Intern 101: How to Deal with a New Experience?

Back to our Intern 101 series! Here goes a very important topic that no one really talks about. What do you do when you are tackling work that are over your experience level? NCARB wants us to fill in all these different categories, but honestly sometimes they are really difficult. This is what I have experienced lately at work, so I thought I would share with you on things to do when you don’t know what to do. Let’s be honest, that happens to us every day.

1. Ask a lot of questions

Number one rule at a workplace = ask questions. I have written about How to Get Involved in Your Firm before, and one of the points is also to ask question. JUST ASK THE QUESTION. I call my project architect at least 5 times a day with questions. If you are an intern, you are expected to be progressive about your learning. So do it! See it as a learning opportunity every time you encounter a problem and you will get so much better before you know it.

2. Google it

Number two rule at a workplace = Google it. Yes, you should ask questions, but do the research before that. If you don’t even know what you are talking about, you wouldn’t know how to ask the right question to get the answer you need. If it’s just a Revit or some software problems, google it. If you are confused about building codes, look it up in the IBC before you bug your architect. Your coworkers might be very willing to help, but if you can find the answer yourself, save them some time (they will really really appreciate it).

Architecture is a continuing learning process. Doing new things is the only way we can learn.

3. Talk to your supervisor

If your office has an open door policy, go talk to your supervisor about your concerns. Some of my coworkers put it in their annual review forms. Some bring it up at our regular project team meetings. I always just walk into my boss’s office and tell her my concerns. You can say something like “I am going into a new territory that I haven’t dealt with before, so I might need some hand-holding along the way.” They will understand, and appreciate that you tell them ahead of time so they can allocate staff accordingly.

4. Just do it!

Sometimes we get stuck in the idea that we don’t know how to do it, and forget that we CAN do it. We just have to learn and take a little bit more time than the experienced architects. Lately, I have been doing details in my project. Construction details are probably the most difficult part to me in architecture. I have picked up redlines on details before, but never developed details on my own. I did all the plan and section details, and it felt good! The accomplishment you get from overcoming a challenge is worth the hard work.

5. Ask someone to review it

Someone should review your work anyway before they get sent out. But if you are not confident about something, ask them to double check it. You will have to do your parts too. I always double check my work. This is my process: draw it in Revit, print it out, red line it, update it in Revit. Redlining your own drawings and picking the red lines up later by yourself is actually very helpful. I do that over and over again until it’s right. And of course ask questions along the way.

Architecture is a continuing learning process. Doing new things is the only way we can learn. What’s your advice for us interns in tackling new experiences? Feel free to share your experience with us. Let’s make this blog a communal learning space for intern architects!

Now that it’s summer, I have taken a little break from ARE, and shifted my gear to finish up my long-awaited website. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

Aspiring architect and graphic designer. I design buildings and write about it. My interests revolve around urban architecture, people, graphics, arts and culture.