“How to get a job in an architect’s office” is a topic that I’ve been meaning to cover for a long time here on Life of an Architect … I just never got around to doing so. I’ve worked the edges a little bit but never really addressed the topic head on … so today is the day that I am going to take care of it.
When I first graduated from architecture school – and for the next few jobs afterwards – I truly felt that all I needed to get a terrific job was a diploma from an awesome college (check) and a kick-ass portfolio (double check) and I could get a job anywhere I wanted. Luckily for me, I never really had to put those items to the test because the workplace was pretty good and finding a job was as easy as raising your hand and saying “Send the limo, I’ll take the position”. It seems impossible to imagine such a terrific employment scenario – especially when you consider just how dismal the last few years have been on architects. However, it would appear that we are on the road to recovery because everyone is hiring again.
Including Malone Maxwell Borson Architects (that’s me by the way).
So now that I am in a different position (and responsible for hiring the people who we will add to the staff) what are the things I look for in a new employee? While it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a diploma from an awesome college and a kick-ass portfolio, those aren’t the things that leave me excited to hire an individual. What I look for now is how smart you are.
Sure, the college you attended and the quality of your portfolio might help me ascertain those qualities but I’ll only spend 3 seconds thinking about where you went to school and only slightly more time than that looking at your portfolio (re: Architectural Portfolio’s and their True Purpose). What I am truly interested in is hearing you talk, seeing how you carry yourself, and observing the extent of how you problem solved the process of coming in for an interview at my office.
As I have “seasoned” I have come to believe that the true measure of someone’s potential and capabilities can be measured better through having a chat rather than looking at their portfolio or checking out the quality of their wardrobe. In my mind, I will be asking you to do things that you haven’t done before and I’m not going to find what you haven’t done by looking through your work. So how do I determine someone’s potential? When I ask you questions like; “Why would you want to work here?” or “What are your expectations for this job?” and “What are your professional goals?” I am going to learn plenty. I’ll be looking at your body language, looking for your sense of humor (always a plus) and asking about your hobbies. I wrote it before and I still stand behind it – I would rather hear that you are becoming fluent in Klingon and like to restore classic cars then have you tell me that you “don’t really have any hobbies”.
I mentioned at the beginning that we are currently looking to add to our staff – but before you think you want to work here and start dusting off your resume, I need to put some parameters on this. 5 of the 6 people who currently work here are licensed so we need an infusion of youth … 4 years experience or less please. Also, I’m not uprooting anybody at this point so if you’re not in the Dallas area, check in with me next year. Other than that, here is a copy of what I tell people about working in my office – let me know if you think this is a place where you would like to work.
We are currently looking to add to our staff someone who has got a little something going on. We made it through summer due to the amazing abilities of our summer interns, but at this point we are finding ourselves in the very best of problems – a lot of work. As much as I like to go to work and design cool stuff, we try to set a corporate culture around the office that people don’t have to give up everything in order to be an architect. I rather like it when our employees have outside interests because it shapes them into more rounded individuals. I strongly believe that the creative process of design, and practicing architecture, demands your knowledge and understanding of what it means to be a complete and fully functioning member of society.
Our projects are a fairly even mix of residential, light commercial, and corporate architectural interiors so the chances of you becoming bored are remote. Most of where my time is spent is on the residential and light commercial side – although, I tend to work a bit on everything since part of my job involves making sure people understand gravity and that water (and other fluids) run downhill.
Everyone is licensed except for 1 individual and even they are currently taking the exam. There are good motivational reasons to get your license and we make it a big deal. We don’t bill our clients based on percentage of construction cost; we bill hourly since we sell time and experience. That means we charge accordingly for licensed individuals than non-licensed individuals, and our employees salary generally reflect their billing value. We have full insurance benefits, savings plan with matching employer contributions; and we have historically given a Christmas bonus every year that we have been in business. Even in the crap years.
Our employees typically get slightly more responsibility than they can handle; which creates a pretty invigorating and exciting atmosphere. We also tend to have our employees avoid working any overtime. Michael and I both have families (we are the only ones currently who do) and we want our evenings free for attending soccer games and swim meets. This lack of overtime doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do, we don’t crack the whip here but we tend to set work delivery schedules on realistic paths.
We are also on permanent summer hours here at MMB Architects which means we work 9 hour days Monday through Thursday, then leave at noon on Friday’s (unless you have client meetings … and it seems that I always have client meetings). I tend to come into the office early (7:00am) and leave at 6:00pm so I can get home and spend time with my family whereas the single kids come in later and stay later … apparently they go to raves and drink beer afterwards.
We cover all AIA fees and dues, we pay for you to attend 1 conference a year (Texas Society of Architects Convention, the Texas Society of Architects Design Conference, or the National AIA convention). This includes registration, tours, travel and lodging. Once you become licensed you can attend any two of these events at our expense. You get time off from work to attend, this is not a “use your vacation” arrangement – nor do we expect you to make up your time.
This is a great place to work and for someone who is smart and self-motivated – you will get to do just about anything you want – and you won’t be trapped in the office all the time behind your computer.
We pay well but we consider all these other benefits part of the compensation package here – that along with the fact that this is a pleasant place to spend your days. We just moved into our new offices so the office is also physically nice and doesn’t smell like deadlines and take-out food (yet).
Not bad right? Think this would be a good place to work? I hope so because we are looking for just the right person to join our merry band.
I’ve also included some links below that are “How to get a job in an architect’s office” related. They are good for anyone to read but if you’re planning on sending me your resume, you had better read them.
Because there will be a test and I’ll know … and part of that test is figuring out for yourself where to send those resumes and who to address them to …
Winning Interview Tips for Architects – tips and techniques that I think can make the difference between receiving an offer and someone offering to “keep your resume on file should anything come up”
Writing Your Resumé – this is the “what not to do’s” and the other nuances within resumes – the information you can plant between the lines to tell the reader something extra about you.
Big or Small: What’s the Right Sized Firm for You? – While there were clear and obvious benefits to be found at firms both large and small, determining which size firm is right for you is not as easy – or apparent – as you might think.
Good luck out there …