5 Tips For Starting Your Architecture Job Applications

Sara Mandeed
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Do you want to stay in your current city?

If you want to stay in your current city, looking at jobs within your city is probably your best bet. Many firms and businesses may not even advertise their job openings on a national scale.

For example, if you have a great job opportunity in Pittsburgh, but the only openings are in Washington, DC, you should keep your options open.

However, if you aren’t really sold on your current city and are more interested in moving to a new city, you can take a national approach to your architecture job search.

Decide what you want to do.

Decide where you want to be.

Decide what kind of job you want.

What type of firms and/or projects are you looking to work for/on?

You should have a pretty good idea about the type of firms or projects you’d like to work on. Is there any big name architect you want to work for? Do you want to estimate projects, design houses, or run a firm? Are you more interested in working on civil engineering or green building?

Just because a firm claims to do a certain type of work, doesn’t mean that’s all they’re doing. I’ve worked on a variety of civil, commercial, and residential projects, but on paper, I was the lead estimator for a civil engineering project. While this is behind the scenes work that most people wouldn’t realize I was doing, it’s what I was hired to do. So interview for the role that you’re most interested in, not just the title.

If you’re not sure what type of work you’re looking for, contact your school’s career services department or speak with someone who you trust about how to best choose a firm.

For approximately six or so projects you spent the most time on and/or had the biggest impact, list following:

The domain of the project (what it addresses e.g. finance, scheduling, HR)

What is your "highlight reel"?

When creating a highlight reel, choose projects that are relevant to the type of architecture job you want. Be sure to edit each project to highlight those aspects of the project that are most impressive. For example, for an interview with a retail designer, choose only the best retail projects, and then take a second pass to really polish the project.

Create an Employer Package

Once you’ve created your highlight reel, resume, and portfolio, create an employer package. An employer package is a physical, printed collection of your resume and your portfolio. This helps you stand out from other applicants and gives you an edge over the competition.

Your scorecard might be more important than you think ….

Your scorecard is an important document to remember when you first start working as an architect. The scorecard is a point system that every architect uses in the beginning of their architecture career to tackle projects and the way they get paid.

Some are strict while others are more lax. Either way, your scorecard will be an instrumental tool for making sure that you are making enough to live while you gain experience. (And if you want to know how to calculate the cost of architecture services, this post will help you with that.)

Building a portfolio is key.

Examples might include:

A. If you are applying for a any design, production, marketing, production engineer position you might mention a few technology stacks.

B. If you are a web developer you may want to use Docker or AWS serverless function. If you are entering a video game development entry level position, you might use Unity or asset store to show you have a good grasp of 3d modeling.

C. This is a list of technologies that I use as of spring 2018. It is in no way comprehensive:

  • Docker for local development
  • AWS for production architecture
  • Microsoft SQL Server for Postgres as a fully managed service
  • MS AAD as a single sign on mechanism to connect to Active Directory
  • Heroku for Microservices
  • GitHub + Travis
  • Unity game engine
  • SourceSafe
  • MySQL for SQL Server
  • Oracle
  • C++

Shader Model 3.0

Why do you want to leave your current job?

Whether you’re leaving a company, a position at a company, or a previous company entirely, it’s essential for employers to know why you’re making this move.

After all, someone with a history of job hopping could be thought of as a less-than-ideal candidate.

Do Your Research

Before you leave, try to think of reasons why you’re leaving your current job.

For example, if you receive a lower salary at your current job, it might mean higher education.

This could mean your architecture practice could help balance how much money you’re making with the education you’re receiving, and you’ll likely be getting into a field where you’re earning more money.

If you leave your current job because you’re not getting anywhere at your current company, then you’ll likely have a better chance of moving up the architecture career ladder.

But if you leave because of a conflict with a supervisor, company policy, or a pay increase, it serves you to be careful with how you explain it. Avoid being confrontational.

WHY DO YOU REALLY NOT LIKE YOUR JOB?

Are you really passionate about your job? Do you love what you do? If you are just going through the motions of your career, you are likely unhappy.

The key to a fulfilling career is finding a job that you love. In this case, you want your job to be chosen for you, not the other way around.

