Lost my first job out of college. Advice please.


I graduated last year and found a job with a large practice, high profile clients & interesting projects.

However, I didn't end up performing well, was constantly being switched between projects and didn't make a good fit into the company culture. Eventually I was let go 6 months into the job.

It was my first role in architecture and so far this has been a huge blow to my confidence. I doubt I will be able to ever find another job. I am 100% certain that my past employer will not give a good reference. 

The only solution I can find is to take it out of my resume, say that I spent the year travelling abroad and apply for this year's graduate intake using my college professors' references.

What would you do if you were in my position?

May 4, 18 4:29 pm

Move across the country and pretend you left on your own accord!

First of all big companies do not give out negative references. The only thing they will ever say is to confirm dates that you worked there. It's an issue of liability. 

Secondly, perk up. Architecture is unstable profession and layoffs happen all the time and staffing needs can change quickly. A good stable company could quickly lose couple of upcoming projects and all of a sudden there is not enough work for everyone. Start applying to jobs right away. You'll be fine. 

May 4, 18 4:38 pm

I didn't lose my job because the company lost projects. I was shown the door for not being good enough, in fact I think everybody in there thought I was terrible. In my resume I have listed 'references available upon request' but if any future employer asks me for my references I will have to list my manager from my previous place, right? Or shall I just ask them to contact the HR for a reference?

Why did you have a hard time? and how did you or will you learn from it? This could be an interesting topic in an interview question that could open a new door for you. Sometimes, I have done this, you get in the wrong job and it doesn't work out. With experience and knowledge you will be able to figure this out sooner and eventually before accepting offers and all will be fine. First job will not likely be your last, and not likely to be your shortest gig.


A reason they hired me was for my Revit skills, but not having worked in a practice in live BIM environment before I was not able to help much with troubleshooting every problem when I was asked to do so. This infuriated some people. Sometimes I struggled to deliver to deadlines. Other criticism that I received was that I was not very communicative. Finally, the company culture was a lot about socialising and I am just not very good at that. I am the person who wants to do the job and go home.


My plan to improve is: - Work on Revit skills - Attend communication skills workshops - Apply to smaller practices with less high profile clients so that I won't deal with pressure to deliver to tight deadlines - Study construction to evolve into a more technical role for job security.

Non Sequitur

Don't lie.

6 month stint is no big deal if you focus on it as a learning hump. 

May 4, 18 4:39 pm

No one has ever asked to talk to references or former colleagues I've worked with when applying for jobs. Sometimes, larger corporate firms with HR departments will contact your prior firm's HR department to verify you worked there and that your resume is truthful. I'm sure the former does happen but not as much as you'd think.

Personally, I would keep the experience on your resume and look for other jobs, unless it was so deeply negative for you that you prefer to keep it off. The situation is a lot easier to explain if you re-locate to another city, or apply to firms doing a different scale of work or sector you can say your interests have changed.

May 4, 18 4:39 pm

The architecture profession is a small community in my country. I am afraid of the gossip from former colleagues. The firm I worked for was a very good place to work at, so if I say that I left everyone with a good awareness of the industry will be very surprised/suspicious. If I list this on my resume and the next employer calls for a reference wouldn't my manager let them know of the reason of my dismissal? I have already moved to another city and I am targeting smaller practices which will most likely not run a background check.


I got fired from my first 2 jobs. So I've got you beat. 5 years later, I'm licensed and managing $50M jobs. Keep your chin up. Nobody will ever give a shit about you losing your first job. It happens!

May 4, 18 5:31 pm

Why were you fired and how did you manage the failure? How did you explain this at your job applications/interviews?


I was fired the first time because my insecure boss felt the need to save face for one of his own mistakes. I was his scapegoat. Second job, "my project" fell through but I think it was an excuse to fire me because I didn't put up with the boss' tyrannical ways. I would have quit anyway.


In my next interviews, I was just as honest as I could be. "We didn't get along." Most people who are in positions to be hiring, have been in similar situations and will likely understand.


What kind of firms were these that you were working at and what kind of firms did you work for later on? In my case, I think I was just a terrible employee. If I am asked why I was terminated I can't really be honest.


I picked up a few things that I realised I was weak at and I am working on them. I made this thread to ask about how to move on from here.

