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Im about to graduate and I was wondering if anyone could tell me how they first "got their foot in the door"? Was the job from an ad you saw or from a connection? I dont need to hear about how your Mommy/Daddy/Uncle got you a job but your own efforts.
I moved to a new city where I knew ONE person who was a fellow grad. He had a job at a firm that was not hiring, but he also had a friend at a firm that was maybe hiring, and when I contacted her she told me the firm in the office downstairs was definitely looking for someone, and when I met with them the traditional interview went well and they hired me. At each step along the way I mentioned the name of the person who had directed me there, so that name drop was, I guess, my foot in the door.
IMO, your first port of call should be your school's alumni directory or alumni career center. Alums from your program will generally welcome and expect informational interview request from new and soon-to-be grads like yourself. When you meet with them, talk to them to learn about what they do and how they got started. And ask them if they know whether anybody is hiring.
Introduce yourself, amazing how far a simple act can go. Make a good portfolio and have something to say, it'll go a long way.
After that, just be prepared to roll with the punches. Life will throw them, over and over, and the quicker you accept this and sit back, take a drink and think 'how can I make this is situation for the better' the sooner you'll be able to move forward.
My first 'break', that occurred as a result of a layoff, didn't look like a 'door' at the time but turned out to be a pivotal point in my life.
Life is about perseverance, patience and a ton, ton, ton of luck. Passion helps blur it all together.
I didn't know anyone but I graduated at a more fortunate economic time where all you needed was a pulse to get a job at a firm and everyone was giving out signing bonuses.
I had no experience or anything and there were offers left and right. Don't worry times will be like that again. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
My wife and I were talking about this over the weekend.
My first job, I proposed to a professor that we start an office. He had a firm in his home country, but not a U.S. office. He had just won a major project in China and had the funds to subsidize my salary for a year. It was a great experience.
My wife's first job after grad school - we had just moved to a new city. She contacted all of the architects, academics, and business people that she had some familiarity with (many were alumni) and set-up meetings to get their perspective on the city, not necessarily looking for a job, but just trying to get the lay of the land. Through that process, she was given two offers.
My second job I sent unsolicited resumes to design directors at a variety of firms (again many were school alumni). I had friends or acquaintances at several of the firms who could provide a recommendation. Albeit, this was before the economy tanked, but most everyone was willing to talk.
My third job I was contacted by one of the firms that I had orginally sent a resume to when I first moved into town. While they did not have a position open at that time, they sorted my resume into a future contact pile. A year after my first informational interview, they called me for another interview and made me a offer.
I've only once replied to a job posting. At the interview, they told me that they received 60 resumes, were giving 12 interviews and 3 follow-up interviews. And this was in 2006. After that experience, I decided that replying to job postings was generally a waste of time. Too much competition, the approach too passive. There are better ways to find a job.
Great stories, won and done. I would say the exception to not applying to a job posting is if the job posting has certain specific skills or areas of focus that align exactly with your own experiences.
I got my first one from my Father in law!! :p , but just within 10 months i got one myself from one outsourcing sites.
first real job after undergrad - future father-in-law referral.
during grad school - professor referral.
after grad school - went to work for my professor/thesis advisor.
next job - answered a classified ad in the newspaper.
next job - back to grad school employer.
next job - old professor friend from undergrad.
next job - cold applied to a corporate borg office.
next job - on my own!
Most of the jobs I got since starting to study I found either by knocking on doors with my portfolio or by cold calling firms by 'phone. I've very rarely mailed CVs and can't remember ever getting work that way, although I have interviewed people who sent their CVs to me.
Guess this approach works best if, like me, you were more opportunistic than idealistic in the earlier part of your career (and not a high flyer grades wise) so the firms were a mixed bag but almost all provided good experience in one way or another.
Only time the technique failed was to find work in Rome but that's an unbelievably tough pitch even for Italians willing to work for free.
