Current job situation in Chicago & appreciate portfolio review.


I have been a longtime lurker on this forum and I am grateful for all the great advice and info. I have been in the jobhunt for a while...without going into too much detail- personal circumstances and of course the current state of affairs has resulted in a not too strong resume. I would really appreciate it if I could get some comments on my employability . My resume and samples of work (what I send out as an inquiry) and my portfolio is below.

Also, is there active hiring in Chicago at this point... that information would be helpful in order to have the resilience to go on :) Thanks all for your advice....

Jul 23, 13 3:56 pm

Before you send that out, I would definitely recommend you move around some of your drawings and/or text. Having them overlap is very distracting and makes it hard to read both the drawing and the text.

Jul 23, 13 4:06 pm

You are missing the H in School in the heading for the National ScHool of Drama.

Have a friend proofread your resume and portfolio. Its very important to not make those types of mistakes. It shows lack of attention to detail.

Jul 23, 13 9:30 pm

Thank you so much both posters for such specific comments. I feel silly having typos like that..I think a desire to have graphically intense images made me overlap the image and text, I completely agree, it makes it distracting. Any other comments are much appreciated.

Jul 23, 13 10:11 pm

Should I construe the lack of comments as an indication that mine is truly a hopeless case :) or maybe I just have to have patience...please advise....

Jul 24, 13 11:21 am

In addition to comments above, treat your portfolio as a project. Be creative about your portfolio, link 2 pages together somehow. Nothing wrong with having just picture and text(what else can you have right?), but in your case it looks like blocks: A rectangular picture, a rectangular block of text. Notice things like proportions, indirect lines (such as ending the text the same place the bottom of the picture). Too much text in my opinion, your drawings should speak for itself, some pages look like newspaper articles, which is not what it should be. And really get rid of overlapping text with renderings, really distracting. When having cross page sections/renderings/plans, always make sure that the border is not cutting off anything important. It may show a line on but your physical portfolio will have a gap for bounding.

Remove the architectural intern at the first page. You won't be an intern forever.

Jul 24, 13 8:25 pm

Ipong2 thank you for your comments. My portfolio which got me into three schools (had applied to only three) with scholarships in all three definitely had all the elements above. I think by using scribus, I somehow lost the capacity to compose a portfolio. And also probably impatience with making my nth portfolio (not really:)). Well, I am going to try and get indesign and incorporate a compositional strategy that is lacking.

Hopefully...there is something good about the work itself..otherwise at this stage in my life I really should maybe stop persisting. Thanks all, hopefully more to come

Jul 24, 13 9:39 pm

I think your portfolio looks good, it just needs some revising.  Look at the minor details (how text, grid system, images are working together) and make sure they are clean.  Page numbers would be nice so that people can point out which page a project is on easily if your portfolio is printed.  Make sure your text and pictures align with the each other to form an invisible grid (ie page 12 text shouldn't go so far past the image to its left).   On page eleven, a picture of the existing residence might be nice to show before/after.  One pages 12/13 the text on the renders could work better if they were contained in a text box with a color filled background to make them more into a label (think of something like how Bing maps does when you search for a location, that black box with a leader pointing to the destination. Be creative with it.)  Make sure pages look balanced, pay attention to the white space.  The leading on your paragraphs looks a little too large to me.  Look at the student work portfolios put out by top colleges as an idea of what a great portfolio looks like [the GSD (Platform 5), Columbia (Abstract), and U Michigan (Dimensions 25)].       

Ipong2 is just trying to help assist you in getting a job since you asked for a crit of your portfolio, I think I re-iterated a lot of his points.  You can check out my portfolio and decide whether you want to take my advise or not. 

Just curious as to what schools you got into? 

Jul 25, 13 11:24 am

I am also curious what schools you got into.

I can show you my portfolio too, I got in University of Southern California, University of Illinois- Urbana Champaign and University of Michigan with it. along with landing a job for 6 months before I head off to grad school this August.

The projects look good, in fact I think they are better than mine. At this point I think you are more interested in making your portfolio better rather than redoing your projects correct?

And I am really just trying to help, sorry if my comment came up a little too strong.

Jul 25, 13 11:58 am

I am so sorry confidence is at the lowest in my life...I am normally not prone too being sensitive or not appreciating advice... Ipong 2 I am sure you r more experienced and talented and younger:) than I am. I had a hard personal life for a while which took away the capacity (not physically) to work and I feel as if I may not be able to get back to the profession...I guess being on a forum one feels one can say without thinking. Both of u... have hit the nail on the head, I am not  happy with the formatting myself, I needed the comments to motivate myself to work on it again. Ipong your comments were absolutely apt...please don't hesitate when I post my revised folio again

I just got into UIUC, UIC and IIT...didn't apply to any others, maybe wouldn't have got into any other school....I just hope the economy turns around. None of us deserve this...we are more hardworking, talented & smart then a lot of other professions out there...

