We recently hired on a junior architect here at BUILD, which takes our bustling little design-build firm from 4 people to a whopping 5. Despite the dozens of resumes we receive each week, we hire on very rarely. Subsequently, it got us thinking about what really makes the difference between all the resumes that get filed away and the candidate that lands the job. If you follow the BUILDblog, you know that we’re big on transparency and communication; so we’ve done our best to elaborate on 5 key observations and recommendations for the work-hungry recent architecture graduates out there. Take it with a grain of salt; this isn’t the politically correct version -this is the down in the trenches, get ‘er done version. This is the hack-the-system and actually get a job version. This is the version for individuals who are tired of waiting around for professional experience and are ready to go to work. Here goes:
1. THE BASICS ARE ONLY THE BASICS. As a candidate for employment, you absolutely have to have a clean, concise resume and an online portfolio of your work. These items don’t separate you from anyone else -they are the givens, the fundamentals. And while the quality of your resume and portfolio matter, they are not enough on their own (refer to items 2-5). Stop thinking that once you’ve got a cover letter, a resume and a portfolio that your phone should be ringing off the hook.
TIP: Clever candidates carry around a business card with their contact information and a link to their online resume & online portfolio. When they see a potential employer at an event or a coffee shop they can promote themselves easily and quickly. Smart.
2. USE YOUR PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS. We’re constantly amazed at how often the same approach is used by candidates. The traditional formula of sending a cover letter and a resume may work in a busy economy but, in case you haven’t noticed, this is the most challenging economy of our lifetimes; there are dozens of well qualified candidates for every available position in the architecture profession right now.
TIP: You’ve been trained in problem solving by that awesome school that you got your distinguished architecture degree from. You already know how to tackle the challenging economy out there; it’s simply a different problem to apply those same skills to. When you were given a design problem back in studio, did you look over at your neighbor and copy what they were doing? No, you used your problem solving skills to come up with your own unique solution. This is no different. Using the same formula as every other candidate out there right now is like building a spec home and expecting a bidding war of home buyers. You’re an architect in training, you’re creative –stop building spec homes and put those problem solving skills to use.
3. BE SOCIAL. We would all like to believe that if we work hard enough and long enough and produce beautiful work, that our talents will be sought out by the powers that be. This is not the way the world works (at least not for us). Architecture is just as much about communication, social skills, and networking as being a good designer.
TIP: Use everything you’ve got. Meet up with that old designer buddy of your fathers; they probably see 10 opportunities that you don’t. Get personally involved with a design tribe, be it an architecture blog, a regional journal like Arcade, or a non-profit like Habitat for Humanity. Be curious, be part of the discussion, matter. Who you are and how you are actually matter more to a potential employer than what is on your resume. Are you an excellent problem solver, do you have a silver tongue, did you take the time and effort to make it to the lecture? The things that don’t appear on a resume are what give you an edge. We keep track of the individuals that keep popping up on the radar -most architects do.
4. SHOW UP. Employers like to hire individuals that are “in the game,” individuals who employ actions instead of excuses. Showing up on time to an event with a go-get-‘em attitude is profoundly more memorable than a stack of resumes.
TIP: Keep tabs on the firms that you’re most serious about. They likely give lectures, attend architecture & community events and get coffee at the same place every day. Use social media to track the events they’re involved with and get them on your calendar. Here at BUILD we routinely post our upcoming events on the BUILDblog and twitter. Wasn’t it Woody Allen who said that “Showing up is eighty percent of life.” And he’s a schmuck – you can certainly show more enthusiasm than Woody friggin Allen.
5. FACE TIME. Getting yourself in front of a potential employer is imperative. A face and a personality to go along with that resume and portfolio do wonders for your chances of getting hired. Getting in front of a potential employer isn’t superfluous to the application process and it certainly doesn’t happen because of luck; it’s necessary and requires strategy.
TIP: Most potential employers don’t have the time or inclination to individually meet with everyone that sends in a resume. Be strategic and show up to key events (refer to #4) and introduce yourself to potential employers. We recently gave a lecture with Gordon Walker downtown, and out of all the young architects in Seattle slinging their resumes around, only one individual took the initiative to introduce himself after the lecture. Smart. He had a card with his contact info and links to his online resume and portfolio. Smart. He now works at BUILD LLC.
That’s our two cents. Take it, think about it, or leave it on the table.
Cheers from team BUILD