Alan Abdulkader

Just wanted to share my situation and I would appreciate some suggestions. It has been two and half years since I graduated and still cannot find intern position. I have masters and B.S. in architecture and BA in fine arts from a state university.

I have tried so many different ways approaching different architecture firms including walking in after hours to by pass the front desk and ended up talking to the boss, emailing/calling, had portfolio reviews with different firms and continually attending architecture lectures. So far I have contacted 430 firms: maybe around 60-70% Seattle, and rest at New York, Chicago, California, MN, few in Oregon, and abroad too.

Usually most of the email responds saying that I did not much their needs because of no experience. However, once a while a few writes back with some positive feedback regarding my resume and portfolio, but not hiring. I usually send one page resume and about 4-5 pages sample work and take more with me to the interview. I only had 4 interviews and the last one was a year ago. I had two more interview opportunities in LA and Chicago, but once they notice I was in Seattle area, they went with someone else. All of my interviews also went well and I got encouraged with what I’m doing, yet nothing.

Biggest problem it is because I don't have any office experience and I didn't had internship while I was in school. I even offered many firms to work as volunteer to get experience, still nothing.
Anyway, it has been very frustrated and not sure what else to do. I'm still contacting firms, but I feel it doesn't make any difference. I know everyone before, with, and after me who graduated managed to get intern and a few of them even changed firms too…

Thank you everyone for your suggestions and feedbacks!

Apr 23, 13 2:59 am

can i see your portfolio?

Apr 23, 13 5:34 am

a look at your portfolio would  prompt positive contributions........

Apr 23, 13 6:37 am

Try finding the back door to architecture. When I got hired, the Principal told me he hired me because I did Habit of Humanity. I worked for a small contracting company while in school.

An Architecture firm will appreciate different experiences and knowledge.

Apr 23, 13 9:40 am

Echo G-Arch

There's a TON of valuable experience you can grasp outside of the firm environment. I work here in Seattle, and it wasn't easy to find a steady job when I landed it a year ago (Right now, I'm coming up on 3 years post B.Arch). But the conversation about design in this city is rich and diverse, and there are more than enough opportunities to find intersection between architecture, design, art, construction, etc. That doesn't mean you have to speak like a professor about design theory, but you'll increase your chances that someone will take a chance on you if you show some perspective on how the industry works and how things actually get built.

I know job hunting is a full time job, but be even more competitive and get involved (or step up your existing involvement) in non-profits, or anything you feel is valuable to the city you want to design, and the people you want to bring the conversation of design to.

Apr 23, 13 10:54 am
Alan Abdulkader

Here is a link to my website:, also have some work here on archinect too.  I like to add one more thing since Echo G-Arch bright it up.  I have been teaching photography and design in a community college while looking for intern.

Apr 23, 13 11:39 am


I used to work in the Seattle area. There is no reason based on the graphics in your portfolio why you haven't been able to land a job interview. Your graphics are solid enough for an entry-level position. There is also a very nice sense of layering and composition in your artwork section. Are you sure you want to be an architect? Environmental visualization artists make a ton more money and the growth of this industry is huge.  I would network with the gaming community to learn more about this career path. There is a fabulous growing creative high-tech class in Seattle. You may find your niche in an allied art.

But let's presume you deep down in your heart only want to be an architect: There also isn't alot of 'pragmatic architecture' and a maturity towards site response, programming, and design development that one would expect to see at an M.Arch level in your portfolio. What firms want to see is that you have the capacity for understanding the generation of an idea, (and this can be highly conceptual and evocative), but that you have the ability and interest to move forward with that idea into the built environment.

You may need to make an honest assessment at your interviewing and social networking skills. It may be that in interviews, you can only speak to your high level concept ideas and cannot verbally walk the interviewers thru your projects and demonstrate an honest interest in the design development of the built environment.

The good news is that Seattle is on a little bit of a hiring spree right now and many, many firms are hiring. 


1. Post on architect for feedeback your pdf application package, i.e. resume, cover letter and portfolio work samples as one pdf document. Make it letter portrait size for easy viewing. The cover letter, resume and portfolio read as one short, clear, cohesive document. Make sure its under 5mb, the smaller the better. Firms rarely waste time looking at slow loading websites for the 1st pass on candidates. Be very aware that the Seattle architecture scene like all cities is very, very small. Everything you say on archinect (since you've shared your personal website and portfolio), you are saying directly to firms that are hiring. So keep your discussion very professional ok?