Jul 25, 13 1:21 pm

Please post your portfolio...would love to get more ideas

Jul 25, 13 1:21 pm

The portfolio is a good draft and needs some refinement, rummage through your sketchbooks and incorporate some sketches reveal how some of the ideas evolved.  Try to get things not to overlap too much.

Think about the color fields behind text be careful not to use too dark of a color so if it is printed out black and white it still reads. 

Also consider not using chronological order, start and end with a strong project. I personally am not a fan of blank pages opposite your index should be a design statement or some image with a huge wow factor, I want to look at that project where is it kind of thing.  Make the first 4-5 pages riveting, fantastic, wonderful, and end on a high note supper amazing when can you start making that kind of work for us, the thoughts stick with you if it is the first and last thing you see, then hand them a resume printed on a folded 11 x 17 with the first and last images or projects for them to keep an remind them how awesome your portfolio was. So one page resume, and three pages of images like a folder, and have a sheet in it for references if you think it wise to leave that behind.

As for job prospects in the city of big shoulders they are looking up, in the fall many folks may return to school but firms still have work to finish. Volunteer check out the AIA, ALA, Green Building Council and Congress of New Urbanism chapters, get involved network.  Are you a part of the Chicago Young Architects Forum, if not stop what you are doing and sign up they have monthly events and this is the best place to start networking.

It takes 2-6 months to find a job if you are actively networking and spending your time wisely.  Online applications are not the best way to do job search these days, too much competition, make that 10% of your effort. Spend 50% going to firms and professionals and asking for advice not a job just hints and advice. Spend 30% networking around the city. Spend 10% doing something design related. Build a community garden, fix a neighbor’s front porch, make posters for your favorite band’s concerts, make a zine on how awesome living in a city can be, you must have time allocated for creative endeavors. Always have a project under way to show and or talk about, this has a massively positive effect on how potential employers will look at you, shows you can hustle up work, that you stay busy and are self-motivated. No boss want’s someone who they constantly have to give direction to.  Think how you can convey this.  The job I landed last December the interview focused on what I was doing now as much as it did on my past experience. 

Have a now thing to talk about other than hunting for a job.

Also job hunting is a 60+ hours a week thing, maybe 50+ once you have the portfolio polished and refined, but you have to put time in, there are hundreds of firms and organizations to explore it takes time to get to them and get in front of a person for advice not a job.

Ask for advice, don’t make folks say no to you this is very unpleasant thing to have to do, just advice.

Over and OUT
Peter N

Jul 27, 13 10:58 am

Peter, thank you so much for your detailed crit and advice. I am getting a feel of where and how to start refining my portfolio and motivated to do so. Networking and being part of an architectural community is something I have lacked for a while...I will definitely be looking into volunteering in the organizations that you mentioned and of course showing the employer that you are actively involved in bettering yourself and contributing to community is vital...I have been studying for my ARE's which to me seems an easier task then networking :) not that I am not social.

I did want to ask a few specific questions to Peter and to all who hopefully may read the thread.

-which specific projects in my portfolio (notwithstanding the lack of clarity and continuity in narrative) are the strongest? I should know that...but your opinion would help.

- as I mentioned before for whatever reason I have gaps in my resume and despite having a degree for a while, I have limited experience. I find it hard to quantify what category of experience I fall in 0-3, 2-3...

- I feel I am good in Revit...don't have CD's to prove it but do my models demonstrate some level of proficiency and can I claim to know it and be useful?

Sorry...too many questions. will be waiting eagerly for responses.

Jul 27, 13 1:56 pm

I agree with the comments above so will not repeat them, but consider them each seconded.

To add a few new ones:

1.  I would take out that weird 2d/3d section - I don't understand its intent and it really interrupts the flow of projects.  It is weak: take it out.   For portfolios, a weak page is worse than no page.

2.  Then I would go back and revisit the colors of most of the renderings of your student work.  They look like they've been directly exported from Rhino or something, with wacky "computer colors" that are both a) abrasive to the eye and b) cloud/distract the viewer's understanding of the project.  Tone them down in photoshop - either mute them out, or change the hues entirely.

Unrelated:  That SOM tower is great - who was the designer on that? 

Jul 27, 13 10:44 pm

Also, the job market in Chicago appears to be picking up quite a bit.

Jul 27, 13 10:44 pm

Pers2 Are you studying the ARE in Chicago? Maybe starting a study group can be a powerful way to network and to get strong contacts or future job leads. (I would travel into the city for an ARE study group)
The Urban infill is a wow project and the back cover is strong. I think you need more trees and people in the renderings, this is a general thing to apply across the board. If you have balconies and sections populate them to help give a sense of scale, not lots of scale figures but a sprinkling helps.  And trees you need trees in plans and elevations.
Resume looks good, the technical drawings may be too small to read, so maybe leave those out and use renderings. Print this out and see if you can comfortably read it.  I would have your name contact info on each page just in case they are printed separately they won’t get lost.  Also languages are useful and read out loud each and every part of the resume or have others read it to you this helps get the grammar and the feel of the language correct.

