reply, brush up on your software skills. Take advantage of the fact your uni login probably hasn’t expired yet, and make Lynda your new BFF.
That being said, don’t just wait around! Tip 4: Get out there, be involved, go to architectural events and network. It shows potential employers that you’re interested and engaged with a wider architectural industry.There is no harm in introducing yourself to someone and talking to them about what you did in your thesis or in studio last semester. And from talking to architects, I know that they’re more likely to employ you when they can put a face to the name (on your portfolio) – just remember to personalise your email by saying “I spoke to you at so and so event and I really like what you had to say to me blah blah blah…” Remember architects are an ego centric species – we love being loved.
When you’re applying for a job, remember that there is a person reading on the other end. Imagine sitting there and reading a hundred generic “I’m applying for x, please find attached resume and cover letter”, how boring. Tip 4: Be professional, be polite, but also be interesting. Remember that they are looking for someone that they will have daily interaction with, someone who will be in the office every day and have something to say other than “good morning” or “I had a good weekend, thanks”. I’ve been told that hiring someone is sometimes nerve-racking because you don’t ever know if someone’s personality will fit in, so be you in your resume.
Architecture has been heavily romanticised on TV and in film, even on certain *ahem* architecture blogs. When you do get a job, your boss will be chirpy and happy all the time, you’ll be paid above award wages, you’ll never have a disagreement with a co-worker, people will respect your opinion straight out of uni, you’ll only work between 9am and 5pm, and you’ll get a whole hour for lunch! Tip 5: Have realistic expectations. Take what you can get, within reason. Your first job may not be amazing, and if it’s not, look at it as a launch pad. Not every job will be fun, but even a bad experience is an opportunity to learn something.
I guess that’s all my tips, I do have to say don’t be put off, if you don’t get the first job you apply for, or even the twentieth. If you receive a “thanks but no thanks” email, maybe hit reply and ask for some feedback. They may just say they’re busy, but someone might just tell you that your hot pink font is hard to read. Happy job hunting!
Tanya Banagala started out her adventure into architecture at the University of Canberra and recently graduated from the University of Melbourne Master of Architecture program. She is currently struggling with nine-to-five work as a Graduate Architect. Her interests (outside of architecture) include periodic tumblring, travelling, reading and watching mockumentaries.
Follow on Twitter @tbanagala