Congrats to all recent School of Architecture graduates! Finding a job, especially one right after you get out of school, is not always as easy as you might have hoped. Despite now being happily employed as a Designer at K4, I initially struggled with the transition from being a student of architecture to beginning a career in architecture. I graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2009 and when I found the job search a little more challenging than expected, I decided to pick up and move to Boston. If I can’t design buildings and cities – I might as well explore a new one! The following are a few tips I learned while unemployed and trying to navigate the professional realm of architecture.
Network, network, network – we’ve all heard it before and for good reason! Find alumni groups, AIA chapters for your city, young architect groups, and seek out continuing education. Put yourself out there and you will find satisfaction in actually doing something to keep up with the architecture world (and have something to talk about during all those informational interviews you’re going on). I was shocked at how many strangers agreed to meet with me through the Notre Dame Alumni network. The architecture community is small (which many of those looking for jobs may find frustrating) but in terms of the ability to relate to one another and have the desire to keep the profession alive, it can work to your advantage. Once you have studied architecture you can never escape it. You will find it impossible to walk down a street without noticing details of the buildings around you and resisting the urge to snap a few photos. Before long you’ll find yourself in any number of social settings… talking about architecture.
Take some art or cooking classes, join a running club, or go to a museum. Inspiration for a designer is everywhere. Don’t shy away from the design world – experience it!
As architects, we listen to the needs and desires of a community or client and make those goals and visions a physical reality. What better way to immerse yourself in a culture, than by volunteering in the neighborhoods you live, and strive to work in? The AIA Code of Ethics E.S 1.3 states, “Members should respect and help conserve their natural cultural heritage while striving to improve the environment and quality of life within it.” Being an architect is about understanding people, cultivating relationships, and improving the world however big or small they live in. Find what you’re passionate about and volunteer. Habitat for Humanity is an excellent way to gain hands on construction experience while making a positive difference in a stranger’s life. You may even find yourself climbing seemingly unstable scaffolding to nail shingles to the roof of a two story townhouse. Challenge yourself and help people in the process. Not only are you giving back to your community, but you’ll feel good doing it.
This was probably the toughest challenge for me and I’d say I’m somewhat of an optimist. After studying and striving toward my goal for 5 years, my path was pretty clear. I would work at an architecture firm upon graduation. When that didn’t happen, I felt very lost and defeated. What does an architecture degree give me outside of actually becoming an architect? Architects, by nature, have the skills to adapt. With each new project comes new challenges such as site restrictions, a limited budget, a stubborn client, a strict building department, etc. We are trained to confront these challenges and find solutions. Creative problem-solving is our strength. Make time to critique your own personal challenges, and you may just discover a personal strength, rediscover a passion, or be inspired to try something new.
For all you recent architecture grads and unemployed architects, there is a job in architecture out there for you. Get involved in your architectural community as well as your own neighborhood. Keep your head up. Take your unemployment as an opportunity to explore and take on new challenges. Maybe you can even start that band you’ve always dreamed of. (Sorry, The Unemployed Architects is already taken….)