Navigating the architectural job market can be difficult, whether you’re a student just graduating into the workforce or a firm principal looking to hire new employees. Recently, we spoke with Garrett Loontjer, The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture’s Career Services Director, about what students are looking for in potential employers and how firms can best reach these future employees.
AM: What is the best way for architecture firms to reach students looking for jobs?
GL: Career fairs seem to be all the rage these days. In fact, here at the UT Austin School of Architecture we just hosted over 100 firms and organizations from all across the state and country for our annual fair last month, which I know our students were excited about. I think these types of recruiting events really provide a great opportunity for employers to connect with a lot of students while at the same time promoting their firm– its work, its office culture, etc. And that’s what you want. You want to get on students’ radar. Hire an intern or two. Start building this relationship with universities. Get connected with faculty and staff. I know here in our Career Services office we regularly host employers for firm talks, portfolio and resume workshops, meet & greets, and more!
AM: If you’d like to get involved with UT’s career outreach, email Garrett.
AM: How can students improve their job search techniques?
GL: One thing I really try to stress to our students is that you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to your job search. The UT School of Architecture, for example, has a wonderful alumni base across the state, the country, and really, the world. And I hear over and over from our alums regarding how interested they are in giving back to the school. They want to help. And so many of them are working for firms that our students are interested in.
With the modern job search, I think the days of mailing your resume and portfolio to firms are, for the most part, over. Using LinkedIn, you can search for an employer and access a list of alums who are working for that firm, in a matter of seconds. And who better to start this conversation with than your alumni?
Be proactive. Research firms. Reach out to alumni. Start a conversation. As you might imagine, so much of the job search is based on word of mouth and who you know.
AM: What should students be doing differently to find the best career fit?
Once again, it’s about being proactive. Get involved with your AIAS chapter. If your school regularly hosts firm talks and workshops like we do, go to them. Attend your university’s job fair. Attend lectures from visiting professionals. Get out there and visit firms. I really feel the more connected students are with the professional community, the better their job search will go when graduation rolls around. And not only that, the more knowledgeable they’ll be when it comes to thinking about what type of firm they’re interested in.And of course, I highly encourage students to pursue internships. What better way is there to obtain experience while expanding your base of contacts?
AM: What is the number one thing students are looking for in a potential employer?
GL: Oh, that so hard to say. I mean, one day, I’ll meet with a student who wants to pursue a position with a public interest design firm. Then an hour later I’ll meet with another student who wants to work for a small research/fabrication based studio in Brooklyn. And then, of course, the next day will be filled with students who want to work with a larger, more corporate firm—so it totally varies!
AM: What do you think is the biggest misconception about this new generation of architects?
GL: Well, we all know there’s a lot of hiring going on these days. From time to time, I hear from firms that struggle to retain their new employees. They feel their… let’s just say “emerging professionals” often stay only until a better offer comes around. But this is a bit of a self-perpetuating problem. After all, most of these entry-level designers are not leaving the world of architecture for new jobs. No, they’re being hired away by other architecture firms. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a recent graduate or a project architect, you’re going to be tempted to consider a new job that pays more than your current one.