With graduation on the horizon at architecture schools across the country, we took to the studio floor with one question: What’s the most valuable advice you can pass along to incoming architecture grads? Our young staff was quick to offer up recent lessons learned, and mentors around the office shared the advice they valued most and tips they’ve gathered from watching architects develop.
The enthusiasm with which our team wanted to get these messages out reminds us exactly where to start: Welcome! Welcome to a small community and a big industry. Welcome to an atmosphere of collegial competition and excitement because ultimately we all want the same thing: to do great work and help shape the world around us.
“Fake it ‘til you make it” is good advice for some interactions, but not when it comes to the technical details. The first years of an architectural career are just as rife with learning as our years in school, and now every lesson is a practical one.
Your team expects you to be learning on the job, so ask good questions. Do your best to soak up the answers and learn for the future; before you know it, you’ll be providing answers for future staff.
Architecture at all levels is rarely a typical “9 to 5.” From software tricks to code nuances, there will be times that you must do the research and understand the details. When a discussion touches on concepts you don’t already know about, take time after a meeting to look it up and first tackle the parts you understand. If you can demonstrate that you’ve already put in some time and you don’t expect the hard work to be done for you, your peers and managers will be eager to help fill in the gaps.
Every person you meet in our profession represents an opportunity–to learn something, to win new work, to advance your personal goals, or simply make a friend in the business.
The people you meet in school and the early years on the job will turn up throughout your career. Especially if you remain in the same city, expect to see your classmates and practicing professors become colleagues, clients, consultants, and even business partners.
Architecture is a craft with a long apprenticeship, but you’ll find opportunities for growth at every turn. Many intricate details go into good designs and buildings, and some will feel tedious or time-consuming. Don’t get discouraged. It pays off to become really efficient at the things you find most undesirable, this way you can move through that portion of the work the quickest and on to the parts you enjoy more.
Purity of design is a worthy pursuit, but it frequently ranks lower on a client’s priority list. Many factors play into a great building coming to life, and our job as architects is to bring all of them into balance.
Don’t get too attached to any one design solution. Be willing to take advice and grow. There are a lot of unexpected opportunities that come out of unanticipated revisions. An unconsidered option or a better direction may be right around the corner.
Ultimately, architecture is the business of problem-solving. Successful projects are the result of best practices; strong client relationships come from trust and experience; and respected expertise is accumulated from every project we take on whether large or small.
Especially early in your career, see what you can do to get exposure to a diverse range of projects early on. They’ll have different team dynamics and roles that are required and may fit your strengths or goals differently.
Some of your best experience will come from things you knew little about at first but approached head-on. Other lessons hide within topics that may not appear to relate directly to your task at hand. Be open to influences and consume as much information as you can.
Going to work every day in pursuit of something you enjoy and are passionate about makes all the difference in your career. Make sure you actively involve yourself in the things you like to do as much as possible. Sometimes it’s easy to get sidetracked from your goals.
Architecture firms can be fun, quirky, stimulating, enriching places to work. When you find the right studio environment for you, you’ll know it.
Let us know how we can support you. We keep our Careers Page up to date with open positions and we do our best to make time for mentorship. You can reach us at Communications@FitzGeraldAssociates.net.