Job Hunting in the Architecture Industry

How Does it Differ from Applying to Other Jobs?

Beyond the expected ‘cover letter’ and ‘CV’ that most job applications expect from applicants, those who fall under the creative jobs category are likely to be requested a brief portfolio at both the application and interview stages. This stems from the subjective nature of the field and the career’s focus on practical skills, which are hard to get a grasp of from just a cover letter and CV alone.

Your portfolio should aim to display a variation of design and practical skills that will come in use in the workplace, if you were to get the job. Reason being, many architecture graduates will find themselves creating variations of their portfolio catered to different workplaces, as every office will have a different ethos.

For example,

A small office with 90% residential projects on its website would much rather see a portfolio demonstrating work of similar interest instead of for example hospitality projects. On the other hand, a medium-sized office that dedicates most of its time to commercial builds would rather see work that aligns with its existing typology as it is likely that the projects you’ll be working on, as a future employee, will be similar.

This isn’t to say that the above will be the case every time however, it’s simple to understand the reason behind showing similar projects in your portfolio to what you see on their website. You set a level of familiarity with the employer without being next to them and can later on elaborate further during the interview stage as to why you are fit for the role.

Where Do You Begin?

As fresh graduates, straight out of university with little to no prior experience in a long-term architectural role, your first set of applications will be very daunting. This is very normal, so remember to give yourself some credit because you’ve come a long way to get to this point in the first place.

As mentioned at the start of this post, you’ll need to prepare a CV and Cover Letter for each practice you intend on applying to with several portfolios, each tailored to a specific practice. Obviously, this suggests knowing where you will be applying to. Before jumping onto some practice websites, we would advise you to question what type of designer you are; what are your strengths and weaknesses, what areas are in need of improvement, what do you enjoy working on or dislike, and would like to discover more about? Questions similar to these will help set parameters for when you are looking at a workplace and help eliminate options which do not fall under your criteria. Additionally, they can help prepare you with a list of questions to ask your interviewer later on. When you start to gather a list of practices that are of interest and align well with your values, check their vacancy/careers pages and note down all of their contact details to avoid having to go back and forth later on when sending out applications emails.Trust us, it’s much easier to have all the information set on a single page than flicking through a thousand tabs on your laptop screen!

Now, research their most recent projects to get a good grasp of what type of work is currently active in the office, especially those in the planning stage as it’s likely that they’ll come up in conversation at present in the office. Cater your portfolio to your findings and maybe even go to the extent of using some keywords from their website/project descriptions to covertly mention the similarities between your design intentions and their existing work. It takes one employer to realise what you’re doing to stick out from the rest. Similar to your portfolio, adapt your various cover letters to show that you have done your research and are aware of how well you would fit into the existing office structure and what new things you can bring to the table. For bonus points, mention how you have achieved this previously and the recognition you received for it. A little background research can go a long way when it comes to job applications.

If you would like further advice on both portfolios and CVs, read the linked blog posts that cover in thorough detail what to include and general setting out principles.

Ask for Advice from the People Around You

You may be nervous about the material you have produced, which again is normal, so why not approach a friend, family member or tutor to overlook your work before you send it off. If this is not an option for you, set some time aside to be self-critical and make some notes on what works and what could be better and see if you have any ways of improving what you currently have. Whether this is rearranging the format of a page, rewording some descriptions or something else, these will be your final adjustments that’ll put your mind at peace before sending off the application.

We are aware that not everyone has someone they can turn to for help which is why we have created this amazing architecture community that supports each other in times of need. To tackle this issue for those of you who find themselves in this situation, as Part 1 Architectural Assistants, we can review your portfolio and provide a mark-up on how to improve the layout, font choices, content hierarchy, and many more specific details which you can book as a Portfolio Mark-Up from our website. We can assure you that you will receive a marked-up PDF of your portfolio containing feedback within 2-3 business days and voila, you have a portfolio which has been reviewed by another professional :) 

Make Use of Job Vacancy Websites

For those of you who have been around for a while, you will know how much we advocate for new graduates to get on websites specifically aimed at the architecture field. Enable any notifications options they may have or sign up to their newsletters as most will send frequent updates on new vacancies which tick off any filters you have specified.

Some of these include Dezeen Jobs, LinkedIn Jobs, Architectural Journal Jobs, and many more which you can see in our short and snappy content on Instagram. Be sure to drop us a follow on there too so you get access to all of our content, including those specific to cover letters, CVs, portfolios and job-hunting. However, do not be limited to the publicised vacancies online. We still recommend job-hunters to apply to places regardless of any vacancies available as some may have not updated their websites, they may find your application interesting enough to consider hiring you or they are searching for individuals amongst their network first before advertising publicly.

Attend Office Networking Events

Similar to the job vacancy websites, you should immerse yourself in networking events to meet potential employees, especially those held at architecture offices. I (Sude) have been recently delving into some of these events in the past couple months and received some amazing advice from senior architects about job applications. Some also offer a portfolio & CV review which has been extremely helpful considering I no longer have a tutor to resort to for help. The additional comments have given me more strength to confidently apply to more places with my new tweaks in the hopes for more interview invites.

We highly recommend bringing a copy of your CV, cover letter and portfolio to these events regardless if they have mentioned any tutorial services being offered as there’s no harm in asking for a senior architect for 15 minutes of their time to make some comments on anything you are unsure of but only if you see it as appropriate depending on the event format.

A ton of these are advertised on Instagram pages of the corresponding practice and/or Eventbrite which is where I find most of mine.

Rejection is Common, Don’t Give Up

Let’s face it, it’s extremely upsetting and demotivating when you receive the email starting with the word ‘Unfortunately…’ and it’ll inevitably happen at some point. What people end up falling into is a trap convincing themselves that they didn’t get the offer because of something from their side when in reality it could be something as simple as the practice realising the type of designer you are won’t grow in their workplace which in that case they are saving you from a miserable time. There are many other countless reasons that a workplace will reject an application and applicants need to realise sometimes the reason has got nothing to do with your work, skills or you in general. It might even be an in-house issue.

At the end of the day, don’t give up and utilise the experience and continue applying elsewhere. If you’re lucky, you can request for some feedback in response to the ‘unfortunately’ email and see if the workplace is willing to provide some brief feedback on how you could improve. Another insider information is that most workplaces will keep your records in their system for the next 3 months just in case a suitable vacancy is available giving you another reason to not lose hope.

The intention behind this week’s blog post was to say for the ones submitting a final good luck and for those of you who have submitted a well done and a pat on the back! Congratulations on reaching the end of your degree or academic year and bring on the summer break. If you’re graduating, look forward to your graduation and celebrate well because you deserve it.

To you eager individuals, we hope this post brought some clarity to the job-hunting period and also some ease during the forthcoming months. Like always we are always open to helping you all out so make sure to stay active with us over on our Instagram. We are now going through another cycle of job hunting inline with my MArch plans for the new academic year which you can learn more about through our daily updates over on our Instagram stories.


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