Think in total I got five jobs like that and two by answering ads in the architectural press...and one through my dad.
one of the critics came up to me after a review during my last semester in undergrad and asked if I knew what I was doing after graduation. I said, "looking for work" and he said, "send me your resume." stupidly I didn't take that job, but took a corporate job because they paid more and it allowed me to live at home rent-free (they also contacted me, btw).
I've never gotten a job through online ads or unsolicited applications. I got my first architectural job, drafting beach houses for a one-woman firm in the Virgin Islands, thanks to my parents and their contacts. I took a one-year break from grad school to take an internship in Switzerland, got the job through an online internship placement program, with an assist from a professor who knew the partners personally. After graduating, I worked in Rome for nine months, a good friend of mine was working at the firm there, and he put in a good word... And now I'm in China, where an ex-colleague from Italy helped me get an interview at his company. Really, I don't know how else you would get a job, aside from working your network, and getting personal recommendations....
I'm an '08 graduate - and learned a few important things in the long struggle to find a job. I agree with the above comments recommending networking and cold-calling. I had zero luck with these things. Perhaps I'm just awkward? I want to note that upon graduating I moved to a different country and knew no-one in the field. At all. This is what I did:
1. (the optional step - nomads only) Figure out who the players are: what firms are in town and what your priorities are.
2. Squeaky wheel it. Tell everyone you meet that you're looking for a job in architecture. You never know who might know someone and want to help you.
3. Your resume isn't as good as you think it is - get a second, third, fourth opinion. I asked a friend of mine who's an HR expert to critique mine and she helped immensely. I then asked an architect friend to take a look. If you ask a friend, the key is to insist they be brutal - don't ask someone who'll be afraid to hurt your feelings or criticize too much.
More on this: in retrospect, I wasted much time and effort by sending out flawed resumes. After I incorporated my friends' suggestions into my resume, I got two interviews within three days.
4. Research the firm you're applying to work for. If it's a smaller firm, know who the partners are and find out as much as you can about them. Where did they go to school? What is their background?
5. Portfolios: I tried several tactics with portfolios when applying for jobs, including mini portfolios. These turned out to be an extra cost and yielded no results. My successful formula was a single page after my resume which just showed two images with a short description. In the resume, along with my contact information, I included a link to my coroflot.com portfolio (which they did check), and my flickr portfolio stream. Then I went to the interview with a full portfolio which was sexy enough that it left them a little agog. ;)
6. Be honest. Don't screw up your resume or interview by lying your way into a corner - promising skills and experience that you can't deliver.
That's all my advice - here's my story:
I moved after graduating and had no connections in town. I had little luck with the very few postings that arose, and made an effort to try and make connections in the field through friends and family to no avail. In this time, I researched every single architecture firm in the city, and had a list of favourites, though I quickly came to a point where I was so desperate that I'd take literally anything. During this time, however, my top choice never advertised a position. After calling on friends for resume help, pulling together a sexy portfolio, and working on keeping up my training (Revit, specifically), my top pick did finally post for intern architect / arch tech. I got an interview, then a second interview. I came over-prepared: portfolio, transcripts, moo business cards. Fortunately I made an impression on them and they created a position for me - it turned out that they hadn't needed an intern, but rather a tech at the time. Ultimately, I think it came down to a few things:
I hope this helps, and maybe encourages someone. It's really difficult when you find yourself stuck going nowhere after putting so much work into these degrees. It's a blow to your ego. It's so important in this kind of economy to understand that you are making a case for yourself: you must be convincing, no matter what approach you take - be it networking, pavement pounding, or resume-ing. You're competing with people who are just as smart, and worked just as hard. You need to want it badly, be resourceful, and feel entitled to nothing: just try your damnedest to make your case.
Excellent, excellent post, sydknee! (And great screen name.) Researching the firms you are applying to cannot be overemphasized.
I just went through this process. I had success with emailing unsolicited portfolios to the generic jobs@xxx address that most offices have. But I would trade in an amazing portfolio for a contact/recommendation any day.
I got work through cold emails and a referral from a professor. I started on my portfolio after the semester ended because I wanted a couple months off to take a break and experience summer before working. I started applying for jobs at the beginning of August and received all of my responses within three weeks.
