Tips To Consider During Your Architectural Career

15 May

Use Your Intern Hours Wisely.

The first recommendation comes from those that look back on their many hours working as an intern: make the most of this time.  Acquiring as broad a range of experiences as possible will help you establish yourself earlier in your career.  Make sure that you have a passion for architecture, as this does make a difference in being able to succeed while enjoying every day at the office.

Volunteer your services where you can; visit the ADNZ website to learn about the different ways you can earn experience hours while working for different architectural practices.  Opening doors now will pay dividends later in the form of increased career opportunities. 

Take advantage of networking from the start to widen your professional network and develop key relationships with other professionals in the architectural sector.

Here is a good place to start if you don't already have a profile on LinkedIn.

Find A Mentor to Learn Key Skills From.

Seek out and appreciate mentoring opportunities throughout your career no matter how well you think you know what you are doing.

Mentors can help teach you things about the architectural design and construction sector you’ll never learn in school.  Professionals love to help and give back to the community. They have traveled a similar road to get where they are today.

Mentors and other significant role models can help you identify which areas of the architectural practice you may be stronger at and where you need to further develop your skills.

They can also lead to significant business relationships that could further your career. 

Don’t forget to return the favor when the time comes to pass on your skills and insight to the next generation of architects.

Build A House.

You say what? Really?


Your studies should prepare you to work with construction companies and gain valuable knowledge to be used in your career.

But in reality, there’s nothing like getting hands-on experience under the leadership of an experienced contractor to learn first-hand about construction details in real-world situations.  It is so much easier to get into the detailing when you know how things are put together on site.

You may discover that you have a keen interest in residential design – if so, establishing a relationship with the builder early on in your career can be very advantageous.

If you are keen to learn more before you work with a contractor, why not help by volunteering to assist in a tiny house build or a friend's new home? Youtube can also assist in areas you may need to develop. Have a look here at Ana White Tiny House Construction.

Design And Build Furniture.

For many successful architects, designing furniture is a sideline project they love to do.

Long before you receive your first design project, you’ll be able to create furniture designs for your portfolio – with your name on it – that can give you a competitive advantage in promoting your design skills and encourage you along the way.

If you’ve created a unique design for a workbench, desk, office system, storage unit, you can hire a company to produce a one-off copy, a limited production run, or even a full-production run.

Furniture you’ve designed and used on a client project can help establish yourself as an up-and-coming designer – a big step toward creating your architectural practice.

Develop Drawing Skills, Not Just CAD Skills.

Advanced software tools like ArchiCad and Revit have revolutionized architectural design, drafting, and production workflows.

If your ambition is to have your own firm, don’t miss the opportunity to develop your hand drawing skills.  The ability to quickly communicate ideas to potential clients or your staff is most important. Sometimes the idea can be inspired greatly by sketching out ideas first. 

Drawing helps our minds create and evaluate ideas in ways that sometimes get lost when working on software programs.

To help keep things fresh, consider buying an old drafting table – they will inspire your work, inspire client confidence, and visitors will, without a doubt, be surprised to see the old fashioned desk around the office. Check out these Old drawing tables.

Don’t Forget Old School Model Making: 

While we’re on the topic of old school design tools like drafting tables, let’s talk about the role of making physical models of architectural designs.

This approach has never gone out of style – it is a practice used today even in the most modern practices. Here are some model making tips.

The advent of 3D printing from your CAD programs adds a whole new dimension that will invigorate your design explorations and presentations.

If you are a student, your firm has limited resources for a 3D printer, or you want to collaborate with other people, consider outsourcing to a 3D printing company.

Have a look at this for example: traditional model vs 3D printed model

Embrace The Future Of Virtual Reality And More.

If you think the software design and visualization tools that have come into being since the dawn of the PC revolution are impressive, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Virtual reality simulation experiences are becoming mainstream and are being used in some of the modern practices today.

Sophisticated software for designing architectural lighting can simulate complex lighting scenarios – allowing you to design with light as a primary design tool.

Besides that, modern software packages have many new features that make life easier and include more advanced features to explore.

Understand Graphic Design.

In a world where young architects using sophisticated CAD visualization tools can prepare photo-realistic walk-throughs and visual presentations, there is often a problem.

Somewhere along the way they failed to learn basic graphic design. Life has become easier in this space for sure. 

Nothing can undercut a great presentation faster than poorly composed designs with awkward typography. Take the time to learn how to use fonts and design elements to create eye-catching, powerful graphics that attract the eye and speak wonders for the project and the client.

Enter Design Competitions Regularly.

As you progress through your training and internship years, design competitions can help you create a name for yourself and establish connections with the industry.  Try to enter as many as you can to boost confidence and establish and develop your skills.

There are various ongoing contests throughout New Zealand and beyond.

Your portfolio deserves it for sure and it adds to your career success and overall experience.

