Almost a year and not working in the industry


Graduated with a masters degree last August and now I'm working retail and a warehouse to pay the bills. Of course that leaves little time to find work and refine my honestly weak portfolio. I left with only two projects I can show with some confidence and maybe some crafts and drawings, but I've applied with what I had with no success. Not the best student by far, but not the worst by similar margin. I have been working on a competition in my spare time and will be adding that in as well. I also applied to construction management jobs, CAD drafter jobs, facilities jobs with no response. I am in a major metro area so I thought there would be something in AEC that I could find but that has not been the case. I might be too long out of school and considered damaged goods. I'm getting to the point where I'm willing to work for free (I know). Should I call any little firm I can find and all but beg for an interview? 

Jun 16, 19 8:11 pm

1) It's only been a year. That's nothing. That's the maternity leave period in Canada. 

2) Try calling up firms and NOT asking for an interview. Instead, ask for a conversation with a manager or partner, and tell them that you're wanting to enter the field but aren't looking to interview for a job. Bring your portfolio and ask them how they would go about improving it.  When there's less pressure about securing a job, you're both likely to be more relaxed and honest with eachother. 

In the meantime, if you can find work in construction, that's typically desirable for most architecture firms and would help you gain some knowledge that many others in your position won't have.

Jun 16, 19 8:58 pm

Start with a construction job in an area that is growing rapidly and go from there? Seriously, how can you be a construction manager if you have never experienced a building being built? Nashville and Charleston are booming right now, FWIW. 

Jun 16, 19 10:02 pm

Has anyone peer reviewed your application materials (resume, cover letter, portfolio)? I’m wondering why you haven’t received any responses.

I live in the 6th largest metro area in the country (Boston-Worcester-Providence) and all companies I interact with are short staffed and hiring. Are there few openings where you live? Moving is a really big step, but you may want to consider it.

How many places have you applied? I applied to over 75 before getting my first interview. Granted it was during the recession, but I’m mentioning it to say don’t give up hope. Evaluate what the causes could be. Break them down into manageable tasks and go from there. 

Jun 16, 19 10:41 pm
Witty Banter

Don't let this be a confidence killer.  I went through a similar transition after college.  I was a "good" but not great student.  For a myriad of reasons I didn't prepare myself well to immediately get employed, living with family wasn't an option, and I had no savings so I too was working retail just to pay the rent.  FWIW I'm no starchitect but I'm doing very well now personally and professionally.  Careers (especially in this field) are long and they don't always progress linearly.  This is just a little bump in the road.  

bowling_ball made some good suggestions.  You can also ask about shadowing a senior staff member.  We typically do that for seniors in high school or undergrads but you may find an office willing to bring you in.  Once you've made this connection you could likely ask for career advice, application/portfolio feedback, interview tips, etc.  Don't directly ask for a job but just being polite, competent, and making that first connection could give you a leg up in the future if they're hiring entry level positions.   

If you're in a major metro area get involved with your local AIA chapter.  Chapters may vary but here (in a fairly large chapter) we don't require members of committees to be AIA members.  I know time is going to be a struggle for you but if you can get involved on a committee you can quickly make some connections and those will help your application find it's way to the top of the pile.  If AIA isn't an option look for volunteer opportunities.  Again, I know time is an obstacle when you're working on top of this but you're in a hole and need to dig yourself out.  I was able to be introduced to the principal of a very prominent design firm in my area when I was in your position by volunteering at a design school.  He took time out of his day to review my application materials and give me some valuable advice.    

Get your materials peer reviewed by whatever means you have.  I thought my application package out of college was hot shit.  It wasn't.  Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to see that your really well "designed" resume or portfolio is actually confusing.  Maybe those "details" you're showing don't actually make any sense.  Too much of one thing, not enough of another.  There are a lot of easy to make mistakes that could be holding you back.  If you want to cross out your personal details I'm sure there are plenty of us here that would be willing to give you feedback as well.   

Good luck and stick with it.  A year is nothing in the grand scheme of your career.

Jun 17, 19 10:02 am

Thank you all for the advice and support, I will put it to work. Should mention that I'm in my early 30's with a previous work history so the age factor might come into play as well when looking at my resume. A career change is hard I know, but the change still eludes me!

Jun 17, 19 4:23 pm
Witty Banter

Your age really isn't going to be a factor. Architecture is a late blooming profession. I've known plenty of people that are very successful professionals that may career changes into Architecture in their late 20's/early 30's and no one thinks twice about it.


Going by the another thread you can punch a coworker, commit crimes and still get a job. Your portfolio must be very bad indeed. 

Jun 18, 19 11:02 am
Non Sequitur

don't forget drunk-driving

howdidigethere, some questions:

Where Did you get a masters from?

Do you know Revit, and do you have a way to prove it such as some drawings or renderings you did?

What Metro area are you in? 

If you know Revit you should be able to get a job, if your Revit skills are shaky I would recommend going to a community collage and take the 1-2 courses you need to learn the software, I did this in the recession and it immediately opened up doors for me.  If you know Revit I would take one day a week and bang out a construction document set for a very small project, such as a restroom building in a park or a retail build-out in an empty shop in your neighborhood.  Having a roll of drawings with details and wall sections will be more impressive to most firms than a shinny design portfolio as there are always plenty of folks who want to do the fun design work, but a shortage of people who can do the construction documents.

I hope this helps

Over and OUT

Peter N

Jun 19, 19 11:42 am

In the New York area, so the competition might be high to find work around here. I know some revit, I'll take your advice and work through a small project and watch some youtube tutorials.


I spent 5 years away from architecture (granted, it was in a related engineering field) and had the same fears when I tried coming back. I only had one year of architecture experience prior to that 5 year hiatus, was a middle of the road student, didn't know Revit or some of the fancier rendering software, but when the market is right it's right. I'm in a mid-sized city that was seeing an uptick in construction right around the time I began searching. Because of where you are, you may need to heed the other advice here of polishing up certain skill sets that I got away without, but ultimately a firm worth working for will see in interview processes if you're a quality person/employee with future potential.

I found that I got a lot more response from just being honest about my experience (or lack thereof), highlighting what my career experience was and how it would translate well, and acknowledging that though my resume may not have been "ideal", that I was willing and able to take on anything new. Heck, I did it with the engineering position. Two years later I've since finished my license and really enjoying the move back, regardless of the pay cut :)

Good luck!

Jun 21, 19 9:24 am

I was in a similar position and managed to snag my first job out of undergrad with a multidisciplinary company learning Revit and such on a low wage for about a year. Have you tried every role available in all related disciplines? 

Jun 23, 19 4:41 pm

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