Build a Brand, Not a Resume!

With just a uniquely crafted architectural resume, you can, of course, acquire several jobs.

However, following the rules for making a unique resume is a bit too straightforward and can be simply explained in a few steps.

What is difficult is explaining how to make yourself a unique brand. But once you do it, it becomes more fruitful than you can ever imagine. Thus, it’s totally worth the effort!

In this article, we give this difficult task a try! We make you understand how you can build a unique identity of yourself in the field of architecture. What you will have is not a resume but much more than that!

So, let’s get started.

If Not A Resume, Then What Would You Show?

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We list a few possibilities here:

  1. a) A few recommendation letters from architects respected by major employers
  2. b) A considerable reputation in the architectural community
  3. c) A call from a previous employer who raves about your skills
  4. d) An amazing project that you developed apart from your work or while at school

But how do you make all this happen?

How To Build A Brand

  1. Do the Hard Work

To apply for a job, you might start listing all your accomplishments, arranging all those in a great architecture portfolio, and emailing the application later on. These are easy steps. But are these really valuable?

What will rather be more beneficial is to create a separate portfolio for each step of the application process.

For the initial stage, creating a 2-page portfolio will be great. If longer, it should ideally not be more than 5 pages. As for the content, it should precisely describe your best experience and work. Breaking it down further, it should include the work you did and the problems you solved in one or two projects.

For the later stage of the application process, you must prepare a detailed portfolio containing details of all the projects you handled.

But keep it in mind that straightaway elaborating what all you have done is less likely to work for you. Rather, you should include bullet points and illustrations on the way you solved a specific problem for a certain project. The length of such a portfolio should be not more than 10 pages.

Yes, we understand it means a lot of hard work. But it is very much needed.

Besides this hard work, you must also focus on things that require time to be built. A network of references and trusted friends within the architect community is one such thing to work on. Start now!

  1. Involve More with The Community

Architecture as an industry is much smaller compared to the others. This is evident from the fact that just a hundred thousand licensed architects work in the United States. To some, it may seem like a great deal, but in comparison to other jobs, it is not.

Thus, architecture as a community is much tightly knit. You can use this feature to your advantage. Or else, the chances are that it might turn into a disadvantage for you! If the word spreads that you are difficult to work with, that won’t do any good for your career.

For involving yourself with members from the community, AIA can act as a great platform. You can join a local AIA chapter irrespective of whether you have a license or not. With this organization, you can get your name on the records. This is especially applicable if you are just starting your career.

Importantly, experts in the field opine that currently, most of the new hirings at the top firms actually come from word of mouth. In fact, HR directors and managers in charge of hiring have accepted this.

As such, several applicants complain of getting no response despite sending several resumes. And it is a legitimate point to consider!

However, interactions among members of a community leads to people being connected by common interests or ideas. Such a group of connected people is often referred to as a tribe. Hence, hiring of known associates makes it more probable that the person will easily fit into the office tribe.

As such, you need to interact with more and more people from the architect community. Networking is really vital in this field and is surely another kind of hard work. Summing it up, you may dedicate ample time to working on your projects, but you must also spend equal time building your tribe.

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  1. References and More Relevant Portfolios

When you go on to submit an application, two points are vital and must not be missed. One is about the references, while the other is regarding the portfolios.

In your application, the line about “references available upon request” is something that you must avoid. It would be better still if you mention the references. Do include a few letters of recommendation from your previous employers and professors.

Make sure the letters are written in the right way. A letter commenting on your role in a particular project can be valuable. From each letter, if you can get a range of themes, it would be best. For instance, one letter can cover your skills in project management while another can deal with your superb designing skills.

Another significant part of your application is the portfolio, which has details regarding your work. Keep it in mind that you must not pay more attention to smaller things such as the font size or the white space in the document.

If you do, you might miss on the more crucial points, such as deciding if a particular project should be included in a portfolio at all. Or even more importantly, checking as to whether each project has been dealt with in the right way or not.

Remember, filling pages of portfolios just for the sake of it isn’t the right approach. Your work in each project should be clearly explained.

Hence, be sure to ask yourself as to whether a particular project is needed in a portfolio. You can also assess the project on how it could be helpful for your application.

