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Landing a job in architecture

James Davis

Architecture can be highly competitive. Fortunately, we have a few little pieces of advice that may be of assistance.

Some cynics would have you believe that getting a job in architecture is nigh-on impossible. Here at PostgradAustralia though, we’re far more optimistic. Although we aren’t denying it can be difficult, there are a couple things you can do to make life easier when you hit the job market. Better still, none of them involve literally hitting the job market. It’ll be more of a dive, or perhaps a leg tepidly grazing the surface of a shallow pool. We’ll let you pick whichever vaguely sensual analogy you please.

Build up a portfolio of designs in whatever spare time you have

“Spare time” might be as realistic as Zeus coming down to smite thee and all thine troubles, but in the glorious event you’ve got some, putting some of those extra ideas to paper will help employers see what you’re made of. Granted, architecture is comprised of far more than mere designs, but at the very least you’re doing what you can given your limited resources and influence as a student learning the craft. If you’ve got detailed blueprints of a building that are detailed enough for a hypothetical construction company to work with, you’re showing that in at least this element of the craft, you’ve got the chops to design and imagine.

Networking

Hey look! It’s that thing you’ve read eight hundred times already. How do you implement this magical buzzword? There are some great methods.

  • Log into Facebook and type in a search query containing “near me” or “nearby”. For instance, “architecture nearby”. If you were speaking to a real human, they’d just point to the nearest building with a smug look on their idiot face. When talking to Mark Zuckerberg’s peeping-tom of a child however, it’ll interpret it as, “events regarding architecture within about 15 km. Got it”. It’s then simply a matter of expanding the search where you see fit and attending whatever events take your fancy, or don’t take your fancy in the slightest. When you start to feel uncomfortable, that’s when you know it’s working.
  • A bit of Google-Fu. There are bound to be events for architecture enthusiasts in your area. Awards nights, dinners, quizzes or even bespoke networking events labelled as such.
  • Contact your professors and see if they’ve got some industry contacts they can put you in touch with. If the answer is ‘yes’, reach out and offer to buy them a coffee, ask them questions and learn what it takes to enter their company in particular, or even just something adjacent. Just asking questions lets them know you exist, so if you go to apply for a position at their place of work later, you’re more likely to stick out.
  • Pray to Zeus. Can’t hurt, right?

Incessantly apply for internships

This is practically the golden ticket for many professions these days; architecture’s no exception. You want to be applying for these practically day 1 of your postgraduate course. Doesn’t matter that you know nothing because nobody else knows anything either. If you’re going to intern at an architecture firm, it’s not like they’re going to put you in charge of anything substantial anyway. You’ll just be there to see how things are done, how everyone interacts and what it’s like to work at an architecture firm. It’s great experience not only because it’ll help future job prospects, but also let you know if this really is the profession for you. You might learn along the way this isn’t something you can see yourself doing, which is incredibly valuable in and of itself because you’ll have just saved yourself potentially years of hardship!

In the event you like it however, you’ll be able to redouble your enthusiasm and eagerly pursue your qualification. The previous suggestions might help a little bit in landing a job, but their true value is in landing an internship.

When applying for these, you’re not expected to know everything. The most endearing quality an aspiring intern can have is genuine enthusiasm for the job. That’s it. If you can show whoever’s interviewing you that you genuinely care about architecture and can back that up with compelling reasons as to why you find it so compelling, they’ll find you compelling as well. Enthusiasm and passion is infectious. Make it work in your favour.

Be specific in all cases

Another thing you can do is be specific about your aspirations. In any cover letter or job interview, the thing that’ll distinguish you from other candidates is how relevant your passions are to the thing you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a company that designs hotels off the coast of Djibouti, the worst thing you can do is say “I want a job with plenty of growth”. It’s OK to want those things, but everyone wants them too. It’s something you can say about literally any field. You can cite that as a reason for wanting to be a professional golfer. Maybe you can work a clever pun in there about growing buildings, but it’s a risky move sailor. Wouldn’t recommend it. In this particular case, you can give reasons for why you like Morocco, the architecture there and how you try to emulate that sort of architecture in your own work anyway. Companies love hearing how you specifically can fit their corporate culture.

Get references

You can’t go wrong with people who can recommend you, even if it’s a character reference or professional reference from totally unrelated experience. Dave the regional Hungry Jacks manager you worked for can attest to your work ethic. Your local priest can attest to your virtuous nature. Samantha your soccer coach can talk all about how much of a team player you are. Even your current professors are great references. Work your way from most relevant to least relevant, but know this: even a largely irrelevant reference is better than none. Just remember to ask people you plan to put as references on your resume before you send them out and alert them whenever you do so. This way, they can expect a call. It looks bad when all your references don’t pick up and it looks worse when you’ve given the phone numbers of friends and colleagues out without their knowledge!

Pick up a complimentary skill set

This is fairly straightforward; architecture is a multidisciplinary field, so picking up one of those additional disciplines, even if it’s in the form of a humble graduate certificate, can multiply your chances of success. Just think about all the project management that goes into actually seeing a construction project to its bitter end. If you had a bespoke project management qualification, you could learn some more of the logistics behind your projects. Granted, you do learn some throughout postgraduate architecture, but going that extra mile can definitely further your employability. Having done project management units, for instance, just doesn’t stick out as much as an entire qualification, no matter how small.

Well, we sincerely hope this has been at least a modicum of help. There’s a lot of generic advice online, so spending time elaborating on how it can actually be utilised in a slightly less generic manner can be useful. This is hard; we know. If we had to give one more piece of advice, it’d be the most generic yet true piece of all: don’t give up! Even if you’re turned away from a prestigious architecture firm multiple times, the fact you keep trying does actually work in your favour. So, employ these tips where possible and always persist. Good luck!