How to get an Architecture Job a Guide with 27 Tips
The architecture profession is a tough industry to start a career in let alone survive. Finding a job as an architect is very difficult. After spending many sleepless nights in architecture school you graduate and realize the job you always wanted isn’t there waiting for you. Even in a good economy architecture jobs are competitive. Unfortunately, the economy in 2020 is gloomy and turning into a recession.
This article is a guide to providing as much information as possible to get an architecture job. These are suggestions and won’t guarantee your dream job, but hopefully, they help. This list of recommendations is not in any particular order, but all are important. In the 2008-2011 recession, some of these tips were used with success.
27 Tips to Get an Architecture Job
- Learning new skills.
Learning new skills can increase your value at an architecture firm. Sometimes the skills leaned in architecture school don’t quite line up with common skills needed at firms. Look for online learning opportunities to increase your skills. If you switching jobs, try learning what you would ideally like to do at your next job.
- Create a top-notch portfolio.
Try to have friends and professors review your portfolio. If you are still in college take a portfolio development class. Already in the profession? Have one of your close friends review your work. Keep your portfolio well rounded. Show your full range of skills, you never know what prospective readers may gravitate toward.
- Network, network, network…
Knowing people who already work at an architecture firm or who are friends with people who work there is critical. Since most application processes are slow and cumbersome, having an inside connection can be the ultimate way of getting an interview. Developing a network is extremely important throughout an architect’s career. Referrals are needed to land a job as well as winning architecture projects.
- Do your research before you apply for an architecture job.
Always look up the firm you are applying for and do some in-depth research. Find out about how they work, project types, culture, and mission. Most importantly, why you would want to work there.
- Create a LinkedIn profile and keep it current.
Most people in the business world use LinkedIn to manage their networks. They will certainly try to find your profile and more information about you. Having extracurricular activities outside of school or work shows you are an interesting person.
- Consider creating a personal website or web-hosted portfolio.
More firms are asking for a web address to your portfolio. A personal website can be a lot of extra work. Maybe start with a web-hosted portfolio so you don’t have to rework all your formatting. But if you want to start a blog, maybe a website makes more sense.
- Google yourself and make sure you have a good online presence.
When you apply for a job and someone is interested in talking with you they most likely will google you. Make sure what they see reflects on you positively.
- Looking into local AIA directories for architecture firm contacts and ideas.
Usually, local AIA (outside U.S. there may be other local organizations) have a directory of all the local architecture firms in the area. They also usually publish the firm leader’s contact information. This is a great way to get in contact with the decision-makers at firms. Also, finding more firms can allow targeting more specific firms you would enjoy working at. Be careful about cold calling people, try e-mail first.
- If you are having a hard time finding an architecture job make sure to find work in something else in the meantime.
The job market for architecture can be frustrating. If you find yourself going a longer period without an architecture job it is good to have a job in something else. It shows you are motivated even if it isn’t exactly what you would like to be doing with your time.
- Volunteer your time at a local organization you care about.
One of the best ways to show you are motivated is to spend some of your time helping an important local organization. This is also a great way to network with your community.
- Prepare for behavioral interviewing.
Behavioral interviewing has become very popular at well know architecture firms. This interview-style gets to the root of your personality and past experiences. Get ready for a question like, tell me about a time when you had to overcome a challenge on a project. There are many articles online about preparing for this type of interview. Look them up and educate yourself.
- Be persistent, but not overwhelming.
Many hiring managers have multiple responsibilities besides hiring more people. But, it is important to stay in touch with them after you apply for a job if you can. Don’t call them every day, but it is probably good to send them an occasional e-mail and check in on your current status.
- If an architecture firm tells you they are not hiring, ask for an “information only” interview.
“Information only” interviews are just that, you don’t expect to get hired by having a conversation with a firm. This type of interview is very good practice for future interviews. They are a great opportunity to get the jitters out and improve your stories and techniques.
- List and explain your qualifications honestly.
Your resume and cover letter should list your qualifications honestly. If you are not an expert at something, don’t list it. You may get hired for a skill you don’t have which could end badly. Also, make sure you explain your qualifications well in an interview.
- Have a gameplan if you need to move for a job.
Sometimes your local area may not have enough architect jobs available. Or you may want to move somewhere else for various reasons. If either is the case, be strategic, most firms don’t want to hire people who have logistical issues. When talking to firms have a gameplan prepared for how to move to a new area. Know how your move will take place, timeframes and maybe who or where you want to live in the new location.
- Practice interviewing.
Always make sure to practice interviewing before you go into an office. If you don’t have anyone to practice with then talk in front of a mirror. Try writing your responses to example questions than talking through them. Also, research relevant interview questions online. Behavioral interviewing is popular right now (see tip above).
- Include a personalized cover letter.
Many people are not including cover letters with their applications these days. An easy way to stand out in the crowd is to write a well-thought-out cover letter.
- Do summer internships while in architecture school.
Gaining some experience at an architecture firm before you graduate is a leg up on finding an architect job. Firms love when candidates have already worked at a firm and will take less instruction on how to be productive in a work environment.
- Proceed with caution before using recruiters to find a job.
Sometimes it is tempting to use a recruiter to find a job in architecture. But, be very cautious when using them. Remember their incentive is to fill a position, they might not have your best interests in mind. Also the contract you sign with them may not guarantee a full-time job. Occasionally the positions they offer are for temporary positions which can be terminated at any point in time.
- Be willing to be flexible and take on tasks that are not your favorite areas of expertise.
Architecture firms rely on clients to support business and pay salaries. Since the business is a professional service a majority of the time, the work is mainly determined by client needs. In other words, the tasks required are not always high design and rewarding. Having a willingness to complete menial or annoying tasks is very beneficial for an architecture firm. Dropping your ego and rolling up the sleeves to get the job done will enlighten any future employer.
- Take on tough challenges.
People who take on tough challenges are highly valued at architecture firms. These people help create an enormous amount of value for clients. Architects are really hired to solve complex problems. If anyone could be an architect they would, but in-depth problem solving and creativity are what set architects apart from other professions and jobs.
- Be yourself.
Authenticity is important because your diverse ideas bring additional value to a team. If you are acting like someone else or not being true to yourself you won’t have the confidence to be successful in architecture.
- Apply to firms you are personally interested in, not just where your friends are applying or already work.
Just because your friends work somewhere or are applying somewhere doesn’t mean you need to. Working at the same firm as friends sometimes is not the best thing because your relationship might get competitive and unhealthy.
- Being an architect is a marathon, not a sprint.
Careers in architecture require a challenging education, intense licensing, long hours and high-stress situations. Therefore, keeping in mind the journey is a long one and it doesn’t all need to be accomplished overnight. Maintaining manageable levels of stress and building a strong personal life is critical to happiness in the profession.
- Position yourself to be an asset to a firm.
Make yourself invaluable by improving skills, increasing communication skills, being a leader, taking on tough tasks, etc.
- Patience is key.
It can be frustrating when it takes longer to get a job than you thought. People don’t call you back. Rejections pile up. The future can look gloomy. But, if you keep at it things will turn around for the better and there will be a success. Just keeping moving forward no matter what.
- Consistency and persistence will pay off in the long term.
Maintain confidence and stay the course, they will eventually lead to success. It is just a matter of time. Building a career takes years. Not giving up is one of the most important things to keep in mind.
You will need to negotiate your salary when you get further in the interview process. Read this blog post on architect salaries.