Gaps are not uncommon today so don’t worry too much.  Have more statements on what you did at each place.  So the first experience could read,
Produced Construction documents for accessibility upgrades for k-12 educational clientele, developed grant applications, and one more thing it is good to have three things or more but not more than 8

Revit and renderings, this is tricky if the firm uses Revit strictly to crank out renderings then they are ok need some details like people, plants, and furniture, but to demonstrate a more comprehensive understanding having some technical drawings such as a wall section or other drawings with notes and dimensions will be very convincing.  Try making a Revit drawing set of a small project, think of the small ATM storefronts in the city, simple but they need to look top notch, this can be a two week project and have all the pieces you need to demonstrate you know Revit, ADA, codes, and design.
Knowing software is not as important as knowing how to document a building’s design so have a set of drawings you worked on full size to take to the interviews this will be most useful.
Also try not to be anonymous use your name here and on line, get a linked in account, Google your name, are you happy with what shows up?

Jul 28, 13 2:16 pm


Thanks much for your input...I am assuming that the section you are talking about is the wicker park project (issuu page 27-29) and that project has the most abrasive colors. I agree..wasn't too sure about putting that project in. I hope the other projects specifically the Spa (pgs 21-22) and the convention center (pgs 25-26) are not as bad...all the academic projects are 3d AutoCAD and 3d Studio Max. Don't know Rhino..I wish I had better rendering skills, But thanks again- points noted.

I joined the team for Shangrila at the Fort at 50% SD.. the designer was Brian Lee, the Senior Designer who I was interacting with constantly was Babette Scheidt.

Peter, thanks so much for such comprehensive advice. I have gone ahead and am posting in my name. I am in Chicago in the northwest burbs... but being part of an ARE study group would be motivating.

Urban Infill project is my favorite too will use that as my first is an independent exercise so doesn't really mess with the chronology.

I know my renderings are a little cold and hard..need to soften them with trees and people.

Definitely a drawing set in Revit would be far more convincing than modeling. Will work on that as thing at a time:)

This has all been great and motivating advice. I wish I had posted earlier...I have been sending this information as an inquiry to quite a few firms, had a couple of interviews. Hopefully the improved folio will elicit more and a JOB...

I have a linked in

Jul 28, 13 4:33 pm

It looks ok. I would just correct the mispell H and I would work a bit with the layout.

Good luck,

Jul 28, 13 5:54 pm

Correction: the misspelled H

Jul 28, 13 5:55 pm

Here is the link to my portfolio:

Sorry for taking so long, work has been hectic with deadlines.

Everyone please feel free to provide constructive criticisms(or praise). I don't think my work is better than yours Pers2.

Jul 28, 13 8:37 pm

Ipong 2

After a quick scan, it looks pretty good, just a few things that may refine it. I don't know if you have printed it, some of the text may look too big in relation to the page. Just as I was told in my portfolio, a rendering opposite the index would work in getting peoples attention faster..too many white pages upfront.  The rendering of the truss is a little overpowering, maybe rendering it another material...Otherwise, I think the work is pretty good and consistent in its approach and expression.

I shouldn't have responded so immaturely to your crit only other suggestion is if you want to get more response from other archinectors, maybe you should start a new thread, most are probably done with this thread :) Also just wondering if you are working in Chicago (UIUC grad) and heading off to grad school- any chance I could apply to your firm..semi-kidding:)

Jul 28, 13 10:58 pm

Yes it was the Wicker Park one, although a couple of the other ones at the end could use some color dampening as well.  

By the way, good for you for having the courage to post that here and solicit advice.  That is not an easy thing to do and you've taken the advice with grace.

Jul 28, 13 11:07 pm

Good to have a real name and a real face.

I am proposing that we start a Job hunt club / IDP management workshop/ Are study group.
I am going to use my vacation time to take Thursdays off to travel into the city and study for the ARE and mentor folks who are looking for work, I have some success in this and would be eager to have a support group for the ARE and would be willing to lend support for those trying to get through IDP or into a job in the field. I am 154 hours from finishing my IDP

Why this will help you and others in a similar situation? Have you ever read what Color Is Your Parachute? Stated frequently and with some academic studies backing up the author claims that working in a group to hunt for a job, one that meets regularly increases your chances of success by as much as 40%.  Having face to face time with folks and your materials will help sharpen you interview skills and catch errors and or omissions that may be preventing you from getting to the one and important word, yes.

I also want to break into the Chicago job market. Chicago is a city that I love and want to return to if possible.

So I propose we designate a place invite folks to join us and see where it can take us.
Coffee shops are good, Libraries too

Over and OUT
Peter N

Aug 10, 13 10:48 am

So I went ahead and proposed an event on the Meet up Group.  Hope others can join us.

Over and OUT

Peter N

Aug 10, 13 12:49 pm

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