How can I land my first commercial job with only residential experience?


This is technically an *interior* architect question, but I've been having trouble finding many forums just for that field. Hoping someone may be able to help me here.

I graduated in 2019 in the US with a BFA in interior architecture, but have forgotten a lot of the technical skills/software/building code info I learned in college. I've spent the last 5 years working at a boutique residential design firm and feel really stuck. There's no upward trajectory here and it never feels like I'm doing meaningful work. It's the only job I've ever had since graduating, so my experience is really limited.

I'd love to be able to get a job as a junior/entry-level designer at a larger commercial firm, somewhere where they can support your career development alongside the job, enter competitions, sponsorship for NCIDQ exams, etc. But my portfolio needs a major revamp and I have no commercial experience. The most technical real-life construction experience I have is kitchen/bath renovations and custom millwork in single-family homes.

What can I do to make myself more appealing to commercial firms looking for new junior designers? I know I'd be competing with younger people/recent grads, and I worry my current skillset is not enough. I also have no connections left from my school, and haven't really put any work into networking. Covid did a number on my social anxiety. I don't even know what kinds of questions I would be asked in an interview. YouTube and extensive Google searches have only given me so much info.

I know I need to redo/update my portfolio, so I'm planning to redo 3 of my old school projects (an office, a restaurant, and a live/work space) with my current skillset. But other than that, I'm unsure what to brush up on. What exactly are employers looking for? How much info about building systems and codes do I need to know off the bat? Is there a way for me to make my residential experience appealing to these bigger, more technical firms?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Apr 16, 24 1:33 pm
atelier nobody

As long as you understand that you'd be starting over from the bottom - likely (but not definitely) with a pay cut - you should be able to get any of the same jobs you could as a fresh graduate.

Apr 16, 24 1:51 pm  · 

Design and detailing of custom millwork can be a bridge between residential and commercial.  A major difference is the applications of ADA  you need when doing commercial millwork, but there is abundant guidance out there for that and you can basically self-learn it online.  Lots of low-level staff in commercial firms hate doing millwork and produce it poorly because they are uninterested in it.  This may present a way into a commercial firm for you.

Apr 16, 24 4:18 pm  · 
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