So after approaching and applying many of the well known firms in Toronto for an Intern Architect position, I wanted to share some of the lessons I have learned. I wish I had learned some of these lessons before I started applying, however I hope this advice will help my peers who are applying concurrently. Although the worst of the recession is over in Canada, some architecture firms are still struggling to recover. At the end of the day many firms are still affected by the lack of new loans for building projects, the lack of Federal infrastructure money, and other various factors. The AIA has actually indicated that the Architecture Billing Index has fallen below 50 which likely means that the industry will slow down even more. So people looking for a job must be strategic.
With all that said, I wanted to share any advice for us job seekers.
1. Decide what you want to do with your architecture degree and write down your goals and aspirations!
What are your short term goals, 5 year plan, and 10 year plan? Do you want to get registered? Do you want to be partner or own your own firm? What type of architecture do you want to do: civic, institutional, residential, commercial, retail, urban planning, art, or competitions? Be specific, this is your chance to tell everyone what really excites you about architecture and what your are driven to accomplish.
2. Re-focus your resume and cover letter to emphasize your goals and aspirations in a way that shows a specialization in architecture!
If you want to do competitions, what experiences, skills, and projects have you done to make you the perfect candidate? Include a professional development section that captures all the conferences, competitions, certifications, publications, reports, and other preparation for your specialization in architecture. If you have previous work experience, include a selected projects list of work completed. Write a short cover letter that includes a couple sentences in a separate paragraph that focuses on your specialization.
3. Research what type/size of firm wants your experience!
Don’t apply for just any firm, do some research and figure out what types of firms need your expertise and leverage those expertise to get a job. For example, if you have a previous interior design degree and have some experience in the field, then I would suggest that you go after firms who do not have interior designers on staff. Those particular firms likely want to add those skills to their practice however cannot afford to hire an interior designer. It really is a give and take relationship between the firm and a potential candidate and in the end, the firm gets your expertise and you get in the door to start work as an Intern Architect. One caveat with this strategy is that you are clear with your intentions that you want to become an Architect and wish not to be pigeon holed.
4. Network and build relationships before you ask for a job!
Talk to your friends in the industry that you wish to enter, make new friends, go out for drinks, go out for lunch, and build relationships with people. Creating an intimate relationship with persons of interest in the industry will lead to timely advice and help in approaching the firms you are interested in. People within the field can offer insight to who is hiring and possibly offer an introduction. Remember the Iceberg metaphor when it comes to careers, most jobs are not advertised and just under the surface. That means we must network and build relationships to find the unadvertised ones. Only after have you built a relationship of trust and mutual respect with friends, partners, and principals should you ask for a job. You want that person to feel completely comfortable with you. This could take months, however it is a rewarding educational experience. And remember your please and thank you’s after every meeting.
5. Apply for the job!
After you have identified partners of firms looking to hire your specialization and have their contact information in hand, go after that job with a strong cover letter and resume. Consider emailing a portfolio sample or link your portfolio from a website, blog, or FTP. Follow-up with a call within a week. Ask for an interview or drinks. Even if there are no job opportunities, maintain that contact for the next quarter and keep in touch. Sometimes it can take months to develop a relationship to a point where it becomes a career offer.