You have graduated from the school and started your journey as a new architectural designer. It’s not easy to get recognition and acceptance within the industry. The journey of establishing credibility as a new architect starts here.

Here are 10 things that you might consider on your journey. The best thing? All of them are under your control.

1. Build a Strong Portfolio

Let’s face it: our worth as architects is directly connected to the quality of our portfolio. The best thing is that you don’t need client work to build an amazing portfolio. When I was a fresh graduate, I used three types of approaches to build my portfolio:

  • participated in competitions: It gave me a goal to work for, a reason to do my best, and the freedom to be as creative as I wanted. Some of my competition projects you can see in my portfolio
  • Academic work: look at your school projects and ask yourself if you really did your best. You can always improve the graphics or parts of the concept before you include them in the portfolio
  • choose companies to work for wisely. This is super important. Initially, I would suggest going for smaller firms as you get to work on all sorts of things there. Try to be strategic: do your best, even though you think you are underpaid. You get to include those projects in your portfolio. Don’t forget to regularly upload files to your personal drive, so that when you leave the company you have the project materials for your portfolio.

2. Create a Professional Website

Develop a polished website that showcases your portfolio, shares your design philosophy, and provides information about your background and the services you can provide.

It’s super important to not treat your website as an online portfolio. Treat it as a tool to attract potential collaborators or “ideal clients”.

Even if you are only interested to work for a studio, for an employer, you should treat them as “your ideal clients”.

What do I mean by that?

You should identify what your potential employers might be looking for, and what their problem is, and try to strategically position yourself as someone who understands their pain points and can solve their problems.

For example, why would a small studio owner be looking for a new employee, what do they want? What problems is he or she facing? here are some ideas to help you get the picture:

  1. Skills and Expertise: The owner would likely want someone with relevant skills and expertise in architecture, such as proficiency in design software, knowledge of construction techniques, and an understanding of architectural principles.
  2. Creativity and Innovation: They may seek a candidate who brings fresh ideas and innovative thinking to the table, enhancing the studio’s design capabilities and differentiation in the market.
  3. Team Compatibility: Compatibility with the existing team is crucial. The owner would want someone who can collaborate effectively with others, communicate clearly, and contribute positively to the studio’s culture and dynamic.
  4. Work Ethic and Dedication: They would value a candidate who is hardworking, committed, and willing to go the extra mile to meet project deadlines and deliver high-quality work consistently.
  5. Adaptability and Learning Agility: In a small studio where roles may be diverse, the owner might seek someone who is adaptable and quick to learn, capable of taking on new responsibilities and challenges as they arise.
  6. Problem-Solving Abilities: Architects often encounter complex challenges during the design and construction process. The owner would want an employee who demonstrates strong problem-solving abilities, able to think critically, analyze situations, and propose viable solutions.
  7. Portfolio and Past Experience: A solid portfolio showcasing relevant projects and past experience would be important to the owner, providing evidence of the candidate’s capabilities and suitability for the role.
  8. Resource Management: The owner might be facing challenges in managing workload and resources effectively. show him/her that you could help them alleviate this burden and allow for better project management and delivery.
  9. Business Growth and Expansion: Aspirations for business growth and expansion could also drive the decision to hire. The owner may see hiring new talent as an investment in the studio’s future success, enabling them to take on larger projects or expand into new markets.

Having all these in mind would help you craft a strategic web presence. It should be so good that when they visit your website they feel stupid for not hiring you.

3. Participate in Industry Events

You might be sick of hearing that networking is good for career growth and opportunities. What if you are an introvert who would rather stare white ceiling than talk to strangers?

I get you, and that’s exactly how I feel. However, the nicest opportunities in the beginning have come to me through other people.

One of the reasons why you feel so off about “networking” is that you might be going there and trying to present yourself and market yourself to other people.

Instead, do this: go to events with a mindset to ask questions to other people and learn about them. Only speak about yourself if they ask you a question back.

This way you won’t feel as if you are trying to sell / market yourself.

4. Publish Thoughtful Content

Start a blog or contribute articles to industry publications to share your expertise and insights on relevant topics in architecture and design. Consistently publishing high-quality content can establish you as a thought leader in your field.

Best part of starting a blog?

You can share the content via Linkedin or other social media platforms, establish your brand, and be known within the industry.

What to blog about?

Once again, identify what your goal is, who your target reader is, and adjust the content accordingly.

You don’t have to be perfect to start. Initially, quantity is the quality: the more you produce, the better you become.

5. Seek Mentorship

Architects are busy. If you just show up to someone and ask them to be your mentor, you will likely get a no.

You can have a mentor without them even knowing that they are your mentor. Try to establish genuine connection with people who have already achieved things you want to achieve.

Have they already become a registered architect?

Do they already have or are they building their architecture business?

you get the point.

On the flip side, try to ignore advice from people who are not where you would like to be. Are they overworked and constantly annoyed? underpaid and undervalued? Resentful?

Don’t take their advice.

Another tip: you don’t have to personally know your mentor. Thanks to the internet someone can be your mentor without them ever speaking to you directly.

For example, I learned a lot from Eric from 30X40 Design Workshop and I am sure he does not even know I exist.

6. Invest in Continued Learning

This is the key. If you think that you’ve finished university and now you’re done with learning, you are terribly wrong. As an architect, you will need to learn and pivot a hundred times in life to stay relevant.

While investing in learning architecture-related topics and getting certified in LEED, PMP, PI, Passive House, BIM can boost your credibility, I don’t think this is enough anymore.

There are three key directions of education you should consider investing in:

  • business: creating an offer for a relevant market
  • marketing yourself

Whether you absolutely want to be employed whole your life (which I do not recommend – you will be financially disappointed) or decide to start your own design business those skills are essential. Without developing them you will end up undervalued and underpaid, no matter how good of a designer / architect you are.

8. Provide Exceptional Client Service

If you start your independent designer journey, remember that the best marketing tool you probably have is first couple of clients you get. Underpromise and overdeliver – that is the key to building goodwill and getting referrals to grow your business.

Remember, your brand is not what you say you are all about, it’s what others say about you.

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