2. Join the Seattle AIA Laddership mentorship program. Its a fantastic resource for emerging professionals. It will place you in a group with a couple senior design professionals, a couple mid-level and a couple emerging professionals like your self. Mentor groups meet once a month to talk about the profession, learn from one another, go on construction site tours, project openings, etc....Its a great networking opportunity and great way to practice good social networking skills.

3. Don't apply to hundreds of firms. This is a waste of time. Make an honest assessment of the 10 firms in Seattle that you'd like to target and why. Firms want to hire people that understand why they are applying to a specific firm. Energetically, if you are applying to hundreds of firms without direction, this will show up in the energy of your cover letter , resume, portfolio and interview skills. It won't get you the job. Take this list with you to your AIA laddership group meeting. Talk as a group about the firm's work, what interests you and ask the group's feedback on how your skills and portfolio relate to the firm's work. Ask for suggestions on other types of firms to target. The Seattle Laddership program isn't a job program. Its designed for committed individuals who value professional mentorship. But if you approach your job search in this targeted fashion, you'll learn alot. Ask to see your peers portfolios as well that  have been successful in landing positions. 

PS: Most of the firms that hire at entry level (0-3 years) rarely advertise. So don't go by posted jobs announcements only. Just target the firms you are most interested in, network like crazy and learn. I can't stress that enough. You'll learn so much about the Seattle design scene and yourself and what interests you about architecture and design if you just stay open to learning.

Good luck,


Apr 23, 13 2:15 pm


I looked at your website and you have very beautiful work. My opinion that you do not have more technical drawings. It looks like you have a very artistic view of Architecture. Because of the economy firms do not really care about what colors you put on your renderings.  They would want someone who has experience in MEP drawings or someone with Revit skills. I do not see any Construction Document samples in your website. Take notice at what most firms are asking for (especially the one's that seem to have a lot of projects.) they want someone that can quickly crank out projects.

I would show a combination of Construction Plans and Details with your renderings. I bought some of these magazines for inspiration and to be a better architect. You can view them on the internet for ideas.

1) Show them drawings from your Construction Documents Class (CAD and BIM)

2) Building Equipment of Building Construction class drawings

3) Photos and Renderings to compliment the your technical work.

Apr 23, 13 3:09 pm
Alan Abdulkader

Thank you very much to all of you for the great feedbacks and help!  You all suggested something important and I will keep all into consideration!   I really want to thank Chingale for taking so much time and writing me a long and detailed informations.


Apr 23, 13 8:15 pm

I graduated w/a BS in 2009 and didn't get my first arch job till this yr. Laid off after a month and just started at another firm last week. So yea 3.5 years it took me. Like you I searched different markets , hundreds and hundreds of apps, resumes, calls, etc. I ended up taking a job as a business analyst for 3 years until I grew sick and quit it in October. I did do some CAD drafting projects.

All the CAD contract work and the 2 architecture jobs I got, from not applying for any position but other alternative ways. I say alternative approaching and networking with luck and just right place/right time. Followed by the above advice. GL. I know the pain :-/

Apr 23, 13 11:41 pm
Alan Abdulkader

Thank you Quentin!

Apr 24, 13 12:05 am

For the past 6 years you played architect in school. The real world doesn't need many architects that can only design.

With that said my advice to you is earn a construction management  degree from the community college you teach photography.  In my mind you earn it in two quick semesters and you come out fresh with a fresh perspective and skills all related to architecture. You can then target arch firms, large constructions firm, small general contractors and design build firms. If your community college doesn't offer CM take all the carpentry courses.

Have you learned a BIM program? Well, pick one and kill it. Test for the Revit certification if you choose Revit. Get Autocad certification too.  Get  LEED Green Associate certification also.

Another suggestion, get help with networking from your Professors at Washington State. Go straight to the Deans office and lay everything out just like you did here.

I looked at your website and you only have one project that shows 3D modeling skill. It's an entry level skill and you don't enough examples of good quality 3D. I My opinion of the your work shown under architect is mediocre (slightly below average ). We all see things differently so do not take offense.

Redo your undergrad projects. The Farm project needed work back when you turned it in and now you can do better. Redo it. I'm not saying redo the idea but you need to redo the presentation. The exterior perspectives are bad.

Once you learn a 3D program (sketchup would be good to learn) redo your graduate level project again not the parti but the presentation they need work too.

On your CV, did you list all the software programs you know well? If you don't have that info you have more holes then you think.