I understand that you have bills and responsibilities to take care of. You may have friends and family that depend on you. But I also know that I can make that happen for myself. You are not your job. Make it work.

There are several interesting and fun ways to find volunteer opportunities. Whether you enjoy working with kids, building houses, or working with animals, you can find a job that suits you.

To find a job that you love, first you need to define what you are looking for. Next, you need to be creative about how you find your job. Try something new. Start experimenting with volunteering. It won't cost you anything and will help you find a passion.

If you continue to feel restless, look deeper. You may be trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Maybe you need to change careers. If you aren't satisfied with your job, you should be concerned. Any job that leaves you unfulfilled can affect your mental, physical, and psychological well-being.

You need to do something about your outlook at work. Work is work.

So for example:

Reasons to leave my current architecture job:

Some reasons to consider leaving my current architecture job and start looking for a new one are:

  • The design work is narrow and repetitive
  • The office neglects or actively suppresses innovation
  • The expectations are high and the compensation low
  • The workplace is toxic
  • The architecture jobs available are unappealing
  • The architecture work lacks sufficient technical training
  • The firm or the department in which I work is unstable
  • The projects are not worthy of my attention
  • The architectural work is highly political

This is a preview of how I can come up with some back-up reasons on why I want to leave my current architecture job.

I can even come up with additional reasons that fit my personal circumstance.

What I want in a new architecture job:

Deciding to start your architecture job applications doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With some guidance, it can be a fun, exciting, and rewarding experience.

One of the most important aspects is setting reasonable and achievable goals. This would help you stay on track throughout the application process, especially if you’re applying for multiple positions.

Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your architecture job applications.

What I want in a new architecture job (order of preference):

A few years ago I posted a friend req at Facebook when I was looking for a new challenge. At first I interviewed for a position at Facebook. Later the project pivoted to Twitter.

I’ve always been curious if there was anything in common between the responsibilities of the job req at both companies. I had the answer: none.

So there you have it: when you’re looking for a job, keep in mind that it’s unlikely a company will have exactly what you want.

Try to seek multiple job offers and consider the counter-offers, too. Or you may consider doing a skill swap: if you’re also a web developer (this is a different position than Software Developer though), you can try to negotiate with a company if you’re willing to do for them what they’re doing for you.

The idea is that both you and the company will benefit from this. They will get a new employee with the expertise they’re looking for (your new expertise) and you will get a new job with a specific skill that fits you.

Do you have a timeline for finding a new job?

Are you apprehensive about starting the process? Is finding a job in the architecture field something you have been putting off for a while?

If so, don’t worry, I have been exactly where you are and know exactly how you feel.

Granted, there are architects who have always known that they wanted to be architects, but for most of us it’s a path we stumble upon in college. For the majority of us, college was where we chose our major based on our passions at the time. And as a result, we don’t join the ranks of architecture school hopefuls until later in life.

Whatever your reason, I get the feeling that you are not feeling enthusiastic about the process. And that’s ok. Because here are 5 tips to help you through the architectural job search.

Take baby steps

The first piece of advice that I’d like to give you is this: Whatever you do, start the process. Here are the tips that are going to help you be as successful as possible in your architecture job search, there is no better time to start than now.

Build a solid resume

"When can you start?"

It seems like the question everyone dreads.

At the end of an interview they’re so eager to know I can start as soon as possible.

If I’m calling someone and they ask me when I can start I know the end of the interview is not far off.

I’m here to tell you it is ok to ask for a little time to think things through.

Now before I get into that, I want to highlight why I was stretched to my limits and struggled to deciding what to do with my life.

My father reminds me that I grew up in an environment where he was fighting the unemployment rate. That my father worked for over thirty years in a town that had been devastated by the collapse of the coal industry.

For my parents they worked to get me to the place where I would have a good life. The place where all the sacrifices they made would have some sort of payoff.

When I graduated college I knew I wanted to be an architect. I wanted to work in Boston. I knew that I was a risk taker and sometimes I would make a decision and it might go against advice.

Get started!

If you’re sticking to a reasonable number, say 5-20, and using a good word file this should not be particularly time consuming.

If you’re using Microsoft Word for instance you can keep the word count for each individual resume to around 4 to 5 pages.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how long it takes.

The key is to work hard and keep your momentum.