Getting that First Job - Stories from the frontlines?

the silent observer

So...It's time for me to find my first job...and I thought, archinecters out there must have some great stories about how they landed theirs...maybe it was a funny chain of events, somebody who knew somebody who happened to spill a drink on you...whatever it is, I'd love to hear how it happened....

Sep 3, 06 4:59 pm

A barback / bouncer set me up with a small firm only moments before I was to be deported from San Diego to Chicago. Prospects were slim and none in those days. In the summer of 1993 I was competing with people with 5 years experience for $10.00 per hour positions.

However, it was a great gig on the beach. We had surf breaks and knew where every dollar bear place had their specials. - Happy days!

Sep 3, 06 7:09 pm
Dapper Napper

I accepted a ride from a stranger. Needless to say, I lived to tell the tale. Turned out he had a friend who needed an intern.

Sep 7, 06 5:07 pm

Ah yes I remember dollar bears. Cute and tasty.

But seriously folks, dsc's story sounds like a fairy tale come true. I am jealous.

Sep 7, 06 5:11 pm

I mean the animal!!! Oh dammit.

Sep 7, 06 5:12 pm

came out of school in '91 in the pit of the recession and moved to the upper midwest where things were rumored to be 'better'. worked for a year and a half in a cookie store in a mall designed by cesar pelli, two record stores, and a bookstore (not all at once but always at least two of them).

finally got offered a position at a firm where a friend worked, a place where i had dropped a resume a year prior. friend split soon after i got there and i understood why. i lasted about a year before i got out.

moved to louisville and had a great job within a week. stayed 10 yrs.

Sep 7, 06 5:17 pm

my girlfriend [now wife] and i moved to san francisco after graduation without jobs in 94. after a month and a half i did not have an architecture job. i got hired at the about to open SFMOMA designed by botta. i was going to work in the cafe. the day before i was to start, i got offered a temp job to build models at, ahem, studios. after two weeks, i got offered a full-time job at polshek's office in sf. the guy in charge at studios was not too happy with me because i did not come talk to him about a full-time gig in his office. i said sorry, but there was nothing to really talk about.

best of luck dyee.

Sep 7, 06 5:54 pm

I pulled a mysterious switch which activated an elborate Rube Goldberg mechanism that opened the door to the local AIA where I dropped off my resume. Within a week, they had sent Captain Willard up the river to kill me. I'm not sure it happened exactly like that, but there are known unknowns and unknown knowns to any story.

Sep 7, 06 6:18 pm

I guess I'm an anomoly.... months before graduation, I got an email from an alumnus of an organization I had been president of (they hadn't updated their contacts on the website), asking me to forward to everyone that his office was working for people. I neglected to forward it on to others and kept it for myself. Everyone in other majors had jobs lined up already, and offices weren't responding to my emails.... I didn't know how it worked. So I took that job, and then two weeks before graduation I started getting phone calls and emails. A LOT of phone calls and emails, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 all told. I had to tell every single one of them that I had accepted a position already. The place I had accepted at was so connected with previous employers and alumni of my school that I could have ruined prospects for a while by bailing on them. Some of those other jobs sounded tempting, too.

Moral- don't get panicked and settle.

Sep 7, 06 6:19 pm
liberty bell

My first ever architecture job was a summer position after my freshman year of arch school - I walked into five firms and dropped off resumes, saying I'd be happy to make coffee for a summer if it meant I could work in a real firm. At the 6th firm they said "Did you see our ad this morning?" (I had not) and hired me on the spot. My responsibilities were making coffee, dealing with mail, running blueprints, splicing mylar pre-printed title blocks onto plain mylar sheets for drafting, and fielding phone calls from the model-hot receptionist's jealous boyfriend who happened to also be the firm principal's coke dealer. (That last is not a typical intern responsibility - it was the 80s!!)

My first "real" job after school was a friend-of-a-friend deal: I knew a guy whose friend's girlfriend worked at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and when I called her she said that she was friendly with the principals in the firm downstairs in their building, and they were hiring. I dropped off a resume in person: asked to see the principal for 2 minutes, and used the girlfriend's name when I shook hands with the principal who graciously consented to come up to the lobby and take my resume from me. Interview 3 days later, job offer two days after that. I accepted the offer immediately as I had just moved to a new city where I knew no one and was out of money. Coincidentally, the firm turned out to be home and I stayed there for 10 wonderful years.

