I can't get a job, is there something wrong with my Portfolio?

Hello everyone. I've been looking for a job as a Part II Architectural Assistant in London for 2 months and I haven't gotten any single interview. I can't help but getting anxious, thinking that there's something wrong with my portfolio so I think this is a good place for asking for advice.

By now, most of job hunting activities have been through the net and I realise that I should be moving to the good old fashion walk in strategy anywhere soon. Before doing that I'd love to hear your opinion about my professional profile. Please, don't hesitate being frank. Am I hireable or not? 

Thank you in advance for your advice.


Feb 3, 16 11:47 am

I only skimmed the it, but from what I saw it looks pretty good, although very long.  I only looked at the first 5 or so pages.  Do you live in England now or have any immigration/work visa difficulties?  I know in the US it is hard for firms to even justify hiring someone from out of state let alone out of country.

Feb 3, 16 12:37 pm  · 
Non Sequitur

It's 70 pages too long.

Feb 3, 16 12:48 pm  · 

this might seem silly, but I was recently listening to this guy on youtube, pretty good advises he gives. 

Feb 3, 16 12:50 pm  · 

I'm currently living in London and since I have an EU passport there's no problem concerning that.

The portfolio is quite long indeed. I'm working on a shorter version that I could mail to the firms as a first contact.

Feb 3, 16 1:02 pm  · 

See what you do, but are you explaining what you want? Is the employer supposed to figure that out? Don’t know what an “Architectural Assistant” is in the UK, but in the U.S. that translates to “CAD Jockey”. Missing something here….you need to explain the fit otherwise I’m not calling.

Feb 3, 16 1:13 pm  · 

I wouldn't do the walk-in strategy.


My best suggestion is to network furiously.

Do enough self-directed and independent work that you can talk about your design skills and what you are up to confidently in public, then just get out to events and meet people in the city you want to work in.

Feb 3, 16 1:19 pm  · 

i found the book "cracking the hidden job market" to be the most useful book i've ever read and recommend it to everyone.  

Basically it's very easy to throw away an email or resume, but a little harder once the decision maker knows you as an actual person who has even the slightest contact with someone they know.  Firms always start to fill an opening by asking if any of their current emplyees know of someone who is looking

Feb 3, 16 1:22 pm  · 

Hi Carrera! Well, I don't really know the exact equivalent in the US. What I am looking for is a starting position after having finished my master of architecture studies while not being able to be a registered architect yet. That's called a Part II / Architectural Assistant in the UK.

Feb 3, 16 1:23 pm  · 

^ Well, just speaking U.S. you need a well-crafted cover letter to define your professional station (bullet points of marketable skillsets), and personal situation (willing/wanting to relocate etc.). I need to understand how I’m going to get my money back if I hire you and your portfolio says “chief designer”…doubt that’s a “starting position”.

Feb 3, 16 2:04 pm  · 

Ok, so what does a "starting position" portfolio looks like? That's what I want to know.

Feb 3, 16 4:33 pm  · 

Carerra can probably speak to this in more detail because he is an employer, but as a Junior Architect, I have found it helpful to focus on:

Skills. - One of the few things you can offer as an junior-level employee is unique skills in new software and methods.

Specific parts of built projects - Don't showcase a huge or collaborative project as something that is all yours. Much better to go into detail on the facade components or detail elements that you worked on and show mastery and understanding of those.

Documents - This is hard to show in a portfolio (much better in a resume or CV) but having actually worked on and completed Contract Documents is a huge bonus.


My work samples currently only have 7 projects - from XS to XXL scale. The only text on the project pages are a 1-sentence description and what tools I used to complete it. I then do an addendum with pages titled "Rendering" "Digital Fabrication" "Model Building" "Writing and Journalism" etc... to showcase some of the specific skills I have outside of the context of projects.

