Your First Arch Firm - Post Graduation


How long where you there and was it what you were looking for in terms of an architectural firm?

Once joining a firm that specializes in a particular project type are you confined to that type for years to come or are firms willing to take you in to work on different project types as long as you understand construction types and all that good nitty gritty code stuff we all enjoy. 

What about joining creative design firms vs. more technical and practical firms? if you're one of those "creative" types but join a practical firm due to the lack of available arch related positions are you hurting your chances of joining a "creative" firm later on. 

I use creative very loosely. By "creative" I'm referring to firms that are doing more than simply designing a multi-family complex clad in brick and stucco. 

I ask this because with the limited job market I've been hearing a lot more "just take what you can get" as opposed to "network, network, network... find a firm you like and think you'd fit well in and find a way to grab their attention." Are new grads settling and if so, is it possible to eventually migrate to a position you consider a better fit for you?

Mar 31, 13 4:46 pm

Gosh.  What a topic.  One I'd rather forget.  I started working in a flat 3 year internship state just as IDP was sweeping the land.  I was bringing back an "out of town" degree, though a respected one, and didn't have the job options that those who went to local schools had.  I worked for almost 2 years at firm 1 and then finished it off with 1.5 years at the next firm.  The first firm was very small, unprofessional in my mind, narrow minded (principals had not traveled ANYWHERE, except Hawaii, maybe), an "alumni club," and all the perks were missing, except for health insurance.  I did learn a lot, though - schools, residential, office, retail, banks, tenant improvements, and some minor exposure to other types of buildings.  Between that and the next job, and a fairly practical school, I passed the A.R.E easily.  However, the first job out of school SUCKED.  In a big way.

I really believe that one fares better by job shopping close to their alma mater rather than relocating far away right after school.

Mar 31, 13 6:06 pm

I started out at SOM and was there for 1 1/2 years - it was post grad school if you will - great - learned a lot - then the bottom fell out in 08' oh Well - 

Mar 31, 13 7:55 pm

It seem like both of you, whether you liked the firm or not, ended up at firms that worked on a variety of project types. The reason I started this thread is because I'm currently looking at a couple of local firms which both specialize in retail. They're both good firms but I don't want to be stuck working on malls and shopping centers for the next x amount of years. 

Who knows I may end up enjoying it but I'm curious to know how likely it is to be able to move on to something different if I chose to at some point, whether it be in a few months or a few years. Most likely a few years. 

Then again there's the larger firms like P+W which I've been interested in but I would most likely have to wait until after the summer when the interns go back to school. Not sure if I can afford to wait a few more months... 


Mar 31, 13 8:52 pm

Retail.  It can be interesting ... or not.  I would find the malls and shopping centers interesting.  Be cautious if the retail is simply glorified interior architecture for contracts they have with certain chain stores which go INTO malls.  I had an interview at a major firm doing just this.  I turned it down.  As the interview was in progress, what was going through my mind was "no elevators, no escalators, no stairs, no structural concerns, no mechanical system concerns, how am I going to be well-rounded and prepared for the A.R.E.?"  The entire shopping center will teach you these skills.  The high-end design of individual stores in these centers will not.  My 2 cents.

Mar 31, 13 9:01 pm

You'll only be stuck there if you don't look for new jobs. Better to put money in the bank and build your resume while looking for that job than sitting in your parents basement waiting for phone calls. Even the creative firms have taken on commissions that were below them a few years back.

Mar 31, 13 11:33 pm

how many of you decided to sit out the recession and do a little of self-guided learning?  I've been doing it for a year and feel the learning I've done in this time will turn out much more valuable in my career than things I've learnt during undergrad.  Uni tends to be such a fast paced environment for most.  There is often no time to truly figure things out and perfect the art of designing like science, rather it tends to be a haphazard search and random experiment (get things right by luck one time, while you struggle most of the times).  In terms of design, I feel miles more confident now.  I've also focused on things other than architecture but one where my skills still apply as a side/weekend job, or perhaps when another recession hits and I'm left jobless.  Do any of you have backup plans to fall back on?

Apr 1, 13 12:05 am

@accesskb I used the recession to learn new software or expand my knowledge of the software I already know while exploring the construction side of things. I graduated during a tough time but tried to make the best of it. 

@Observant good point. One of the firms I'm looking at is being a bit vague about the description but I get a feeling it's exactly what you describe, a glorified interior project. The other was very straight forward about the scope of work and tends to work on both interior as well as ground up shopping centers.

Thanks for your 2 cents. 

Apr 1, 13 1:58 am

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