Apr 24, 13 3:34 am
Alan Abdulkader

Thank you Arri, you made some good points, and I'm aware of some of them.  I will take your advise and rework some of those projects.  I'm working on new projects on my own for portfolio and trying to slowly delete the school projects.

I appritate your helpful feedback.

Apr 24, 13 12:31 pm


One more tip. Every firm is different in how they want to review resumes and portfolios. Some won't touch links to websites or online portfolio sites. Others prefer it because it cuts down on receiving lots of weighted attachments. Others only review hardcopy to cut down even further on the number of applicants. It really depends.

All that said, it can be a good, easy tool to put your portfolio on so that it can be easily viewed in booklet format for that 1st pass review.  I would turn off comments and ratings and just use it as an online link. When you send a pdf portfolio to a firm, senior people who review the portfolios don't often know how to change a pdf to "two-up with a cover" or booklet format.  All they can do is advance a page. And they will literally give your portfolio a 5 second flip to get a first impression. If interested, they go back for more. 

While a website is nice and shows you know how to use WIX or some other web tool, it takes awhile to flip thru the images. And you have some very beautiful images to share!

Make it easy on your reviewers. Give them another option: One pdf of portfolio work samples, 4-6 projects top. Don't include anything that is not your best work. Edit it, redo it, edit until each page is strong. Try to get it under 5MB, 2-3MB is ideal. This will also load quickly. 

Remember, how you view your own website may be based on cached information and will seem quicker than someone viewing it for the 1st time on their own machine.

Another tip: I don't know if UW's arch department still offers this, but awhile back all their accepted student portfolios were available for viewing to anyone who wanted to peruse the portfolios in their office. You can learn alot about what reads well and what doesn't by going thru a stack of 50 portfolios. This will give you a better idea of what hiring staff do as well. is alo a great resource for viewing other people's architecture portfolios to get ideas on formatting, etc.

Apr 24, 13 3:27 pm
Alan Abdulkader
Thank you again Chingale for your second long feedback. All of your feedback are very helpful! Thank you for your time.
Apr 25, 13 2:28 am

Have you tried Texas?  Austin is doing well right now and happens to be one of the coolest cities in America.

Your work is fantastic.  I would also think your international background would help you.  Especially in cities like Dallas or Houston.

Apr 25, 13 8:20 am
Alan Abdulkader

Thank you Barry Ballinger, I have not tried Texas yet, but I will especially after your provided a good list of sites.  Thank you for your time and feedback, I will look into these sites now.

Apr 25, 13 9:29 pm

Alan, First I see you are going after saturated markets.  Try small cities rural areas, Avoid university towns with architecture programs. 

I have to wonder about Revit skills? CAD and other software. They did not show in your CV PDF. Very nice website, did you design it, if you did I can think of many small firms that would love to have you help with a web site.  Maybe market yourself to the firms you’re interested in as a web designer and marketing intern and then once your in start helping when deadlines start piling up, take an indirect approach.

What languages do you know?

Skills and languages are your strongest assets not your experience, unless you want a career in academic settings.  I would start out with skills first in your CV.

Maybe if you have the Revit skills offer a link to a Revit family you designed on Revit City if I was looking for a production person with Revit skills I would seek out folks who have mastered the creation of parametric families, and If I download yours and it solves a vexing problem like metal door frames that don’t fit masonry walls correctly then I would want to at least learn more about you.

Also manage your online brand, use your name, no anonymous postings, but also be nice and polite. Every blog or entry you post online has to represent you. You should Goggle your name and if you don’t like the results take action to change it. It is important to make it easy for prospective employers to get to know you and determine that you are a nice person and would be fun to work with. 

Personality is important, Americans have a lot of stereotypes and huge misconceptions about Iraqis take care to explicitly deal with this head on.  If I was a female HR person who is not well read on Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region I may have a limited view.  People are ignorant but not stupid or mean, so don’t assume they discriminate intentionally they may just not know anything.

Soccer is popular, maybe start a designer's soccer club for weekend games. You get jobs by talking to folks not asking for jobs. talking to people is the best way forward


Over and OUT

Peter N 

Apr 27, 13 11:54 am
Alan Abdulkader

Hi Peter,

Thank you for your thought and the poetic approach to my situation.  Also thank you for taking the time reviewing my work.  I just went back and added the skill part to my resume since I removed it for purposes.  I did design my website, but not from scratch, I used template based site, but still had to design the whole layout.  Anyway, your feedback are very helpful and positive advise.

thanky you for your time, I will learn from it and I love to know about those small firms who might need help with their site!



Apr 28, 13 1:48 am

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