Importantly, you must describe your role in a project in a way that it is relevant to the post you are applying for.

  1. Getting a Mentor

Any professional in a field must have somebody to look up to as an inspiration. Try to find someone in your architecture community, college or workplace who can be a mentor for you.

Generally, this would mean cornering the supervisor at the end of the working day to ask whether she or he will be a mentor. But most of the time, it results in the opposite person feeling strange or hesitating as they are too busy to commit a fixed time for you.

As such, we would recommend having quite a few mentors, but they don’t need to be aware of that. This might sound creepy, but it does yield results. You can pick a person whom you admire for their leadership skills, professional approach and try to imitate the way they work.

This is referred to in business as “best practices”, wherein you consider an already existing company that has achieved what you want to achieve. And you simply copy that.

Breaking it down further, to identify a mentor, you need to observe the pattern in which they work. For an architect, it would be how the way they handle themselves in meetings, treat their colleagues and most importantly deal with problems. You also must find out which aspect of the job they are more concerned about and what doesn’t worry them much.

In this way, learning from others who have mastered such skills and applying them in your own work will help you to achieve success faster. Thus, having a mentor is as vital for progressing in architecture, as for any other career.

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  1. Being Nice

Let’s suppose a colleague comes asking for your help in a problem he or she is facing at work. Ideally, even if it does not look like something you can solve entirely, you should try to help the colleague in whatever way you can.

In the long term, he or she might come to your help in case you face a problem!

This is just one instance of how being courteous to everyone can be beneficial not only to the society but to you as well. Hence, you ought to be nice to colleagues, coworkers, classmates, professors and any common acquaintance.

Who knows, it might even happen that you get a crucial contact!

Also, maintaining a modest and polite tone while speaking to all people you meet will help you to build a reputation as a well-mannered person. Such people are always considered ideal to work with.

This is actually similar to the snowball effect. You gather connections and references as your career gains momentum. And soon, there would be endless positive recommendations driving your career swiftly upwards.

  1. Being a Linchpin

Obviously, landing a great job without your resume can be possible only by being a linchpin in your present workplace. If you become an essential member for your team, someone who can get work done, you will never have to find jobs. Jobs will find you.

This actually means you should try to perform beyond and above the definition of your “role” on any working day. Be it meeting a major deadline or staying beyond office hours to help a colleague, working extra will tell a lot about your dedication. Also, you should be punctual at work, should not complain about anything or and should not blame others.

And you don’t have to ask for permission for any particular work, just go for it. In case it does not work, you can apologize and move forward. That’s because taking the initiative and the risk will get you noticed at the workplace.

An instance in architecture would be professionals with an advanced knowledge of software. In any less informed organization, this knowledge can be used by putting forward a new BIM program. As a result, such architects can become vital team members.

Giving your best at work will earn you a pay raise, so you don’t need to ask for that. Besides, avoid calculating the duration of your work versus the salary.

On the whole, through your performance, you should communicate your accomplishments in a duration of time or the way you are contributing to the organization.

  1. Saying Goodbye

Deciding when to move over to another job is also an important point to consider. This would majorly depend on your assessment of the experience at a company. The other factor would be the position of the organization in the architecture field. Taking into account both these points, if you think a job change would be right, don’t hesitate.

According to several surveys, an average employee in the United States continues a job for about four years. In the case of younger ones, the time span is half of that.

While you move on from one employer, make sure your sign off on good terms. Leaving a job on a positive note is very vital irrespective of the reasons.

As we’ve discussed earlier, the architect community is much smaller compared to other professions. Thus, you will never want a poor reputation to stand in your way. Making a scene on your last day will not benefit you in any way. Be alert to keep your leaving email brief and courteous. You will thank yourself for that later on.

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With this, we come to the end of our discussion. Surely, now you can understand that a resume is not the be all and end all for making it big in the architecture field. That’s good news, isn’t it?

Rather, your success is a combination of your performance in a number of aspects, as we have discussed throughout the article. For instance, while you ought to give your best while you work, you also need to be connected within the architect community.

Architecture as a field is evolving really fast, thanks to the rapid advancement of technologies available. As such, it presents a wide range of opportunities to aspiring as well as existing professionals.

Thus, if you proceed in the right way, nothing can come between you and your dreams. Till next time!

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