I sent cold emails (pdf including cover letter, cv and portfolio) to 26 places. Three places were corporate offices, five were boutique places and the rest were well known architects who have their own El Croquis. Most places either didn't reply at all or said no. But I did get opportunities to interview with architects in Singapore, The Netherlands and the US. I also received offers to intern at two places in Japan and one in Denmark. The referral from my professor resulted in an interview and job offer with an office in China. In the end, for various reasons, I decided to do two of the internships and declined everything else.
I feel rather lucky with the response that I got from just sending emails. Of my architecture friends/classmates I keep in touch with, the ones who are working as architects got their jobs through contacts. Everyone else is doing something other than architecture or a temp/contract job or is simply unemployed.
My advice is to use all of your contacts to get a job. That's the best way because you skip to the front of the line and don't have to compete with other resumes and portfolios.
As for cold emails, nearly everyone wanted pdfs so the application process was very fast and inexpensive. My feeling is that to get contacted and get an interview or job with a pdf, naturally, your work needs to be good. If it's mediocre it won't compete at all. Assuming the work is good, your portfolio needs to quickly and clearly reveal the premise of each project and how it's intelligent, thoughtful and questioning or pushing of boundaries. If that's not clear, you won't make the cut.
To pair down the list of places I wanted to apply to, I applied to places where I thought my work/skills and thought process matched or complimented theirs. I didn't care if the places were actually hiring or not. I was also open to moving to a different city or abroad. If you're limiting your applications to a single city or smaller markets, my feeling is that nobody is hiring and you need to know someone to get hooked up with a job.
Any possible way we could see your portfolio? - A lot of people would like to see examples of what it takes.
my first job opp in architecture was back in may 2010 and lasted that whole summer. i had just completed my study abroad program in copenhagen and wanted to intern abroad as well. i got a tip from a friend who had lived in copenhagen who told me the firm he was working for was hiring interns. i applied months later and got the opportunity for the summer. prior graduation this past may, i went to a college fair and struck up a witty conversation with a recruiter from a construction management firm, and i left my resume. i was contacted a few weeks later for an interview. i ended up getting a job offer from them but turned it down (long story). After graduation and being home for a few weeks, i began the job search for a job more fitting to my previous experiences abroad--so i began to apply for jobs abroad. In july i got an offer from a firm in india, and i accepted. according to the phone interview, they hired me based solely on my portfolio samples and prior work experience abroad. i just think that every little step we take gets us closer to where we'll end up...so far at least. best of luck!
very nice post syd. i agree especially about research. we get so many applications from people who apparently only applied to us because we share the english language and nothing else. it is a waste of everyone's time.
the only thing i would add is that i really hate portfolios that i can't open from the e-mail or on my phone. please don't send zip files and keep the pdfs small.
as far as answering the op, i got my first few jobs through personal introductions. when i moved to london i got a job by sending out a cv with a few images and had several interviews and job offers quite quickly. but that was a good time for the economy. don't think it works so smoothly nowadays. sydknee's post seems the best bet, including the bits where he was just plain lucky.
A TA phoned me up from his office where he needed a model maker for a "couple weeks". He had like what I had done in a 2 nd yr landscape architecture studio. Went down and met the principle and a couple others in the office and said that I could help them out for a few weeks ( I wasn't even looking for an office job I was painting houses... poorly I might add) Job evolved when they needed some archives organized and then did some simple pen and ink drawings for their portfolio. Turned into a part time job during the school year and the following summer I was hired again. I kept it going for a few years and then moved on to a larger architecture office that had some large scale modeling required and a few planning projects which I helped them with. Moved into drafting on some small commercial projects with short deadlines and carried on with some seniors housing stuff.
All in all it was a pretty simple progression once I got in the door and was willing to take whatever was thrown my way. It was a good range of work and transferred well to other offices. Basically I could prove that I had a starter set of skills and was prepared to take on most tasks. All the offices were in the same town too so they checked my references and I was never turned down when I went for a job interview. I came in and could make the office money on day one and wasn't ever a waste of space in the office. I always looked at what I learned in each office as an opportunity to add to the quiver of skills I could sell to the next employer, or different project type etc. Then as I gained experience I could better target specific offices by knowing what they were working on ie large planning projects, resort work, urban design etc and went after offices that did work that I wanted to be apart of.