Prepare For The Business Side Of Architecture.

If you are leaning toward creating your architectural practice, don’t overlook the need to obtain a sound foundation in business practices.

In addition to learning the business side of architecture, you should gain an understanding of the financial considerations facing your clients as well.

For example, a deeper understanding of how financing and tax credits work in commercial or residential projects will help prepare you to be an active ‘problem solver’ when working with complex client projects – another way you can set yourself apart from the crowd.

Conduct Market Research To Find Your Niche.

As your career advances and you make plans to launch your architecture practice, you’ll need to learn where the highest market demand for your service lies.

Learn how to research demographic information as well as how to conduct informal informational surveys with industry observers and potential clients about where they see the market direction going.

This information will be invaluable in helping to establish a niche area in which to successfully launch your architectural firm.

Develop Presentation Skills.

As your career advances, you’ll quickly learn that the ability to convince people that your proposal is the best choice is a critical skill for success.

Polish your public speaking skills. Learn how to build winning proposals.  Create videos. Stand out from the crowd.

If you feel unsure how to proceed, seek assistance from others.

YouTube is an incredible resource for learning presentation skills from the best.  A quick tour of recent TED Conference presentation videos is a good place to start.

Learn The Keys To Successful Rainmaking.

It might not have been apparent to you when you were in architectural school that building a sales funnel and closing deals was in your future.

But if you want to run your successful architectural practice, you’ll need to find ways to connect with potential clients or partners and convince them to work with you at your firm.

Learn the psychology of sales prospecting and negotiating as well as asking for the business and closing the deal. Have a look here for great tips Tyson Zahner

Sustainability, The Environment, And Value Engineering

The business of architectural design keeps evolving.

Sustainability and environmental considerations have moved to the forefront, along with traditional concerns like meeting budgets, managing life-cycle costs, and performing value engineering.

You might develop a successful business niche that focuses on areas such as certification, restoring and re-purposing historic buildings or using recycled or locally sourced materials as design elements.

Explore Net Zero Energy And Smart Building Opportunities.

Reducing building energy costs to zero appears to be another increasingly important aspect of architectural design.  In extreme cases, buildings are becoming a ‘source’ of energy, thanks to solar installations. Therefore expertise in thermodynamics, green energy power storage systems (including off-the-grid solar energy systems), is set to become an increasingly important aspect of the business.

Smart buildings are becoming more important as well. Technology promises a future with mechanized sensors that control mechanical systems (like shutters and windows opening and closing) that interact with the occupants of the building. More about this can be found here Green Building Council.

Hone Your People Management Skills.

For many architects who are establishing their practice, it can be a difficult transition to add and manage your first group of employees.

You’ll need to immerse yourself in the intricate aspects of employment law as well as develop the skills necessary to recruit, hire, manage, and motivate the people working for you.

Be Good To Yourself: Create A Productive Work Space.

If there’s one true thing, it’s architects work very long hours often.

Sitting at your desk or drafting table for hours on end, staring at CAD software programs on your computer monitor, can lead to health issues.

Today’s new generation of work tables and drafting tables have built-in power controls to raise and lower the work surface so that you can alternate between working in a standing or seated position throughout the day.

These “Sit-to-Stand” designs help minimize the health risks from sitting all day and can reduce back strain.

Investigate industrial style workbenches, tables, and drafting tables.  They are not only an active choice for wellness; they will impress your clients when they come to visit.

Develop Your Brand.

There are so many opportunities today to attract and command the attention of prospective clients – ranging from real-world physical encounters at conferences and trade events to virtual ones on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and others.

Do you want to be known as a cutting-edge designer?  Then perhaps you want to build the most legendary portable housing design project and – then make a You-Tube video of the build to discuss your project.

If you aspire to impress clients with your sophisticated design sensibility, then the design, organization, and presentation of your own office will send a powerful signal to prospective clients about the services you can be expected to deliver if they were to engage you as their architect of record.

It’s true.  Consciously or sub-consciously, your prospects will develop a lasting impression of your design skills by visiting you at work, so you need to take advantage of this opportunity by creating the right brand message.  Additionally, your appearance and personal styling will impact their view of your competence.  Would you trust a personal stylist that dresses like a slob or a hairstylist that wears a perpetual bed-head to provide their design services for you?  The same goes for your prospects. 

Find The Right Partners.

As you read through our recommendations, you might be asking yourself ‘could one person master everything on this list?’

The answer is probably NO – one person can’t do all this.

However, the leader of an architectural firm should have gathered enough practical experience in these areas to be able to bring in suitable partners who are experts in their field to assist.

So as you plan for the day when you open your architectural firm, you’ll probably want to cultivate partner relationships with the likes of financial planners, human resource experts, contractors, engineers, and contract furniture suppliers.  Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with professionals that fill in the gaps to let you focus on your strengths.

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