Feb 3, 16 4:39 pm  · 
"Part II architectural assistant" is a protected term in the UK referring to someone who has finished a professional masters in architecture and are in the process of recording hours towards licensure. Quite literally the equivalent to being in IDP in the u.s. (I'm a Canadian working as a pt.2 in London)
Feb 3, 16 5:23 pm  · 

I liked the work, but a few pointers:

- Its a bit too long, and gets tiring

- You might want to categorize by type of project/discipline - Urban design, architecture etc etc

- Have you worked in a "real" office and made drawings etc? That might be useful to show.

The job market is the UK is super hot now - but it does take 3-4 months sometimes...

Feb 3, 16 8:07 pm  · 

As everyone else said, it's way too long. Cut it down. 20 pages is good. 30 pages maximum.

More broadly, it's very heavy on graphic design and concept and very light on actual architecture. My general impression is that you are trying to pad it out with fluff. That may not be a problem depending on what you're looking for, but it might be an issue.

One thing that is completely missing is process work. I have no idea how you think about architecture or develop ideas. That's usually one of the first things I look for when reviewing portfolios and resumes.

And a small block of text for each project explaining some details about it (what it is, who it's for, how big it is, how much it cost, when it was built, etc.) helps a lot.

Feb 3, 16 8:25 pm  · 
null pointer

Okay this is going to sound really fucking stupid, but bear with me: get rid of all the fucking yellow.

Yellow is the color most likely to provoke anxiety. Cut down 20 pages and spend an hour moving towards cooler tones.

Portfolios are a psych game. 

Feb 3, 16 8:46 pm  · 

this will all likely have zero consequence on your job hunt, but here is my 2c anyways:

- I would suggest putting the 'site radius' of the larger scale site plan on your small scale site plan, and even on the map of the whole Island. I like those drawings, but they take up a lot of your real estate all by themselves.

- I don't like all those acute angles in your plans. I suppose some field conditions would make those kinds of walls necessary, but I still don't like them. Your liberal use of the fillet in plan, I like more on the Island Additions than in the handrails of One of Two Homes, but it could also be one of these plan elements that's making some people second-guess what they're looking at.

- Your graphic style is generally impressive and on point, imho, but the acid yellow sky in the Shades could be too much for some potential employers. Looking past the aesthetic, if they even make it past your intro to Foucault, Deleuze, and Gentrification all on the same page and call you in for a chat, you're probably dealing with pretty open minded individuals... If you chose to justify the planned heterotopia of your design as a diverse grassroots community, you might find that simplifying the way you communicate your complex concepts will help keep the audience's attention where you want it.

A note on the philosophy: your project comes across as re-constructing a neatly stratified hierarchical society with affluent 'shoppers' at the top, and the poor everyone else on the bottom... better yet, the whole narrative suggests that the lower levels have evolved a rather dystopian athmosphere. And I can't figure out how the spectatular formation of 'self-conscious individuals' would lead to 'the economical decay of space allows the evolution of typologies' [sic]. There are many thinkers who have called for the formation of all forms of conscioussness in individuals as a way to reach fulfillment.

TLDR: either skip the Shades project, or re-write the narrative.
- p.27 same as the cover image? cool, but repetitive.
- p.28 the repetition of that 'concept collage' seems superfluous. Maybe substitute with a plan or aerial render? or eliminate and fit that whole project on one spread.

- The page numbering is wrong. You appear to be counting spreads, not pages - probably because you laid it out as a spread/page in InDesign. This wouldn't matter at all if you printed these on A3 sheets bound along the left edge, but otherwise seems like a mistake accounting for only half the pages in the document.

I was impressed after one quick look, though, so hopefully you find a place that values what you can bring to the table.

Feb 3, 16 9:43 pm  · 

null beat me to it, I guess!
But I don't think yellow colour is as extreme a cause of anxiety as he suggests. Human vision is attuned to notice yellow and pay attention to it (evolutionary stuff from the time our species spent as prey on the grasslands), hence the use on traffic signs and other infrastructure, construction equipment etc.

Statistically, the warmer fully-toned images get more likes on Instagram than low contrast images with dominantly cool palletes, so that's an argument in favour of keeping to a warm pallette...

Feb 3, 16 9:52 pm  · 

Yusti, it’s not the portfolio (plenty of advice from the hotshots here), it’s what you attach to it.