Sep 7, 06 8:37 pm
Living in Gin

In the spring of 1995, I had been out of high school for two years, and was working behind the service desk at a Circuit City store in Vernon Hills, Illinois. I had taken a few classes at the local community college, and was starting at UIC's architecture program that fall.

I loathed my job with a passion that passed all human understanding, and was desperate to land a job with an architecture firm in downtown Chicago, even if it meant getting paid minimum wage to sharpen pencils and make coffee. I set about getting my portfolio -- such as it was -- up to date, which involved many long days at Kinko's (no computer or CAD skills yet).

At that time I was attending a church in Chicago, and one Sunday I had a bundle of drawings with me in order to take to Kinko's afterwards to have copies made. During coffee hour after the service, the pastor was chatting with me and asked about the drawings. When I told him, he mentioned that he had been an architecture student for a while before switching career paths and heading to seminary. He asked to look at my work, so I spread them out on the table.

With my drawings spread out, he introduced me to a member of the congregation who is a practicing architect. We chatted for a bit, and I made a point to casually mention that I was looking for my first job in the business.

As it turned out, he was pretty good friends with one of the senior principals at Perkins + Will, and -- apparently impressed with my work -- he offered to put in a call on my behalf. Within a couple weeks I had an interview set up. I was so nervous I didn't sleep at all the night before, and I must have been a complete wreck that day.

But the interview lasted over an hour, and they gave me a nice tour of their office... And then called me back for a second interview a few days later. The office was a bit slow at the time, but they encouraged me to keep calling to check their situation.

So I called them and called them, about once a week throughout the entire summer.... I'm not sure if P+W's business actually picked up, or if they just got so sick of me calling them that they decided to hire me. Regardless, I started work there on September 25th, 1995, and I was on top of the world. I didn't know AutoCAD and barely knew what the hell I was supposed to be doing there, but three years later I was somewhat of an AutoCAD expert and was doing the same work as entry-level architects.

I've been through lots of ups and downs since then and have unfortunately burned a few bridges in the process, but I still look back with great fondness to those days... And having Perkins + Will on my resume has opened plenty of doors for me in the years since then.

Morals of the story: 1) Never underestimate the power of networking, and 2) Being a stubborn pain in the ass can sometimes pay off.

(As for the guy at church who initially called P+W on my behalf, I now rent an apartment from him and occasionally still do freelance work for him.)

Sep 7, 06 9:44 pm
Queen of England

At about 5pm on the Friday I submitted my thesis I walked into DL’s studio wearing jeans and a white T, looked around, picked up some foamcore and started sanding. A few weeks later I was on payroll…

Sep 8, 06 2:42 pm
Ms Beary

After 3rd year of architecture school, I went to the office of an old-skool structural/civil engineer/contractor and informed that I was an architecture student looking for a job that will help me learn about how buildings are put together. He looked up from his drafting table to sneer down on me and inform me that he did not hire "architects" (as if it was a dirty word). I asked him what he was working on and just started chatting with him about where I was in life, why I came to him for a job, what I knew and thought about architecture. Of course he laughed, but nevertheless showed me to a drafting table (this was maybe 1999 but his office was mostly analog) and told me to poche the walls on a plan. I did the best damn poche anyone ever did and he told me I could come back tomorrow. I became the Office Princess and best friend of the boss. I only worked directly with him and he took me everywhere he went, even if it was just to check out one of his rental properties or go meet some buddies for pie and ice cream. Gee, I loved that job...

First job after graduation, Sept. 9 or 10, 2001. Had the job upon leaving the interview... things change.

Claim to fame - I have been offered EVERY job I have ever interviewed at except fucking K-mart. (whilst in high school). They continued to advertise help wanted several months after they decided I wasn't thefit for them. Bitches.

Sep 8, 06 3:02 pm
Chili Davis

After a couple of years washing dishes, flipping burgers, mowing lawns, and waiting tables, I decided it was time to get hands-on and get a "real job." I had a friend in a class who worked for an A/E firm in the civil department, and he told me his architecture department was looking for a CAD monkey. The job paid like $12 an hour, which was a huge bump from the $2.65 I was getting waiting tables. I submitted an app, went in for an interview, then a second interview, and was given the job. I told them that I wanted to give my current employer two-weeks notice, and they said okay. I went in to work the next day and put in my two weeks, and told everyone about my awesome new job. Fastforward 10 days, and the phone rings. It's the guy who just hired me, telling me that the A/E firm has shut down the architecture department, as they had been losing money like a pan handler with a hole in his cup. He was very sorry, and wished me the best of luck in the future. I should have noticed that nobody seemed to be doing much work during my interviews, and they were all excited to talk to me about, well, just about anything.

