How does one get a job after finishing architecture school? I like to try and write from experience instead of re-writing what others have written, so this blog post will be a little different in that regard. See even though I have a job, it isn’t a typical architecture graduate job. I’m not working in a practice, I didn’t need to present a portfolio, in fact I didn’t even really have an interview. So this blog post will be more about little nuggets of advice I’ve picked up along the way from attending networking events, what I’ve read and a few responses from a tweet I put out a few weeks ago.
Disclaimer, every practice, every place, every city, every country, is different. What one architect may say may be the completely wrong thing to do for another. So, biggest tip before starting, research the practice you want to apply at and see their process of hiring.
The first thing is to identity what it is you want out of your job. There’s a common belief that if you choose to work in a small practice you’ll be exposed to a range of tasks and responsibilities, however the projects will more-than-likely be small. On the flip-side, if you go and work in a large practice you might be stuck doing the same thing every day but it’ll be on large projects. So the question you have to ask yourself is, where do I want to work? Now if you just want a job and you don’t really care where it is, well that’s easy then.
Where do you find these jobs though? When I use to look for work, in non-architecturey jobs, I would use job searching sites like seek.com.au. From time-to-time I’d also look up jobs on seek to see what’s out there, however every job I’ve had in the industry was never advertised. I got my first job with a precast concrete company because a classmate at TAFE said they needed a hand and if I’d be interested… My job working as an architectural assistant in 3rd year TAFE I emailed my resume and they said they don’t have anything available, but would let me know if something came up. A few months later I got a phone-call for a temp role… My job with another construction company came from an introduction from the job with the precast concrete mob… And my current job I was DM’ed on Twitter by the consulting architect who asked if I was interested in an architect-adjacent job…
What I’m getting at with the above, just because a firm hasn’t formerly advertised a position on seek.com.au (or other job searching websites) doesn’t mean there isn’t a job available there. I can’t remember who said this, but I remember seeing an architect say that they rarely advertise because they get so many resumes/portfolios they effectively have a stockpile of candidates. So if that firm you love and really want to work at isn’t advertising for an Architectural Graduate, don’t stress, still reach out because you never know.
If you do want to only apply at firms who are advertising, I suggest upping your Instagram game. Actually, I suggest upping your ‘Gram Game in general, which I’ll touch on in a minute. A lot of firms when advertising for a role will only do it on Instagram, and it makes sense. Many students and graduates would be following them, so when they put out a post seeking one it’s no surprise they’ll get plenty of response.
Now, your own Instagram, may I suggest you either tidy up your current or start a new one? Instagram can become your “portfolio” in a way, you can use it to show off your projects, use it to highlight your interests, use it to show who you are as a person. In the Q&A portion of a guest lecture, someone asked the invited architect about hiring and they said that they will look at your Instagram and make decisions based on it. They cited an example where they only saw boozey blurry photos and chose not to proceed as it seemed they wouldn’t suit their culture. Now can this be seen as discrimination in the eyes of the law? I’m no lawyer, but maybe? Should you change yourself? Of course not, but how we present ourselves is important, especially online and especially if you mix boozey photos with photos from work as you’re representing their business. Scroll through your Instagram, if there are some questionable photos, I suggest deleting them as employers will probably be scrolling through and seeing the sam photos. Or make that account private and start a second account that is purely about architecture.
With that, you need to start networking. In-fact, you needed to start networking two-three years ago! I started to really network once I became the SONA representative for Deakin in my second year of undergrad and that networking led to not even having to apply for my current job. Networking is such a strong tool, so go to events and say hello to people. Start to actually engage with architects on Instagram, don’t just ‘like’ their photo but leave a comment.
If you’re looking for an architecture graduate position, awesome. However chances are it will take more than a week, so you will need to fill in some time. If I may suggest, look outside of architecture, but still within the industry. Maybe you go be a labourer for a builder, and dig some holes? Maybe do some drafting work, go volunteer overseas or enter a design competition. Do some things which will keep you active and engaged, don’t just sit around sending the occasional email while you binge watch entire seasons of tv shows.
What about your portfolio? I want to wrap up my portion of the post so I can share what others have tweeted, but I’ve attended two portfolio workshops ran by SONA, both were extremely helpful in gaining an understanding of what employers look for. In fact I took my portfolio I was going to apply to the Masters of Architecture with, got feedback, completely ditched it and redid it. I’ll link to both the posts below but here are some extracts;
Show a wide range of skills, and even just show the best of one thing. Example, no need to show a floor plan for each project when you can show your best floorplan. No need to include every render, just show your very best. Show your best section, as opposed to 10 sections for 4 projects. _ Summer Portfolio Workshop ’15
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. _ Summer Portfolio Workshop
Now below are tweets from architects after I asked for some bite-sized tips.
@MihalySlocombe _ 1. Know what sort of job you want 2. Know what sort of boss you want 3. Know your value (not much at first, but will get better) 4. Treat prospective employers like people – no dear sir or madam, no email bombs to hundreds of firms
MihalySlocombe also included a link to an informative post on this blog, Panfilo. Read it here; Dear Sir or Madam
@the_kav_man _ Finding the right person to talk to is important rather than generic email addresses. It’s not hard – connect via LinkedIn, connect via someone else in the organisation, connect with someone. Chat, be friendly.
@the_kav_man _ We are more likely to hire Masters students and keep them on beyond grads than hiring grads with limited office experience. Those enthusiastic enough to work through latter stages of uni show that extra bit of proactivity.
@the_kav_man _ In saying that, I admit I’m part of the ‘problem’ that grads face. Minimum 2 or 3 years’ experience is so sought after in our industry.
@the_kav_man _ At the rubber-hits-the-road end of things, learn Revit. More demand for this than any other software. But, it may pigeon-hole you into non-domestic sectors… which is fine if that’s what you want.
@the_kav_man _ Connect with the key recruiters in the architecture world. The good ones know the majority of firms in the industry and can recommend a good fit with you and your answer to
@MihalySlocombe’s 4 questions.
@talina_edwards _ I hired my arch grad because of her authentic cover letter that communicated to me that we shared the same values about Architecture & life. Her skills & personality were a bonus & it has all worked out well!