It’s a 20th Century concept called a “cover letter” that introduces you as a person, offers your skills and expertise…an introduction & offering of skillsets…this is what I can do besides draw. It also shows communication skills….all the information that is not in a drawing portfolio. I like a group of bullet points that in their sum summarize the job position you seek …show me a round peg that I can put in my round hole.

I like portfolios…I get it, you’re all the next Daniel Libeskind, but what do you want?

I disagree on the size of the portfolio, the bigger the better because when I fan it with my thumb it will last longer than a millisecond….I’ll fan it, then study the letter to see what it is you want…then if interested, I’ll go back to it and then I’ll fall in love….the portfolio is the bait and the letter is the hook.

I attached a sample cover out of abject fear that you have never seen one…took me all of 20 seconds to find it on the internet, it’s just a sample. Now you’re going to hate this last part:

At this juncture go with paper and hand delivery to decision makers (if not practical mail it), go around HR. Sorry to say this, but your name can be a red flag, sounds romantic, but I’m not looking for a date, fitting-in is an ugly reality….you need to get face to face, get people on the phone and speak and I would figure out how to artfully put a thumbnail picture of yourself on the letter…or of yourself drawing at a table on the first page of the portfolio…sorry, it’s a reality…today people look first for what’s wrong then come back to what’s right....I did.

You did say… “Please, don't hesitate being frank”.

Feb 3, 16 10:15 pm  · 

I've got a couple drinks in me now and am posting like a maniac....

length is prob good for the printed version of your portfolio - but i'd make the online version shorter.   My internet connection at work can't keep up with my 10 sec. attention span, not an issue in print.  

the color yellow is one that may not print how you expect on paper, may have to experiment a bit to get it right.  Get to know some people, low level is fine, at the firms where you want to be and you'll know when they have openings before the job is posted to the public.  Getting in before the masses is your best chance.

Feb 3, 16 10:32 pm  · 

Cover letter specific to the company.

Call and ask if you may stop by to drop off a resume and portfolio, then when you walk in you can say "hello I just called about dropping off a resume" instead of being the random salesman type person surprising and annoying the first person you see.

Ask for a professional interview if you can and then write a thank you letter if they give it to you.

Do contract work.

Personally no one ever looked at my portfolio ever. Just being in the right place at the right time and saying "I know revit" got me every job. The profession doesn't need more designers, it just needs drafters.

Feb 4, 16 12:03 am  · 

What is your CV like? Most look at CV first. Source: I work in London and used to deal with thousands of architects.

Feb 4, 16 2:07 am  · 

Your work is great, I have a section saved that was tweeted by Architectural Review.  I think that for the initial portfolio that you send to firms could be half that size - kind of a teaser, and then bring in your full one for the interview.  A nice clean well-designed resume is very important, so many are cluttered/over-designed. I would email everything and then in approx a week call to follow up and then ask to stop by for an informational interview or something.  

In my experience, it's who you know not necessarily what you know.  I had coworkers that were quite abysmal but they were family friends with the firm's partners or they were good friends with the other interns.  The firm received some beautiful portfolios but ended up hiring this inept person - it really baffled me. 

Feb 4, 16 7:58 am  · 

Spatial!! Right!? What the hell is that!? So many times I look at HR and am like, um this still is a terrible job market, you probably reviewed hundreds of resumes and talks out loud to himself questionable bathing habits is the best you could do?

Feb 4, 16 10:43 am  · 

And this is why a lot of design studio's is full of bollocks. I had a guy on my course whose father owned a architecture studio and made one of the employee's write his dissertation and help format his portfolio.

Feb 4, 16 10:49 am  · 

Thank you very much for everyone's feedback. I didn't expect such a detailed analysis.

After thoroughly reading your comments on my portfolio, I've made a few conclusions:

- At least the mail version should be somewhat shorter / teaser version.

