University of Florida (Aaron Plewke)



Jan '05 - Feb '07

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    Professional Life - the next [re]generation

    Aaron Plewke
    Aug 12, '05 12:13 PM EST

    I haven't posted a school blog in a while, partially due to my new status as UF alumnus. So, I thought the next fitting entry would describe life after's a little tale about a handful of the graduates of a four year pre-professional architecture education who chose to engage the real world before returning for a graduate degree...


    On April 29 at the so and so Center for the Performing Arts, a group of wide-eyed, idealistic youngsters crossed over from la-la land and into the professional realm. What would this new world hold for us? Endless opportunity, never-ending disappointment, or perhaps a bit of both...


    With big dreams and bullet-proof resume/portfolio packages, many of these budding flowers of architecture set out to cultivate their embryonic talents, to propagate their holistic theories of life, to make the world a better place, to change lives with architecture!

    Ya, so that didn't last very long.

    The first big disappointment came in the form of a city that would have none of what we had to offer. Boston. Freakin' Boston! A few of us were in this boat together. After researching firms, narrowing down a list, consulting with professors etc. we prepared our portfolios, resumes and cover letters. With tremendous confidence we set out to take what was rightfully ours, an entry level internship at a respectable design-oriented firm. In Boston. Bloody idealism.


    "You're from Florida, they'll think you're exotic." "They get so much GSD and MIT up there, you'll be like a breath of fresh air." It seems our professors may be wishful thinkers too. Granted, none of us actually WENT to Boston in person to visit firms (as previous peers recommended), but why such a lack-luster performance from our resume/portfolio packages? All we wanted was some call backs and maybe a couple of interviews to keep our momentum going. Nothin! Out of 3 of us, and roughly 30 combined resume/portfolio packages, our grand total of interviews: 1. Needless to say, that single interview garnered only more discouragement.

    With tail between legs, Boston applicants settle into life after school without real job. Alternatives begin to be discussed. Morale is at an all-time low. A last ditch effort will cause all remaining resume/portfolio packages to be sent hastily to firms nation-wide that have mentioned an opening for interns...

    Ok, so while some of us were working on Boston, others were taking the summer off, applying for prestigious scholarships (SOM etc.), working for a hometown firm, "settling" on finding a decent job in Florida somewhere once the Fall came around.

    Fast forward...All Roads lead to Orlando?

    Ya, so here we are, 3 months post-graduation... With the exception of the few who took their ambition and portfolios to more receptive foreign locales:
    congrats to Adam and Silan - now working for OMA - Asia spin-off RAD in Hong Kong, an awesome studio directed by Aaron Tan; and congrats also to Richie - now working for Urbanus in Beijing, designers of the Digital Beijing olympic communications center; and also to Jazmine and Kyle, livin' it up in Southern France, probably working with Rudy Riciotti by now...

    SO, the land of opportunity, Orlando, has willingly and generously provided me and at least a dozen of my arch/ind friends with jobs that pay well and teach well. Most of us didn't know AutoCAD, had little or no previous experience, but O-town firms gave us a chance. Thank you Orlando.

    that being said, idealism doesn't thrive in a setting such as this, home to Disney, exemplar of suburban sprawl. Firms here work on Jails, Courthouses, Resorts, Strip Malls and the like. More interesting and socially minded agendas do exist, but you have to dig. It feels a bit compromising at times, but we were all warned that real life would squash our hopes and dreams.

    Been there? I would love to benefit from your experience, multiply your joy or divide your sorrow, whatever...

    Where are you on this journey, and what insights can you offer?


    • arri

      Wow! Great post! Thanks for being so candid. I moved to LA after I graduated undergrad and hand delivered 20 resume w/ images of my work in all 5 page package and I only got one call back. The good news is that the firm gave me my first job!

