Sunday, October 19, 2008

Job Searching - A.R.C.H.I.T.E.C.T

I am a recent graduate from California Polytechnic State University and with a minor in sustainable environments. I worked at a firm in southern California for six months before resigning and moving to Chicago with my new wife. I have been looking for a job for two months here in Chicago and have had no luck with interviews. It is a hard market, and I do not have any contacts here in this city. I have been mostly looking online for jobs as I do not have any contacts in the city as of yet. Do you have any tips regarding job hunting, or other industry ideas that would be a good fit for an architecture degree?

I really appreciate any feedback.

Listed below is a portion on "job-searching" from my book, Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design. Review for some ideas.

From what you have shared, it would seem that you are not spending enough time. If you do not have a position at the present time, you should be spending 8 hours a day to secure one. Job searching is your job right now.

The most effective method is connections. You say you do not have any contacts; you need to find some. Join the AIA Chicago chapter and become involved with the associates. Attend lectures at the local schools IIT and UIC and connect with faculty. Knock on doors of firms directly to determine their hiring needs. You need to put yourself in connection with the architect professionals of Chicago. Research firms through AIA Chicago.

Contact Cal Poly Alumni Assn. to see if any alums are in the Chicago area. Do any of your faculty from school have colleagues in Chicago? Take a class to develop skills and make connections.

Also, polish your job search skills -- phone skills, cover letter writing, resume, firm research. Do not rely on online searching or emails. Make connections.

I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any additional questions.

Dr. Architecture


By applying your talents as an architecture student towards gaining experience, you will be able to design your own career, rather than just letting it happen. You will want to be more creative in organizing your search for gaining and promoting yourself to prospective employers. While not guaranteed, the following hints, spelling out the word ARCHITECT, may assist you in gaining experience a little quicker.

The first step in gaining experience involves assessing yourself. Assess what aspect of architecture inspires you: programming, design, interior architecture, construction management, etc.; what is it that you desire to do within an architecture firm and what are you able to offer a prospective employer. Ask yourself the question -- Why should this firm hire me? What would your answer be? Constantly evaluate your interests, abilities, and values and how they match those of your current or a prospective employer.

Research is critical to the process. What positions within an architecture firm can best utilize your skills and knowledge? What employers have such positions? Do not limit your search to the architecture profession; the best employment opportunities for you may be with an interior design firm, a construction firm, or an engineering firm; again, be creative in your search.

To be successful, connections are crucial. Regardless of the career field, over 60% of all openings are obtained through networking. Consider adding five to ten names to your network monthly. One places to network is local AIA meetings where you can meet with architects of the local firms. Listen. Learn. Talk. Remember, every conversation is a possible lead. The more ears and eyes you have looking for you for the positions you want, the more likely something will materialize.

The most effective method to learn of opportunities is NETWORKING, but most people, especially students do not know what is networking. Simply put, it is informing others around you of your intent in gaining experiencing and asking if they may know of any leads for you. In a school setting, this may include classmates, professors, and staff. Another excellent idea related to networking is to approach guest lecturers or architects that may be on your juries. Ask them if they hire students for the summer or part-time positions. They may not always be to responsive so politely ask for a business card for you to follow-up.

Help with your search can be gained from a variety of sources. A good place to start is the university career center; touching base with a career counselor can be a great place to begin as they can help you target your job search. Many AIA chapters post position on their website or allow you to post your resume. Public libraries are another valuable resources; they have a multitude of resources that may be helpful. As well, you should seek support from others, especially family and friends; talking to them can be a big boost to your job search.

Employment Listings
Undoubtedly, most programs in architecture have a job board or notebook that promotes employment opportunities within the region of the program or an online system of informing students. When seeking students to perform entry-level tasks, many firms will send a position announcement outlining the duties and responsibilities, qualifications, and contact information.

If you determine that you either need or want to work part-time while in school, use these postings as a first step to learn of opportunities, but do not stop there. Contact the local chapter of AIA to learn if they also accept listings from area firms. Some AIA chapters also collect resumes from individuals seeking employment and allow firms to review them.

Interim Positions
If you were unable to secure your ideal position for the summer or after graduation, consider an interim job. An interim job provides you with related experience, but is only a stopgap solution; you have no intention of staying on a permanent basis. Ideally, interim jobs allow you to continue your search, connect you with a wide variety of people for networking, and build upon your skills.