-There seems to be some controversy regarding the use of colours on my portfolio, and I think that I like that fact. When someone from the recruitment world looked at it, he told me that he really liked the fact that it hits the eye and it's easy to remember because most portfolios are in black and white. At the same time I am aware that my portfolio in general may be too colourful for some employers even if the colours when printed have a redder hue and look nicer. In conclusion, I think that it should remain because it is both enabling discussion and hinting my own personality as a designer, and yes, I accept that I might not be a match for some practices. The faster it's clear, the better.

-And yes, I'm more and more aware of the importance of networking! 

-Carrera: I do have a cover letter, but I find your explanations very helpful, I'll try to rewrite it with your comments in mind.

-threadkilla: self consciousness comes in the way of a sense of guilt, which according to Freud is the transformation of the destructive drives of human psyche into something beneficial to society. The point is that the more a society becomes codified, the more it needs to create spaces where social norms can be transgressed.

Feb 4, 16 12:40 pm  · 

The funniest thing I remember an employer showing me when doing a professional interview he was like "let me show you this resume, it pissed me off so don't do it, well idk it has my attention now, I might actually do an interview with them to see who the asshole was." Then he pulls out a resume that was white type on black background. Awesome.

Feb 4, 16 12:49 pm  · 

Are you having high expectations?

Ill be brutally honest here. You should be able to get a job at least at low-mid tier firms. I was looking at the portfolio through the eyes of an employer and here is why I wouldn't hire you if I own a well known firm.

Issues I have if I was an employer:

1. Details, they do not have any depth, they look very beginner (1st/2nd year)

2. Graphics are alright. Ive seen many typical portfolios which are must worse. However, they are not good enough where a firm will hire you for them. Therefore, they are just representations of your projects and have no influence on whether you will/won't get hired.

3. Line drawings, unrefined/lack of understanding. Ex. little issues such as wall corners.

Issues I personally have (just style differences):

page 1... not sure about colour

spread 2. Layout looks like typical architecture portfolio, which is fine. But if you want to be better look at fashion/graphic design/lifestyle magazines.

spread 3. same as  2

spread 5. colour makes it unreadable. I see what you are trying to do. However I have seen architects such as junya ishigami, sou fujimoto and sanaa have a better approach.

spread 6. ...

spread 7. the point of details is to see how to turn corners/deal with the hard parts of assembly. Stacking layers can be easily done through some research. 


I hope you are not hurt by my comments but ive experienced the same situation as you and I wish to help. Last year I had a portfolio which I thought was pretty good. But now i look back, other than 1 project which i think is ok... it was pretty bad. At first I was depressed and hurt. Then I got angry, and used it as motivation to improve. Currently I have 2 job offers at local "big" firms with a pending response from my favorite firm (also happens to be a starchitect). However if I don't get it, I will just improve until I get the job from them in the future! I hope you can take my comments as constructive criticism rather than a personal attack.

Feb 7, 16 3:58 pm  · 

Hello MinimalCrazy, I don't feel hurt at all about your comments. I´m actually interested to know how you went from a so-so portfolio, to one that you consider good enough. Did you draw everything back? 

On the other hand, I never said that my expectations were working for a top tier firm. I know pretty well that I still need to learn a lot of things. I'd rather learn them while working for someone though.

Feb 8, 16 8:16 am  · 

The colors are overwhelming - unless the firms you're looking at do the same, I'd tone it down.  The biggest question I've asked when reviewing portfolios is: can this person do the work we need them to do in our studio - this includes technical capability as well as aesthetics (CAD/Revit/Rhino & Adobe).  This will be followed up by questions of 'how long' per image production given the base information.

By all means create new drawings to get every image to the same level.  Another critique is that the projects are a bit disorganized - have some sense of hierarchy of the images (some clearly are more important than others, this will make an easier portfolio to navigate); right now it seems more like a collection of images than project presentations.

I also second the don't walk in uninvited - you can always ask for informational interviews and ask for portfolio reviews.  This may open up doors for you.  I've also found that going through local repro shops and planning/architectural review boards to find out who has work to be helpful in finding 'busy' offices.

best of luck.

