In many cases, architectural graduates struggle to get a job because they have not taken the time to find out what they want in their first job. This results in a generic approach. You will fail by being generic. But you can succeed by being focused and unique. You should really find out exactly where you want to go and then focus your energy towards it.
Here are 5 really important questions you need to answer for yourself before you jump to job hunting and applications:
1) Commercial or residential firm? This is one of the simplest ones but also one of the hardest questions to answer. But you must only choose one and focus. Commercial architecture firms tend to be bigger and there are more opportunities to learn since they have more people, more projects and more resources. On the other hand, residential architecture firms can give you a more well rounded experience in project management and client meetings. Both of them have some pros and cons but I recommend choosing a commercial architecture firm for your first job. Nevertheless, making a decision is more important than which one you choose. This will determine how you will approach your applications, resume and portfolio.
2) Should I research architecture firms? Find out what kind of projects are they doing. Prisons or gyms? Find out what kind of software they use. Are they design inclined or cookie cutter housing type firm? What is their office like (after all you plan to spend 40 hours a week there)? Can you see yourself working there long term? Try to imagine your life if you have already been working there for three years.
3) What is my special skill? Do you have a special skill you can leverage? Do you have a unique experience (like construction management) that can be leveraged in finding a job? If so, look for firms who value your skill. If you don't have a special skill that you can leverage, think of what that might be. What do you want to be good at 10 years from now? Become really really good at one or two things and you will always be in high demand as an employee.
4) What is valuable to architecture firms? As a junior employee, your design skills are rarely valued. Understand that things like technical competency, drafting knowledge and prior work experience are things that architecture firms want you to have. You must be useful to them the same day you join their office. You must be able to do architectural drawings. Nobody will hire you to make paper models all day like you did in architecture school. Start focusing your energy on things that architecture firms will find valuable.
5) What is my 10+ year goal? Thinking long term can help put things in perspective. Many graduates are just blinded by the short term goal of getting any crappy job. It is important that you understand that you first architecture job will lay the foundation of your entire career. Make sure you are heading the right direction.
Take a pen and paper and try to answer those 5 questions. This simple exercise will bring much clarity and success in your career.
Original article published on FirstArchitectureJob.com
I write posts to help fresh architectural graduates secure jobs in architecture firms. Most graduates struggle because there is no manual on what to do after graduation and it can be an overwhelming experience. I write about how to prepare resumes & portfolios, networking, application strategies, firm selection, job interviews, softwares etc. Note: some articles are re-posted (with permission) from FirstArchitectureJob.com and I credit them at the bottom of those posts.