Critical to the job search process are your resume, portfolio, ability to write cover letters and to interview; they are very important tools to communicate your "self" to potential employers. Are your tools in top form? If not, practice your interviewing skills, rework your resume or have someone critique your portfolio.

Resume/Cover Letters - As with any discipline, having a resume is essential when conducting a search for experience. Just as critical is a well-crafted cover letter. While it is not the intent of this book to duplicate the rigors of resume writing or other aspects of the job search, what can be shared are insights to these necessary tools. For the resume, keep is simple and straightforward providing information from your background and experiences that demonstrate your abilities. Do not be afraid to include skills learned from studio or other classroom projects under a section entitled - course projects. If you have not worked formally in an architectural office, you can still promote your drawing, modeling or building, and design skills learned in studio.

Another idea for the resume is the inclusion of graphics! With the ease of scanning drawings and graphic publishing softwares, placing an image on your resume can be powerful; however, exercise caution as the image may make reading the resume more difficult. Rather than including graphics on your resume, you could create a one-page portfolio.

For most, cover letters are an afterthought, when in reality, cover letters serve as the introduction to you as the prospective employee. Most cover letters are typically three paragraphs: 1) introduces yourself and explains the purpose of the letter; 2) sells your skill set and makes the match for the employer; and 3) provides the terms of follow-up. Regardless of the letter, be sure to address the letter to an individual, not a "Dear Sir/Madam." If you do not know the name of the individual, take the time to contact the firm and ask. Be persistent if the firm is reluctant to provide this information.

Finally, remember, the purpose of the resume/cover letter is to obtain an interview!

Portfolio - Just as important as the resume and perhaps more important is your portfolio. As architecture is a visual based discipline, the portfolio provides a direct link for the employer to your skills as an architect. For this reason, you will want to provide images that demonstrate all of your architectural skills - drafting, model building, drawing, design, etc. As well, you want to provide some drawings from projects from the beginning of the design process to the end. In other words, do not only include finished ink on mylar drawings. These will allow the employer to see your thought process as it relates to a design problem.

"The portfolio is a creative act, showing your skills and imagination, but it is also an act of communication and a tool for self-promotion. Demonstrate originality and inventiveness, but also accept the restrictions and conventions of professionalism, and show that you can get your ideas across in terms that working architects and designers can understand." -- Harold Linton

Interviewing – Perhaps not thoughts as a tool, good interviewing skills can make the difference of being selected to receive an offer or not. Surprisingly, you should prepare for an interview by researching the firm, think what questions might be asked of you and what questions you might ask of the firm.

At this point in your career, you may feel as if you have little experience. This may be true, but recognize that, in many cases, employers are hiring your potential. If you do not have the experience needed, consider trying one of the following to obtain it: 1) part-time work, 2) volunteer work, 3) informal experiences, 4) temporary work.

Searching for a position that provides you experience can be a full-time task. Although you are too busy with various school commitments, devote every possible minute to your search; doing so will payoff. In fact, if you have not already done so, start your search now! Do not wait until next week or next month.

Realize that you are going through a major life transition, that of entering the profession of architecture. In addition to your position, recognize that all aspects of your life will be affected. Summer vacations are a luxury of the past. Finally, there are financial adjustments as you begin to receive an annual salary and have new expenses.

It may be a tough market, therefore, be assertive, learn the search process, and do not be afraid of rejection. Searching for a position is a skill you will be using throughout your life.

A Final Thought
The answer, in a nutshell, is:
Thru your research
And then thru your contacts. -- Richard N. Bolles

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Graduate Architecture Program

I have always been interested in architecture but it always took a back seat to my love and infatuation with graphic design.. I have a bachelor's in fine art for visual communications concentrating in graphic design.

Is it possible to return to school in a 2-3 year graduate program for architecture and still be able to be licensed and be able to practice as both an architect and designer.. possibly in a firm offering both services?

Yes, many institutions offer a Master of Architecture (3-4 years) for individuals that have a degree in another discipline. With your background in graphic design, you should be a perfect fit as you know the design process.

Visit - and for a list of institutions that offer this particular graduate program.

Dr. Architecture