Feb 8, 16 11:26 am  · 

Hey Yusti. Well I still believe my portfolio is meh because I see such much room to improve. However, I guess it was enough for employers because every interview I've been in they were very impressed and wanted to keep my portfolio. How I went from a terrible portfolio to an (what I consider) ok portfolio required a lot of research. Here is what I did to improve. (Also I did not redraw anything, I believe it is a waste of time so I just threw most of them out. The time taken to redraw your project, you can use your new knowledge to create a new project and win some competitions with it)

I studied architecture, outside of architecture.

1. I learned composition. Here I studied photographers and looked up rules of composition. I mainly used online articles and youtube videos to understand this. Then I applied this knowledge to understand how to take my renders.

2. Better quality drawings. I looked at firms who have very good drawings, usually japanese studios. I straight up imitated their style (until I find my own) especially atelier bow-wow's sections (you should know this, you've worked there but your portfolio doesn't really show it). Unrelated: can you tell me how working at Atelier bow-wow was like?

3. Architecture portfolios usually have the crappiest layouts. Therefore I studied other fields such as lifestyle magazines for better layouts.

4. I asked for criticism from whoever I could. Archinect, former professors, architects, colleagues, etc. Find out what works, what doesn't but don't just straight up follow their advice like mindless zombies. For example, I asked this well respected professor about his opinion on my portfolio. Many of his comments were useful to my portfolio such as detailing issues, however you will have disagreements and you must selectively ignore it, as those disagreements is what makes you unique.'

5. Desire to learn new skills (programs). Learned how to use 3dsmax-vray through constant tutorials and practice. Currently I am learning grasshopper and video presentation renders however I did not mention these two to employers and still got hired.

6. Finally I learned about architecture through a different lens. I learned a greater understanding of space through seeing it from fashion design sets, movies, photography, traveling, and nature.

I know you never expected to work at a top-firm but It was just a thought because I was surprised you couldn't get a job. Your portfolio is better than typical portfolios and should be enough to get a job. I've seen worse get jobs at random 3 people studios doing warehouses and sheds.

Feb 8, 16 1:21 pm  · 
boy in a well

gave it a digital flip out of curiosity . . .didnt read a thing.

the flipside of carrera's ' what do you want' is ' what can this bozo immediately do in my shop'

looks like all studio work + an exhibition?

you can do some pr stuff if i like your style.


When i was a lad, I walked into a preexisting relationship between an architect and a designer. Designer did Big Gesture 'design'; I did the CDs and trade coordination.

Architect: "i wouldn't trust the other guy to do the CDs". So somewhere between my portfolio and interview, he knew he could trust me where he couldn't rely on whoever else he had available. Regardless of how creative your portfolio appears, I can't tell what you've done to help a building go up? Depending on the office/market/desired skill set, that might determine whether someone calls you back or not.

Feb 9, 16 11:52 pm  · 

It's not the portfolio, it's the thinking that it is the portfolio... this isn't school, it's a job, it's not about a grade, it's about money... shift gears and sell the steak instead of the've got too much sizzle.....sizzle is a condiment for a walk-on freshman.

Feb 10, 16 12:39 am  · 

I have had some success with the job search methods in Cracking the Hidden Job Market, By Donald Asher, I believe it is from 10 speed press.  So this book lays out a systematic method of networking that can eventually lead to a job.

As for the portfolio, don't mail it out or drop it off without someone asking for it first this is similar to begging for a job and no one wants to be forced to say no it is an unpleasant thing to do so you will probably get no response at all.  I think the work is good some of the details are nice but maybe one spread for a building section may be too much.  

I find when I go to interviews having 3-4 things is useful. 1 a design portfolio you have a good start but it needs some editing. 2 drawings, not design drawings but construction drawings details plans elevations. demonstrate you can do the technical stuff and package it in a meaningful way. I would possibly make a set of drawings for a small project like a shop or a cafe something simple that you can have some interesting details but not something that will take you a month or more to get started. Having a roll of drawings in a well organized set that you worked on is very compelling. 3 a resume that quantifies your abilities in clear understandable terms. The skills section of you resume that is in your portfolio has these dots, what do they mean why not tell me how many years you have worked with this software instead of some secret code. 4 a website that gives a more detailed look at your work so they don't need to keep your portfolio hey can just look you up online.