Thanks Donna Sink!
SUVERK - I don't have a copy of my portfolio available online, but it's about 25 pages, hand bound (using that japanese binding technique - there are how-to's on flickr), and just 8.5x11. One of the things I've been told that's important for portfolios is making sure they photocopy well. This is important if you are applying to big firms, as the decision-maker may only see a photocopy of your resume and portfolio. For portfolios, every architecture student seems to have the Linton book. I've found graphic design books published by Rockport to be really useful. I have "Graphic Design Reference" and "Layout Essentials" by that publisher. In preparing my portfolio, I also followed the usual rules: i aim to include fewer images and keep them large. At the back I include several pages of architectural photography. If you're interested in finding out what kind of content the competition is putting into their portfolios, I strongly recommend looking at portfolios on coroflot.com.
Thanks jump! Yes, agreed! It's best to keep things as simple as possible for the recipient of your resume. If you make it inconvenient in any way for the recipient to read it'll come off as a rookie move.
What are people's opinions on phone calls? More specifically, a follow-up phone call a few days after sending an unsolicited email with cover letter and resume...
which I'm more and more inclined to say will never work.
It seems most firms would discourage a polite follow-up phone call to inquire about employment, but how else do you make yourself more noticeable and a little more personable?
@sydknee, you know, for a second, i was deciphering your name like dori did in finding nemo haha.
@Y:BR, i made it a standard to follow up with the firm if there was no response after two/three weeks, at which point i felt it to be appropriate to deliver a follow-up message.
It's all about networking, talking with alums, and the people you meet in the supply chain.
In terms of how I got my (post-grad school) jobs.. note that in my case I had pretty extensive work experience before grad school as well.
1st job - a friend and alum from my school referred me to his firm
2nd job - another firm hired me away on the basis of one of it's senior people seeing a project I presented at a conference and based on networking I did with him there
3rd job - a client approached me directly (at my 2nd job) and made a proposal I couldn't refuse
My advice is.. network, network, network. If you think you've networked enough, network some more. I've never hired anybody I didn't already know (through their own networking or through contact with on prior jobs), and I've never been hired any other way. No matter how brilliant your portfolio/resume is, you can only get hired based on it if it gets read or seen.. and without networking, these days, it's doubtful that it will. So.. pick up the phone and just start calling people.. ask for informational interviews, go to AIA chapter events and talk with people, hang out wherever you think hiring designers, developers and consultants may be, use linkedin, use your alma mater's career services and alumni offices, volunteer to be a studio crit or juror at your alma mater or even just the local architecture school, etc., etc.
This thread is desperssing :-( . I graduated in May 09 with only with a 4yr BS and not one offer.
Networking - Tried. Talked to all my friends, friends parents, professors, church, neigbors, nothing has come it.
Cold Emails - Sent over a 100 to local frims in the DC, MD, VA area. I haven't done any cold calls. Maybe I should....
Job Adds - Gotten a few interviews from the 100+ I applied to, but no offers
Grad school - would if I didn't owe so much money for my undergrad tituation
I've updated my portfolio twice. Maybe I'll do that a 3rd time. I recently became a LEED GA. Start of next year, I plan on becoming a member of NOMA. That should be able to help my network. I'm really at a cross roads. I give myself to the end of the year, till I say F it. And have to figure out what else to do with my life.
ps - I have done a few BS drafting contract jobs, but that dried up long ago. One even created a full time position to replace me.
