Posts Tagged ‘Success’

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.



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This is a draft paper on Success & Innovation in Professional Practice that I hope to have published in the near future. Love to hear your feedback on the paper!

Toward Success – Online Reader

Executive Summary

The architecture profession is constantly changing as the current political and economic uncertainty necessitate adaptability. Practitioners spend considerable resources and time to stay abreast on issues facing the profession and emerging strategies for success. As with many other professionals Architects strive to be successful, however it seems that practitioners, firms, and students are hard pressed to be completely satisfied as the architecture process is a continuous design dialogue. Creating a conceptual success model for architecture appears relevant to cope with the changing environment that Architects practice within and can assist in future career planning. An appropriate model could be based on the core values of leadership, innovation, sustainability / ethical design, and the firms relevance which is otherwise known in the business world as the bottom-line. These core values encompass many soft skills and are based on relevant literature on success theory that should be considered. These values provide varying levels of fulfilment, however to become truly successful requires a balance. Consistent with many other pursuits in life, balance for the profession is integral and the model advocates for a strong educational focus that meets these core values. To attain the success sweet spot in the model, education must avoid overemphasizing one aspect and strive to make well-rounded practitioners.

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I have begun to question the value laden term success after I watched John Wooden and Alain de Botton’s TED talks on the topic. Originally when I thought of success, I imagined heaps of money and recognition or social status and profit, the dictionary definition of the word. Success can’t just be about what you have but about what you have learned. We seem to idolize what is materialistic instead of  what is of value to our self. Both Wooden and de Botton identified ownership, values, and character as important aspects toward your own measure of success. We should be the authors of success and be the best we can be. I agree we must hold ourselves accountable, I should challenge myself and set goals that when are constantly adjusting to what is now a very turbulent and dynamic career environment.

I am writing a paper on success theory in professional practice and I wanted to develop categories of ‘success’ that Architects and Interns fall into. I feel now instead of categories I will have a lexicon of descriptors that certain practitioners will fit into. This lexicon is not value laden as it is sets a framework to understand success, innovation, and methods of career strategy which is an objective laid out with my supervisor.

My own self-discovery of my success values and goals lately has driven me towards the study of success in professional practice. Who I am and what I am looking for leads me to the second part of today’s post as it has been the support of strong mentors that makes me appreciate the practice of architecture. Leadership and developing strong mentorship networks provide support for a protege to enhance personal identity, role, and interpersonal competence. Suzanne C. de Janasz, Sherry E. Sullivan, Vicki Whiting, and Elaine Biech wrote an informative article about mentor networks and its value in career planning and success. Deemed from this article there are three competencies of knowing why, how, and whom that should be sought and developed by a strong mentor network. These competencies are pivotal in career researchers study of intelligent careers where knowledge and skills – the knowing how – are not enough and competency drive firms understand that in today’s turbulent and cyclical global marketplace employees change jobs often. It has become very important that firms find people that understand their beliefs – the knowing why – and have strong networks of mentors – knowing whom – to develop their skills from. With so much to learn a large diverse mentor network seems relevant in today’s practice to become successful and ones own identity – the knowing why again – helps to define what is success to them. It seems that we never stop learning and after I graduate from school and become an intern, my journey to success will be much more important to then the end. I will need strong mentors to develop the competencies I need to give as much as I take from a firm and my mentors.

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