Returning to architecture - portfolio advice needed.

sweet em

Ten years ago I graduated with a M.Arch.  After graduation I worked as a designer/project manager for a real estate developer and right about the time I had my first baby the market crashed and the developer went out of business.  I settled into full-time child raising and part time consulting work for a historic preservation advocacy group.  I've done that for 6 years.  Now I am ready to go back to architecture full-time...but... I am frozen by my portfolio, or more appropriately, lack thereof. 

This is what I have -

- Hand drawn school projects, 10+ years old.

- CAD drawn, photoshop rendered school projects, 10+ years old.

- SIte plan renderings from developer job.

- 2-3 freelance jobs, house additions - just CAD plans.

- Some graphic design.

- Images from my own renovation of 2 homes.

I am qualified for entry-level jobs, but compared with a recent graduate my portfolio images are pretty basic.  My best work was from school, it is 10 years old and I have enough real world experience to know how silly some of the concepts are.  I just can't imagine pretending confidence as I present it in an interview.   

So I guess the question is - Is it worth using my school portfolio, at all? 

Some of the designs are decent, should I redraw/render them to the graphic style that I see on-line today?  Should I do conceptual drawings of projects that are currently proposed around my town?

In terms of value I would bring to an entry-level position, I have have experience from a developer perspective, as well as from the community.  I have 6 years of public speaking experience as a community advocate.  I have AutoCAD skills, but no Revit. 

Which brings me to one more question, are recent graduates using Revit in school?

Jul 10, 13 12:15 pm

sure you can use work from school..  Unlike a project from a computer science degree completed a decade ago, a good design project is timeless i think.  Technology and process of design isn't changing or becoming obsolete every year or two.  What I'd be more concerned is your 6 year leave from the profession.  Those interviewing will want to know what you did in the time off.  I realize I've been grilled on that even from taking 5 months off between semesters.  Interviewers wanted to know if I interned at some firm, or worked on some self initiated project etc in the time off.  As for Revit, I'm pretty sure a large number of them use it in school.  Its usually not something taught like Autocad, Rhino or some other software.  Its almost expected of us to keep up with the tools of the industry.  With the number of firms switching over to Revit and the people competing for job, it is wise to get familiar with Revit, although if your portfolio and design skills are kick-ass, it wouldn't really make a difference :)

Jul 10, 13 8:09 pm

Take a Revit course at your local community college and get a small project done like a storefront or small office, full CD set and two or three renderings, this demonstrates knowledge of construction and of software often one is lacking in the job prospects who are trying to land a job if you can pull off both you should stand out. 

As for maternity leave and the recession I would not worry too much you were in good company with the recession so a  5 year stint taking care of family while working part time consulting actually looks fairly good considering what the profession was going through.

First step is the hardest but pull together a draft portfolio and post it here for review. Refine it constantly and always have a now project to add to it when you can.


Network and try to get your hands on the book Cracking the Hidden Job Market


An effective job hunt is a full time 40+ hours a week thing, and once you get the foundation in place, an online presence (Google your self lately?), 100 or so leads, the best possible portfolio you can produce, and a resume put together it should be a matter of months. You only need one person to say yes lets have this nice person work for us. if the odds are 1 in 1000 you need to apply to 1001 firms.


Over and OUT

Peter N


PS. unless you intend to be a mean nasty person on line here why not use your real name and help get your online profile built up, asking for advice is a sign of intelligence not weakness.

Aug 10, 13 1:16 pm

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