Foot in the door? Here was my successful strategy: I was new in town so first I searched out the help wanted ads. I found what appeared to be the least attractive job ads; you know the kind that offer less than you really want to make right there in the ad (e.g., $10/hr) and list a website that makes you want to gag when you look at it. Got an interview, told them I could do the job for $9/hr. and BOOM!!!...footsy in the doorsy, like hired, yo!
quentin - giving up isn't an easy choice; hopefully you won't have to make that decision.
networks are quirky things - a lot of times people who know us the best may feel really awkward when helping us. or they just don't understand our situation enough to know how they can help out. quite honestly, the groups you're talking about seem like ones you should be asking if they have any projects you can help them with. it's much easier going to a small practice with a small project and asking them to hire you than to simply ask people to help you find a job.
you know, beyond all the great advice above, the only thing i'll add is that, more than ever these days, i think employers are looking for the 'other' thing you (as a prospective employee) will bring to the equation. meaning this: 'designers' are a dime a dozen - what other sets of specialized skills do you have that can benefit a firm? LEED - overrated. someone who's a former GSA project manager? definitely valuable.
so, think about what you do that's truly distinctive, beyond what's expected of most professionals. for example, one of our employees is a licensed structural engineer. our long term plans will have us looking for someone who's a licensed landscape architect. maybe you're an immensely talented renderer or watercolorist. maybe you have an expertise in mid-century construction techniques (incredibly valuable, by the way, over the next 20 years).
this isn't a new idea - it's something many industrial design firms look for and ideo's elevated to a near mantra. and i think most good to great firms are looking to add a collection of 'other' skills to their firm, in an effort to give them an edge in the marketplace....
Just another tactic,
Old school: Physically visit firms, introduce yourself and politely ask the receptionist, or who ever is nearest the entry, if it would be OK for you to leave your resume for one of the principals.
If your timing is right, and the stars align, you may get lucky and get an interview right then...
I hope you don't give up Quentin.
My gut is to recommend that you focus on networking with your fellow alums identified through your alma mater's career services office. But before you go back to doing that, you might want to consider going to their career services office and doing a self-assessment survey. This may help to identify which aspects of your portfolio or your skills to emphasize, to differentiate yourself from others.. and it may help build your own confidence on presentation as well.
Personally, I've always found networking with family members - even very well connected ones - to be useless. My family thinks I'm a moron. I could win the Pritzker and they still would think of me as a clumsy 5 year old tripping over his own shoes. hehe.
How do you choose when to ask for a job and when to ask for an informational interview?
It seems like I should be focusing on building my network INSTEAD of looking for a job. I've started a list of local firms and divided them up into places I'd love to work, places I'd be able to stand, and last resort firms. I was thinking about applying to places I'd be able to stand and asking for informational interviews from the dream firms or splitting each category into halves - I'd ask half of my dream firms for a job and half for an interview - and keep my fingers crossed.
Let me think. I got my very first job while in undergrad; I came home after my very first year, literally set out the phone book, and - I swear to you - start cold-calling every single architecture firm in order. I got a job in the D's, on day 2 of cold-calling. This was back in the 90s and not a super great time for hiring. I worked for them summers and winter breaks and even some remote work during the school year for years, and learned a ton. It was a great first experience.
Then my first job after undergrad, let me see... came thru an architectural staffing agency actually. I have always enjoyed doing temp work in between jobs, and got something as a receptionist at an arch firm, and then started working there. Then moved cities, did the same thing - contacted an architectural staffing agency - and started getting temp jobs and connections right away. I have answered job ads and had that work out very well for me also - my two best, richest experiences both came as a result of simply answering a want ad and making sure I excelled in the interview.
I have very few connections because my family are immigrants and only one family member even went to college. I'm also from a part of the country that is kind of disconnected from the rest, and when I went to the east coast I immediately realized that everyone else had crazy connections that I didn't. But it has worked out regardless. Just keep at it! And don't dismiss temp agencies (both architectural and non) - I have no idea why more people don't take advantage of temp agencies. They are great.