It's a first job - you're gonna be weak at some things (hell, we all are even with years of experiences). The key is identifying and working on them. It sounds like you're doing that, and can parlay that into your explanation for the job loss. Keep your head up and don't worry about it too much.


Since it's only been a few months, I like the travel abroad idea. You should be able to find a new similar level job and no one will know you got fired.

May 4, 18 10:30 pm

Remember that if you feel you can't be honest about it during your talk, you're interviewing at the wrong place.

May 5, 18 2:47 am

I know it seems like a big deal at this point, but in the long run, it's really not. Learn from your mistakes (and the mistakes of others), improve where you can and move on.  Try working for a different type of company if one of the issues was "culture fit."

May 6, 18 10:57 am

Just say it wasn't a good fit. Don't badmouth the firm you left and (for heaven's sake) don't badmouth yourself.

May 6, 18 12:08 pm
^volunteer. ‘Not a good fit’ those are the magic words and it’s completely honest. You’ve only had one job, so it didn’t work out there, doesn’t mean it won’t work out elsewhere or that you’re bad at all things architecture. Take note of everything you could have done better and bring that to your next position.
May 6, 18 1:57 pm

"If I told ya all that went down, it'd burn off both of yer ears"

I got got "let go" from my first 2 internships because I didnt autocad(only Revit), then I landed a job with a major firm because I knew Revit, then the great recession, and a succession of 12 temp jobs up until 2015, when I got my first design job, after 7 years

Just keep on learning and don't give up

May 7, 18 11:45 am

I got an advanced certification on Revit and everyone in the practice thought I was a Revit expert although I never claimed to be one. The other members of staff had 3-5 years BIM experience and some would get upset when I asked for Revit help.

( o Y o )

Or give up and find something more rewarding to do. It feels pretty good when you stop beating yourself over the head.

May 7, 18 12:13 pm

I would agree with other people. The world of architecture seems always a little unstable and weird.

I want to point out that my career path so far has a lot of similarities to yours. I recently graduated with my M.arch, but before that, I had worked at two firms, both from which I was fired from. The first one was a small firm, no more than five people. I never understood why me, but I was hired from a pool of about 20 applicants. When I interviewed  there, I felt it went bad. The principal noticed that although I knew revit, Cad wasn’t listed on my resume, so he asked me why. I told him I barely knew any, but that I was willing to learn. He said he wasn’t worried, according to him, he liked that he could teach me “his way” of using the program, so to not worry. The next day, I was offered the job, but only to be fired four days later. When he called me up to his office, he said he had to let me go, so I asked why, to which he responded that I was too slow at CAD…..ok. On the fun side, I always thought it was odd that before he called me up, his ex wife called and told me I should quit. She said to me, “oh you poor thing, he’s horrible to work with, if I was you, I would quit”.

The second time I was fired, it was from bigger firm. At the time, they weren’t officially looking for employees, but I really wanted to work there anyways, so I applied. When I went through the interview, they told me they really weren’t hiring, but they had been impressed with my portfolio, so they wanted to meet me. The interview went well, but because they had mentioned that they weren’t hiring, I wasn’t expecting the job there either. It turned out that I was offered the job within half hour of me leaving the interview. I worked there for four months, but other than rendering/ visualization, I wasn’t given much work. My desk was not a desk, I had a computer inside the “mail & storage” room which I would share with another intern (yes, the computer, not just the desk), I really couldn’t interact much with people, but I was happy because I felt the job was going somewhere. After about two months, I kept getting less and less work, I would ask everyone if they needed help, but no one wanted to share their work. I then started to think maybe they were afraid for me to mess it up, so I asked my supervisor if I was doing bad or if I needed improvement, her answer was no, she said I was fine. Honestly, at that point i felt a lot better, but sometimes I was still without work. One day, I came in and noticed that the office was empty, no one other than principal, the accountant, and I were there, turns out that was the day I was fired. The principal called me up  and said he needed to let me go. I asked why and he said that it was a communications and performance issue. He didn’t explain either one, but to me, it felt horrible that I had asked various people and they all said I was doing fine, I honestly felt betrayed. When I left that day, I was walked all the way out. I was asked to sign a paper (which I didn’t) and told to “not worry, life has its ups & downs.”