Sep 8, 06 3:21 pm
Chili Davis

And yes, it does look cute and tasty!

Sep 8, 06 3:28 pm
Rim Joist

Queen, that is just plain funny. Briefly went nasal on my beverage on that one.

Sep 8, 06 4:56 pm

Summer of '84 a buddy and I were working painting for college pro painters and doing poorly but having fun, It was the summer after my second year in Landscape Architecture. about two months into the summer I got a call from a TA from my second term of first year who was working in a good size office in town and offered me a two week contract to help build a model and prepare some presentation graphics. Ended up staying all summer and worked part time through a few years of LA school and my first summer of Architecture school. Never worried about finding a job from then on. I knew people who graduated and didn't find their first job for a yr or two after. I was fortunate that by the time I graduated I had about three years work experience. Not to mention a better skill set through school. Totally agree with making the effort for getting that first job. I was only making $6.00/hr (CAN) back then barely enough to survive but I had fun and it gave me the skill set that was marketable for future jobs.

Sep 8, 06 5:10 pm

i totally forgot about my first architecture job while IN school: summer job arranged (somehow) through my father.

also while in school, a professor came into second year studio and yelled 'anybody need some extra money; wanna work in my office?' i answered back and worked 15 hour weeks in that office for the next three years.

Sep 8, 06 5:27 pm

working at a ritzy golf course in high school, getting pumped about going to college my mom said, "go get one of those interships!"

i said, "well it can't hurt to try"

but i didn't try until my mom nagged the crap out of me to put together a cover letter, a list of accomps, and get my drawings together.

sent out 25 or so, got two calls, one firm wanted me to file and trace shit and pay shit... i did the other interview during my lunch hour and study hall, i figured an hour and a half was plenty of time for an interview, ha, not so i learned, spent 3.5 hours there going through my hs drafting work and talking about archiecture, plus a small CAD test which i made my citag, missed a huge math test and had to turn in an english paper late, but they offered me a job at $8.50 (a dollar less than the golf club) and i took it. started the day after grad from hs.

The people were great, the work was interesting for me, got to do it all.

then they decided to move out of downtown, (punks), and i spent the last day at the office packing their shit in a moving truck till nine at night, (punks)

overall a great experience, and having worked since high school made it easy as hell to get another job. even in the post 9/11 drought.

Sep 8, 06 6:27 pm

I've been wracking my brains trying to think about how I got my first job and I can't for the life of me remember. I'm 99% certain it was as a result of a ton of cold-calling I did when I got home after freshman year. I know I did a lot of that, also literally out of the phone book, and no one had websites yet so I had no clue about the places I was calling. I basically just showed up and was like, "I'll do whatever you want! Trust me, I'm really good at making myself useful!" and I was, and I did. It was boring sometimes but still way more interesting than doing some crap job that wasn't related to my career choice. Also got a ton of experience and the job ended up working out really well--stuck with it for the first few summers and got to do long-distance work during the school year, too! It was INVALUABLE to getting future jobs.

Sep 8, 06 6:32 pm

also, hi dyee! ;) does this mean you're coming back to the states?

Sep 8, 06 6:34 pm
the silent observer

Hiya Myriam...Yes, indeed...though my roundtrip ticket says otherwise, I will be moseying back to the good old USofA...

Sep 9, 06 5:22 am

I was in college during the time that 3D software was first being introduced into architecture school programs.
At first the software was only on a few computer stations in a little room in the department that had previously been a storage closet. It wasn't being taught in a formal way and we were just expected to sign out a key and play with the software if we were interested. I was one of the first people who was interested enough to really spend much time on this and achieve some mastery of the software.

Pretty soon I was getting requests from faculty to do freelance 3Dwork for their firms. I was only billing them a few dollars an hour, and I was working on the school's computers in that little closet since hardly any offices had 3D software (if even computers) at that point.

Pretty soon I had a portfolio of renderings of a bunch of professional projects - including a few recognizable, high-profile buidlings. This is what got me not only my first but probably my first several real jobs. Even though I was always very clear that I had not worked on the design of any those projects, or even worked on the premises of the firms that designed them, having this experience and association with some firms was enough to get me over the "no experience" bump.

Sep 9, 06 2:20 pm

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