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In the past three years, it has been demonstrated time and time again that applying for a position in an architecture firm has turned into a painful and emotionally draining process. The jobs are still scarce, and the competition continues to be tough. Stories of multi-round interviewing only induce immediate panic in the faces of soon to be graduates.

This painful reality has left many frustrated and worrying about the future of their career in this industry. Competing in today’s market requires a full-time commitment from the applicant to constantly engage and connect with the profession, while also self-evaluating. A comprehensive approach is needed to catch the eye of a firm. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s no longer just about your portfolio.

Packaging and Branding

Applicants should think about their job search as a design problem, and consider how every piece of the puzzle connects and builds on itself. Are the items being submitted well designed? Are they visually appealing? Is the content substantial? Will you be I remembered after you leave?

By utilizing the design knowledge gained in school and in practice, applicants can create beautiful packages to send to potential employers. Creating an identity through these items can substantially enhance the opportunity to stand out in the ‘Resume Olympics’. Consider how items are designed, how they tie together, and what message they send the potential employer.

If you are unsure how to get started, look through books, magazines and website page layout for inspiration. Use a word processing program to get started. After you have mastered proper sentence structure and overcome spelling errors, move your content into page layout software. Utilize branding to tie your cover letter, resume, and portfolio together.

Kit of Parts
In architecture school so much emphasis is placed on the design portfolio that sometimes we have a tendency to forget about the items that need to accompany it. The entire kit of parts should aim to include: a well written cover letter, resume, one page work sample, portfolio, business card, and any packaging. Upon request, a curriculum vitae is appropriate.

However, it is not only about how an applicant presents themselves on paper that will win the job. Electronic media is becoming more and more relevant in how our society communicates. A web based portfolio or website may be appropriate. The applicant must be aware of what image they present on the web. For those engaged in online social networks, make sure that the message shared is appropriate if a potential employer accidentally found it.

Most important to the kit of parts, is how the applicant communicates. Take time to think in advance about emails, phone interviews, face-to-face interviews, and follow up communication in advance. Brainstorm a few critical things that you want a potential employer to know about you, and practice integrating those anecdotes into your communication efforts. If you are anxious about communication with a firm, continue to reach out to your peers for practice and support.

Just as a studio project constantly evolves, the pieces of an application should be reviewed and revised throughout the duration of the job search. Consider each aspect that you send forward to represent who you are as an individual and qualified applicant, and take pride in making each of those pieces the best they can be.


Je'Nen Chastain

Je'Nen M. Chastain, Assoc. AIA, served as the 2009-2010 President of the American Institute of Architecture Students. She gained valuable insight into the complexities of a job search in this economy, after working side by side with emerging professionals and licensed architects from across the country during her term in office. She currently works with Dougherty + Dougherty Architects LLP from their Oakland based office

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    Katherine Duong

    Great article Je’Nen! You are always so helpful.

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