Honestly, the first time I was fired I got home and cried. The second time, I didn’t cry, but I did feel that my second chance in architecture had passed, that I should just finish my degree and move on to something else. After those two experiences I was hesitant to apply anywhere else, but I figured that since architecture might not be for me, then I didn’t have much to loose. I again applied at two firms, again, neither of which were actively seeking help. I figured, If this is it, then I should just apply at the place I would really love to work at. To my surprise, I got both interviews, both the same day, and each two hours apart. I ran from one to the next, both went seemingly great, but in one I wasn’t offered the job. Where I wasn’t offered the job, I was later told it was because they didn’t have work for me at the time. No problem, they weren’t seeking. The other firm I was offered the job.

The third job is where my present opportunity takes place. Up to now, I have worked here for a year and a half and I was recently promoted. I’m honestly not a very social person either, I’m nice and everything, but I do know I’m not as outgoing as others. I’m not sure how much of an issue this has been, but what I can tell you is that I like where I work and the people that I work with. They give me work, I feel needed, and must importantly, despite my flaws and those of others, I feel part of the team. When I interviewed here it wasn’t much different than from the other places, it’s just that sometimes, we all fit better in different puzzles.

I would urge that if you love architecture, not to give up. I know it sounds cheesy, but it is the truth. You will eventually find yourself a good fit. I will also tell you something else, I’m glad I was fired from my first two jobs, if it wasn’t for those experiences, I would not have landed where I’m at now.

May 16, 18 4:00 am

After about two months, I kept getting less and less work, I would ask everyone if they needed help, but no one wanted to share their work. I then started to think maybe they were afraid for me to mess it up, so I asked my supervisor if I was doing bad or if I needed improvement, her answer was no, she said I was fine. Honestly, at that point i felt a lot better, but sometimes I was still without work. One day, I came in and noticed that the office was empty, no one other than principal, the accountant, and I were there, turns out that was the day I was fired. The principal called me up  and said he needed to let me go. I asked why and he said that it was a communications and performance issue. He didn’t explain either one,

This has been my experience too many times - I'm a good Revit work horse - other than that

May 16, 18 12:02 pm

I would be swapped between projects all the time and in the last 2 months I was only given a few redlines to do and no one cared to manage me for progress or even review the drawings I produced. I asked for feedback too but noone said there was a problem. I asked to be handed more work too, to the point where I was doing the work and the other person would sit and wait.


the main thing is to be able to move from job to job - be an architectural nomad as I am and make a career out of being transitional 3 months here 1 month there, 1 year here...

May 16, 18 12:06 pm

But you'll never go through all phases of a project like that, just be used for that one trick you know and discarded asap.


My firm had great turnover in general, people would stay from a few months to max 3 years. Even in 3 years though I doubt they would be able to experience all work phases, since the projects were mainly high-rise towers with a lifespan of 5-8 years. Like Xenakis my strongest asset was knowing Revit but I don't think I can make a career just out of that. What is the skill/career strategy that guarantees better job security in this profession?


"What is the skill/career strategy that guarantees better job security in this profession?"

Knowing how to get things done way beyond sitting behind a computer all day every day.


If the architecture community is small where you are, and this firm routinely has such high turnover, then most likely other firms are aware of that and aren't going to bat an eye over a 6-month tenure.

If I were you I wouldn't even waste the space on my resume to say "references available upon request" - that's a given, for anybody, so totally unnecessary to state.  You may not be asked for references at all.  If you are, and you don't think you can use anyone from that firm, then list others who know you and have worked with you in some capacity - like former instructors, coworkers from any non-architecture jobs you previously held, etc.  Most likely the people from this past job wouldn't really say anything negative - typically employers are afraid they'll be sued over things like that, so their policy will usually be to only confirm dates of employment and your title/role/level. However, firms' silence about former employees' great qualities and accomplishments can sometimes be telling.  If you must give them as a reference, make sure to also give 2 or 3 other references that can say positive things - even if they're from earlier less-relevant jobs.

If one of your problems was meeting deadlines, a small firm may also be problematic.  Nearly every type and size of architecture firm has tight deadlines, and in the smallest firms there's no flexibility in staffing - i.e. nobody else to throw onto the project if you're in a jam.  I think your instinct to go less high-profile is good, but you may want to stay with something more mid-sized, with enough production staff that your deadline issues can be better managed/less stressful/less of a problem for you and the employer, while you learn to better manage your time.  The rest of your plans for improvement are all good, and this should just be a little blip in your progress, from which you learn and recover and keep going.

May 16, 18 3:53 pm

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