7 Steps to Improve Your Architectural Job Application - Part I
“I am a very young designer with limited years of experience. I have done a lot and know an incredible amount - I value myself high. Will a large company agree or simply look at my age, experience and place me in a lower bracket in terms of position and salary?”
This question actually came in from a young designer who’s running his own design business. Yet even a successful designer like him question how companies would look at his value.
Why? Because we’re often told that we’re “entitled, lazy and impatient”. I was in a work happy hour where literally the whole night GenX architects were talking about how lazy millennials are. This mentality can do two things to young architects - it can keep us from even trying a little because why try harder when you can’t change the stereotype? But it can also push us to prove our values even harder.
And I hope it’s the later for you.
But know that this is going to be a tough one - How do we break the mold and show them that we are of value and not just a draft monkey?
In this 2-part series, I’m going to show you the step-by-step process you can take to improve your job application to make the employer know they should hire you. Today we will go through the journey from your resume, to the application, to the ultimate interview.
Now let’s get started.
1. Resume: Numbers, Numbers, Numbers
The most effective way of proof is to show your numbers. If you're an architect working in a firm like me, you can include a variety of things like project size, number of stories, number of team members you work with, years of experience…
Maybe you worked on the 1st ever 800k sf residential project for the firm.
Maybe you got promoted in a short 2 year time after bringing in 5 clients to your firm that results in $1M profit.
You often hear your work speak for itself. But on your resume, numbers speak for themselves.
If you're like the designer who owns his own business, you can add in how many sales you made in a year, how many social media following you've grown in a short period of time.
2. Resume: Show your management skills
One thing I love to showcase is any - even the smallest - management experience I have led for a project. If you have any kind of leadership experience, it’s incredibly valuable to the employer. It proves to them that you won’t need a lot of supervision and you can direct other young team members - both saving time and money.
It could be as easy as listing out the number of team members you have led to achieve a specific goal in a project. In fact, this is what I wrote in my past review at work.
+ Led a team of 6 to create and develop sets of construction documents and permit drawings under tight deadlines and numerous design revisions.
Now if I’m going to an interview, I’d add that everyone in my team all said that they learned more from me than any other team they were in.
What if you even put down a testimonial of your leadership skill on your resume? (This one just popped into my head! Let me write that down…)
Prove that you're a leader and not just a young kid who are good at renderings.
3. Application: Get 3 recommendation letters
Speaking of testimonials, it’s time to get some real ones from real professionals. Reach out to your professors, program directors, or your internship supervisors. Get at least 3 recommendation letters - it can be a short one page letter. Then just attach it to your resume and cover letter when you send in your job applications.
When employers see that other professionals (usually at their age level) are vouching for you, they know that your work ethics is good unlike what they think of when it comes to millennials. You also saved them a step of reaching out to references (they still will, but now they know what to talk about).
My boss at my first job didn't even take a look at my resume or portfolio before I came into the interview. He was simply appalled by the amazing words all the professionals spoke of me that he had to ask me for an interview - true story!
4. Interview: Find out their values
At every single interview, I always ask a very simple and straightforward question, "Do you let young people actually design in your projects?" This is extremely important to me because I'm not going to a firm that just wants me to draw doors and windows.
Yours might be a different question depending on what you value. I value my ability to design; you might value something totally different and that’s totally okay! I call them the “value question”. Here are a couple value topic with a value question that you could ask.
Work life balance - What's the work culture in the office?
Getting licensed - How do you support young architects getting their license?
Promotion - What kind of individuals usually get a promotion?
Introvert/extrovert - How would your recommend introverts to get noticed in the firm?
Social life - How do you keep your employees connected?
This is more about aligning your value with a company that actually cares. Asking the questions show that you know what you want and it really helps you find out if this is where you want to work.
Remember while you have to prove yourself to the employers - they have to bring on their A game too.
We’ve covered a lot of ground so far, but really, there are so much more you can do to get your value across in your job application. Next post we will look at 3 more essential steps - from follow up, to job offers, to your day-to-day work - that you can take to make sure your worth comes across to the employer.
In the meantime, I've made you a FREE super good looking resume template. You can download it below and update your resume based on the points you learned in this post!