Beginning Your Career in Architecture: 3 Candid Pieces of Advice for Emerging Professionals


The offices of BIG. Image Courtesy of BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group

The offices of BIG. Image Courtesy of BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group

Last year Kevin J Singh, an Associate Professor of Architecture in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech University, adapted one of his lectures giving advice to students as they embark upon a new career into an article. That article, titled “21 Rules for a Successful Life in Architecture” and published on ArchDaily in September 2014, was a runaway success, becoming our second most-read post of 2014 and among our most visited articles of all time.

As a result of his article’s success, this year Singh has taken his 21 rules as a framework for a new ebook, “Beginning Your Career in Architecture: Candid Advice for Emerging Professionals.” The ebook not only elaborates on the 21 rules from the original article, but also offers questions to the reader that lead to actionable goals, giving them the nudge they need to start out on the right track. In the following excerpts from the book, Singh addresses voicing your opinions, finding – or rather creating – the role that suits your skills, and making the world a better place.


Courtesy of Kevin J Singh

Courtesy of Kevin J Singh

Voice Your Opinions

  • The best ideas are never incorporated into projects unless they are heard, presented, and defended.
  • Many processes in firms and details on projects can be improved if you simply point out a better solution to decision makers.
  • An improvement is always appreciated by principals and clients.

Speak up! As an emerging professional recently thrown into the mix of seasoned veterans in the field, it is hard to find your voice and share your opinions. For the first couple of years, it will seem like you should already know the answer to the questions you ask. Everyone was once in your shoes and continuing to ask questions will propel your knowledge and skills forward. You don’t want to be annoying however. Don’t ask a question every time something little comes up. Write it down, and when you have three or four questions on your list – then ask them. Being mindful of your supervisor and project team members’ time will maintain good rapport.

There will be times when you have an “aha” moment! Share these liberally. Why doesn’t the firm organize their libraries of components this way? Why don’t we use this more cost-effective product on the project to keep the finishes within budget? These questions will not only make you a better member of the project team and firm, but it will make the team/firm know you are really pushing to be a valuable and contributing member. You might create another role for yourself in the firm (i.e. organizing Revit family components), but this is exactly where you want to be – contributing valuable ideas and cultivating a unique role in the firm.

Questions:

  1. Are you able to voice your opinions? Who can you talk with to share your thoughts and ideas?
  2. Are you being mindful of your team members’ time when it comes to asking questions?
  3. Have all your “big ideas” about your current project and firm operations been voiced to the appropriate people?

21 Rules for a Successful Life in Architecture

The original article: Kevin J Singh gives his 21-point rundown of how to have a successful and happy life as an architect.

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You Must Design Your Career and Postition

  • All of us are Unique = Unique jobs/positions
  • Continually reflect on your experiences to determine what you really want to do.
  • Make career decisions to attain this position.

It is so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day activities and not reflect on where you are headed. Set aside a couple times a year to plan out your career objectives and process toward these goals. The New Year and your birthday might be a good time for reflection if they aren’t too close together on the calendar.

Seek out mentors that are doing what you want to do. What good advice do they have for you? Remember that ultimately it is the development of your skills that will enable you to fulfill your goals. These aren’t all “hard skills” like detailing and project management. “Soft skills” like relationship building will help bring in work and develop your network. Continue to work on both types of skills. Always see yourself as a unique individual with marketable skills and a personality. What is the dream job for you? Make a plan and go after it.

Questions:

  1. What are the best times of the year to take time for job/career reflection?
  2. Do my mentors hold positions that I seek in the future? Do I need to seek out another mentor?
  3. Which “hard skills” and “soft skills” do I need to develop?
  4. Describe your dream position here.
  5. What steps will help you attain this position?

"Fix Something" - Za'atari Refugee Camp, Jordan. Image Courtesy of Pilosio Building Peace

"Fix Something" – Za'atari Refugee Camp, Jordan. Image Courtesy of Pilosio Building Peace

Fix Something

  • The world is full of problems.
  • Choose one or two things, and fix them.

I’m not talking about fixing the dripping faucet in your apartment/house. The education of an architect forces the student to confront problems from numerous perspectives and options in the design studio. You learn pretty quickly that your first instinct/solution is not likely to be the best way to proceed. Architects can address problems beyond the scope of the built environment and many choose to take alternative career paths. Imagine how different the world would be if more people experienced the first year of architecture or design school. This year is typically known as “Introduction to Design,” but I like to refer to it as “learning how to think.” When I started architecture school, my whole thinking process began to open up. It is this sense of wonder and creativity that can make the world a better place. Seek out a problem, think like an architect, and help solve it.

Questions:

  1. What small problems do you want to address in your community?
  2. What cause or big problem are you passionate about and want to support or tackle?
  3. What are other ways you can use your skills as an architect to make meaningful change in the world around you?

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