      Aug 12, 05 2:18 pm

      well, i'm sorry that you learned the hard way about one thing. firms in new york, boston, etc. don't respond to intern portfolios from other areas. they just don't (typically) especially if you've heard about them in florida. most of these offices receive between 50 and 70 resumes a day. they may need one person every few months. of those 50 -70 resumes (especially at the intern level where you don't have a lot of experience) on their desk maybe 10-20% are good potential candidates. so there you are with between 5 and 15 candidates...and over half will be from the city that the office is in. sooo, what does this story tell us. basically if you want to do something you have to take the leap, it'll typically work out. i moved to new york crashed on the floor of a friend that was going to columbia, walked all over the city handing out 20-30 resumes to cool design firms then finally harassed an office enough to get a job. but from there everything became much really just need to take the plunge. nothing in life that's worthwhile comes easy, and without a bit of risk.

      Aug 12, 05 3:51 pm

      Nicely done, Aaron. I think you have managed to speak for a lot of recent grads who are venturing outside their alumni boundaries and trying to make their way into intern world. Its a tough ride, I'm on that same journey in Boston myself.

      Aug 12, 05 3:54 pm

      thanks for the responses

      Aug 12, 05 4:04 pm

      Why is everyone so obsessed with landing an entry-level job at a "cool design firm" anyway? At that stage of your career the reality is that you'll be detailing the same toilet partitions at the "cool design firm" as you will at the average firm. You'll also probably be getting paid less, working longer hours, and living in a city with a higher cost of living. You could be using your extra time and money to enter design competitions, polish your portfolio, volunteer for nonprofit design-build organizations, and to stay connected with the university environment. In the end that might all add up to a better shot at the cool design firm a few years down the road.

      Aug 12, 05 5:42 pm entry level job at a cool firm means high-level job at a half-decent firm, a good teaching position, or your own cool office in the future if you have any chops whatsoever. and you get an awesome portfolio, can show your work as published in internationally distributed magazines, and have a cool portfolio. Better to be the bottom guy on an amazing building where you feel you are acomplishing something than the bottom guy in a crap office, no? I've seen friends go both ways, working for OMA and staying in small town safe place back home with every intention of doing comps and trying later. The latter never did (NONE of them) and the ones who went to OMA after grad seem to be pretty enthused about the experience even some 5 or 6 years later...sour grapes?

      i agree with futureboy about finding work. just gotta go to the place you wanna work and have a local return address, then hit the pavement and make yourself known. unless you are awesome enough for the cool offices to come to you regardless of where you are...

      Aug 12, 05 7:32 pm


      Aug 12, 05 8:28 pm

      Man, networking is the key to the ha cha cha cha firms. You have to commit to a location and start knocking and chatting. At some point you'll walk into a gym, coffee house, gallery etc. and meet your necessary connection to that highly sought after firm. Have your portfolio ready to hand over and keep your composure. It may take a while, but if you really want it, it will happen. That's the joy of cities - if you're looking for it, after a while you will find it.

      Aug 13, 05 8:22 pm

      ya, I have since learned that you just have to take the leap. I was in no financial position to do so, but this time spent in Orlando is preparing me, both financially and professionally. In the future, I would like to teach and run a firm (don't most of us)...

      part of the reason I would like to work for a studio that has a social conscience and attacks design problems critically and inventively.

      I believe in the whole mentorship thing. I can't teach myself everything, so if sacrificing money etc to work for a firm that will keep my excited about architecture and teach me to make it well, so be it (in response to b4arch). I love competitions and collaborating with peers, and as much as we can do with eachother's influences, mentorship is crucial for professional development of all types...

      Aug 15, 05 10:21 am


      Anywhere you go is time well spent. Just as long as you're doing something that keeps your momentum. Always forward.

      Aug 16, 05 3:58 pm

      hey buddy, good to hear from you...

      ya, I know the tone is a bit somber, only for narrative impact. O-town is all good, and I am making the most of my time here. How has your summer been?

      Aug 16, 05 5:55 pm

      I'm glad to hear that...

      check your email

      Aug 16, 05 8:30 pm

      Now, after 6 months in Orlando, working in Jacksonville, FL, the most urban Florida I've ever known (having grown up in Miami).

      Apr 3, 06 1:07 pm

      As a student, this post is both inspring and informative. I value hearing stories like this very much. Thank you.

      Jun 16, 06 2:20 pm


      Jun 28, 06 8:36 am

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