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    Intern 101: How to deal with a new experience?

    Joann Lui
    Jun 4, '14 12:13 PM EST

    Hi Archinect,

    Back to our Intern 101 series! Here goes a very important topic that no one really talks about. What do you do when you are tackling work that are over your experience level? NCARB wants us to fill in all these different categories, but honestly sometimes they are really difficult. This is what I have experienced lately at work, so I thought I would share with you on things to do when you don’t know what to do. Let’s be honest, that happens to us every day.

    1. Ask a lot of questions
    Number one rule at a workplace = ask questions. I have written about How to Get Involved in Your Firm before, and one of the points is also to ask question. JUST ASK THE QUESTION. I call my project architect at least 5 times a day with questions. If you are an intern, you are expected to be progressive about your learning. So do it! See it as a learning opportunity every time you encounter a problem and you will get so much better before you know it.

    Four more points on this topic after the break.

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    • kartikjadhav

      Asking too many doubts ... don't you think it will raise few questions about our understanding about the context. 


      For example there are two interns in same office and one of them does not ask any questions and does what is being asked him to do. And there is another intern who always asks for the doubts. 

      The first one is slower and do overtime in the office. 

      The second one is fast in his work and does not wish to do overtime in the office. 

      Which one do you feel the better one? 

      Jun 6, 14 4:34 am  · 


      That's an interesting point. But my bosses and PM have always told me they want interns to ask questions. It saves them time later to figure out the problems on their own.

      As to the example you raised, it depends on the office culture. I know most offices (with unpaid overtime) prefer interns that would work forever. Our office promotes healthy work-life balance, so they try to save us from overtime (and we get paid overtime when we do have to work for a deadline.). So if I were the boss/PM,  I would prefer someone that take the initiative to ask questions, which in turn work faster correctly so he/she can have a life outside of work.

      I am lucky enough to work in an office that has good culture. But I understand that some people get annoyed by too many questions and see you as incompetent. But like I said in the post, look it up yourself first. You can probably find the answer online or in some other resources if it's a simple problem. But if it's a really important issue in a building, just go ask the question.

      Do you think your boss would prefer a lot of questions right now or a building lawsuit down the road?


      Jun 6, 14 11:53 am  · 

      From a manager's perspective...

      Any manager with experience should asses his staff members' strengths and weaknesses.

      They [PM], realize when a duty assignment is "over-the-head" of the inexperienced. Sometimes, this is a test to see just what transpires. Will the draftsman display relevant behavior regarding the problem - question; add a creative solution; notice an error of omission or a conflict with the detail? Architecture is such a vibrant communicative endeavor.

      It begs the "old school" studio, drafting room scenarios of the past where movement, conversation, argument [sometimes heated], were the norm as you moved from drafting board to drafting board. I would say to anyone focused on the profession with the intent to become proficient in both the artistic and technical demands of architecture to question, question, question.

      Some Firms do not take the time for this and perhaps it is indicative of the techno-speed and rush to complete. For a 5 person [average], project...I would always give a project an organized breakdown of it's flow, but just as important, make certain that this experience would gather it's own speed with an unnoticed climate of pressure because the best of your talents become fostered when I do my job correctly to make certain that I take the time to de-bug, "make the rough places plain" and see that the process is fun. The best project results are often those where the team IS the player...the PM...the conductor. Staying late, even off-the-clock, to go over problems someone may be experiencing will add to the projects success.

      You will very quickly asses the structure of an office whether your new-inexperienced or new-experienced. Some firms are pure joy to work in other's...just a job.

      Pertaining to your concerns, Joann, the technical side of the business is usually the most foreign to new grads as this emphasis takes a back seat to design-rendering programs which schools are most proud to exhibit. If the old adage still applies that quality and expertise are gained through practice and experience then work on your "weak points".

      There is no shame or embarrassment in this as "we've all been there".

      You will look back on your progression and perhaps amaze yourself as to where your strengths have led you.

      Jul 24, 14 2:16 pm  · 

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I educate architects and designers (just like you) to craft a creative career that fuels your soul, reach your goals and share your talents to the world. I strive to make your life easier and give you real actionable strategies that I’ve used to build my career step by step to working in a world renowned architectural firm. More free resources are available at

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