Finding my first job

Brian Henry (M.Arch, U of Idaho, 2011)



Sep '11 - Jan '13

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    Job Search Strategery

    Brian Henry
    Feb 16, '12 2:33 AM EST


    With the design-build project that I’ve been working on coming to a close and my portfolio off to the printer for a test print I thought I’d write about something I’ve been meaning to write about for a while now, job search strategery. As a disclaimer I’ll say that I have no idea how well this works, or doesn’t work. This is just my take on the job search strategies I’ve run across on firm websites, blog posts, and archinect forums.* I’ll explain myself briefly, but feel free to leave a comment or ask a question if you'd like clarification. Take note that this isn't everything in my strategy; I've got to keep at least one ace up my sleeve.

    First of all, I haven’t got much to rely on in the way of networking so most of the time when I walk into a firm’s offices it will be their first impression of me. It should also be noted that I’m looking for work in a local economy that doesn’t support many architecture firms so I won’t get many chances to make good first impressions before I run out of firms to impress. So with that in mind my strategy comes down to three important parts.

    • The Teaser. As the name implies, the goal of this to have something to give to potential employers in order to tease them into contacting me for more information and/or an interview. Essentially, this is a portfolio of my work that is meant to give someone a taste of my work. It will be small, 8 pages (2 sheets folded), and will include work samples, an abbreviated or modified version of resume/CV, and a cover letter. It will be easily customized to address the person I’ll be giving it to, and consequently will be printed and bound by myself. Essentially, the teaser is an enhanced version of a business card in the way that it says, “This is who I am. If you like what you see, call me.” The key here is to actually hand this to somebody who cares or has control over hiring.
    • The Portfolio. This is 32 pages of my blood, sweat, and tears. It will be professionally printed and bound, and it will most likely stay the same from one firm to the next. I would bring this to an interview in order to show more of my work and answer questions about my skills, abilities, and design process.
    • The Website. This is obviously the online source of more information. The teaser and portfolio link to this website and the website links to where you can find out information about me (twitter, LinkedIn, archinect, portfolio, …). I don’t know just how effective this will be as most of the local firms I’m looking at have very little online presence themselves. This could be because the local market doesn’t demand it, or because no one in the office knows what the internet is. Monitoring website traffic will tell me more as time goes on. Right now I don’t think this will be anything fancy, just a hub where you can go to different sites for information … for example check out or

    Additionally, I have other materials to bring to an interview. Perhaps the most important is a half-sized set of construction documents I did for a design-“build” studio (build is in quotations because the project never got enough funding). I say this is perhaps the most important because while I’d like to think that I will be hired because of my jaw-dropping portfolio, the truth is a potential employer will probably care more to see that I can draw a legible detail in AutoCAD. 

    Anyway, like I stated at the beginning, I have no idea of the effectiveness of this strategy but I think it's important to have some sort of plan going out there. Expect at least one follow-up post on how the strategy works.

    *More information


    • Archinect

      Hi Brian

      Thanks heaps for your post and the additional links you provided! Really helpful as I too am beginning *the* quest. 

      Jan 23, 13 9:10 pm

      brian - 

      thanks for pulling all this together. it's a pretty comprehensive list in terms of having enough information to evaluate someone. 

      a few thoughts from someone on the 'other side of the table': first, networking is key. not just in a 'hey i met you at an aia event' sort of way, but in developing contacts throughout everything you do (including archinect!). connections are going to be what really gets you that inside knowledge that counts - is a firm hiring? what are they doing right now? who do i contact? etc. 

      i think the follow up companion to this piece is the following: what is going through the employers mind when hiring? because, in the end, you want all that information to mean something to the other person, not just be a reflection of yourself. one easy thing i can say from my end now: if we're hiring, we have some kind of specific need. the best of us will be evaluating people as long-term hires - what can they contribute or bring that will help us down the line, etc - but there's plenty of people who just need someone who can do 'x' that's on their immediate radar. 

      last comment for now: all of this is probably secondary to what kind of impression you make on someone when you meet them face to face. in fact, it is secondary. so, don't neglect that aspect of your preparations either...


      Jan 24, 13 10:00 am

      MilkandBread, good luck with the search. Glad you found this helpful. Here's a followup to Build's "Guide for resumes" and "How to *really* get hired..."

      How to *Really* Get Hired at an Architecture Firm (Part II)

      Greg, thanks for the comments. It's good to hear about the process from the "other side of the table." You're right about making a good impression face to face. One of the people in on my interview told me later that they barely look at someone's portfolio when evaluating them.  They are good for some eye candy but he would rather hire someone who has a personality that will fit in with the firm's and be able to hold their own in meetings etc. For him, the interview is much more important than what's sitting on the table as far as portfolio/resume goes. 

      Jan 24, 13 10:28 am

      Also, as promised ... here is the follow-up to this post;

      Job Search Follow-Up

      Jan 24, 13 10:30 am

      As requested on another one of my posts, I've uploaded a version of my teaser portfolio if you want to see an example. You can also find my portfolio there on as well. 

      Feb 6, 13 1:22 am

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Commentary on looking for work, portfolio and resume design, networking, social media and the job search, interviews, dealing with rejection and the joy of landing a job.

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