You really just need to put yourself out there. Something will come. A lot of it tends to be if you are in the right place at the right time - the work isn't going to just come to you; you need to be out there, making the connections and doing whatever you can, even if it's just being a receptionist for a few weeks. I will never understand all the laid off architects I have known in the recession who literally just sat at home. Fuck that. Get out there and do whatever you can, even if it's working at Starbucks. You never know who you'll serve in line. And in the meantime, you're getting a paycheck!
during undergrad - part time model maker. famous office -referred by prof.
after undergrad- solid year learning how to draw bathrooms, and help putting CD's together- cold application
during grad school (summer)- worked for my prof's daughter who just started her own practice
during grad school- starchitect (the best ever starchitects office) year contract- cold (*pre 2008)
during grad school- starchitect, good pay and experience (*post 2008) COLD application! WOOT!
after grad school- 6 month contract starchitect, prof referred me
current- average sized okish office, friend referred me
** my two best jobs I got applying COLD- and although they were internships I learned a-lot and got paid decently. Even post 2008- never say never!!
**rule of thumb I apply EVERYWHERE and make the BEST absolute portfolio I can make. I always sent out hundreds of applications!! In a different city? No problem!! Other continent? Awsome!! Get to see something new!! Run around while you are young and you can!!
oh yeah- by being super active and running around all sorts of cities/countries- YOU MEET LOADS OF DIFFERENT PPL AND MAKE CONNECTIONS!! BOOM!
These aren't really answering my question exactly. I guess I should have started a new thread to be clear but they HAVE been helpful. I think I've come up with an answer to my own question though. I'll email them all the usual job application stuff and also say that if they aren't hiring I'd like to still have an informational interview.
out of school I started out by taking any and all conversations I could with architects..regardless of whether or not they had a job. I started with some alumni that worked at firms but also with basically anyone.
1st job - talked to a firm that I had friends at..was hired to help out with a model and then hired full time - 3 years
2nd job - got laid off at first firm and called a firm I had interviewed with because I heard they were hiring and had a new job in a half hour - 8 months
3rd job - took a break from architecture and worked with a carpenter who I met while doing one of my carpentry side jobs at the time - 8 months
4th job - somehow got my foot in the door at a design firm I really liked... I think it was random resume/work sample drop off... a throw away line on my resume may have got me in the door..that and the firm was splitting into two and both needed to hire replacements. - 3 years
moved to NYC
5th job - large corporate firm through CFA - 8 months
6th job- interior firm through CFA - 1-1/2 years
7th job - sent my resume and work samples to firms I liked and got hired at one - 3 years initially
8th job - after i got laid off i got a job within a few days at another firm that a few people I'd worked with not worked at. - 1-1/2 years
9th job - got laid off again and wrote the previous design firm to try and update my portfolio... they asked if I wanted to work for them again since they now had work again - 1-1/2 years..work slowly dried up, but I still work for them as a consultant from time to time
also got hired as a consultant at the other firm i worked at and go there a few days a week.
But mainly now I work with a friend doing metal fabrication and consulting on his shop drawings. Recently I've been trying to just do shop drawings so that I can work from wherever and on my own schedule. Currently trying to get more fabricator clients as well as starting out some of the projects I've put off for years. We'll see if this all continues or if I decide to go back to more specifically architecture endeavors.
Mainly I'd say talk to anyone and everyone and be persistent. Keep working on your school work or new projects/competitions to keep your skills up and to improve your portfolio... I redid quite a few drawings and made new drawings of my thesis that I hadn't had a chance to... always keep your resume and portfolio up to date as well as work samples because you never know when you'll want to send it out and if someone will want it that same day.
I'm from a small city that only has 4-5 architecture firms. I graduated during the recession, and none of the firms were in a position to hire. I found out that one of the principles of the firms volunteered at a local community garden, so I started volunteering there too. I got to spend a few hours every other weekend working right next to him planting and plowing and getting dirty. When things started picking up again, I was the first person he called.
My first real FIRM job.. i got (and still have) is in China, i replied to a job post online, while living in the US made contact with the HR, and set up an interview, i set up a few more interviews with other firms in this fashion, and flew to China, and after several different offers i landed with my current company.
I would certainly disagree with people saying that applying for job posts is useless, i know many people who have gotten jobs through who they know, but also equally as many through hard work and searching through listings...