Finally I picked up on something you mentioned, you are having interviews? If so that is good the point where you stumble is not your resume or portfolio it is the interview. Let us know if this may be the case as there is a whole lot of other tips we can give you on interviews.

best of luck.

Peter N

Feb 13, 16 10:42 pm  · 

I agree with the others. Your Portfolio's fine, but way too long.

Best of luck! I hope you'll find a job soon. 

Feb 14, 16 2:54 pm  · 

Your projects and graphic sensibility are fine.  Take your 4-5 best projects and edit them down to a single sheet per project.  Leave out construction details because they have obvious errors, which is understandable at your level of experience.  However, don't throw away what you've done.  I think a longer format portfolio is something great to bring to an interview because you can point to specific things when you are asked questions and it helps to tell your story.  However, when you are trying to get your foot in the door, you need to edit, edit, edit...

Feb 15, 16 11:53 am  · 

Despite the nit-picky things about your folio (which I think looks quite nice), it still doesn't warrant firms from at least interviewing you.  You will find something soon.  Best of luck.

Feb 16, 16 11:49 am  · 

nothing wrong with your portfolio or your qualifications.  the market can be tough.  you just have to be patient. all the best.

Feb 23, 16 9:16 am  · 

If the market is really tough, you could try and ask for a paid internship position of 6 months or 1 year duration.  Many firms are more willing to hire that way than hiring a full-time employee with no experience.  You can then work your ass off and prove to them you're an asset.  If they like your work, they'll likely extend your contract or hire you full-time.  If not, you have experience already and it will be easier to apply to other firms.

As for the portfolio, as already mentioned, cut down the pages.  Nice projects but what is with the obsession with orange and green hues?   These are my opinions.   Use color sparingly to illustrate and highlight things.  Way too much unnecessary color for me that all the details get lost.  Its easier to read if it was all black and white if you ask me.  In the real world, firms want to see how you can contribute.  I don't think any firm would use those colors on presentation material to a client.

Good luck...

Feb 24, 16 4:22 am  · 

acesskb, do you by any chance know if firms in Europe are allowed to take graduated architects for an internship? Can't find a clear answer for this.

Feb 28, 16 4:36 pm  · 

Hi Yusti,

Here is my constructive criticism:

'Folio is WAY too long. It looks like you are showing everything you ever did. 

Get rid of the women's legs on the wall section! Not the place to be cute or arty. It is a technical drawing. It looks REALLY amateurish. There is NO info on the technical drawing. It looks out of context and isn't keyed into the project so it is not clear where the section is or why it is there.

The ghastly greens, sickly yellows, and burnt orange color palette is detracting from your work and is VERY distracting. The colors in CSO Taucho are more appropriate. The colors in Water Tower do not support the idea and are really awful, Architects generally do not like color (many wear black!) Use one or two muted pale colors with black and grey or if the project or program calls for it red, Muddy yellows are a definite NO!

I would show:

1. CSO Taucho

2. City of Shade (but change the palette to black, white, grey, maybe very pale blue for sky areas. (get rid of the muddy yellows and mold greens, looks like bad cheese) The project is about "shade" so it may be more powerful with out color. The current color does NOT support the concept and is a distracting sub text.

3. Two Homes is really good because it is a very clear idea and easy to get quickly. It would be more effective with a  minimal color palette. Turquoise and muddy yellow doesn't help the idea.

4. New South  but eliminate the photos from the crit.

Those 4 are your clearest and strongest work. I'd get rid of the other stuff. That should get your 'folio to a reasonable length. Try reformatting the whole thing without color, just black, white grey and see if that works. Again to emphasize, the colors you are using are working against you.

Please don't take this the wrong way. It is meant to be helpful.

Best of luck!


Feb 13, 24 2:40 am  · 

If you get a job, let me know. I'm also on the hunt and need the advice!

Feb 13, 24 11:54 am  · 
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