This time last year I was finishing up my second to last semester of graduate school. I hadn’t started to be fully concerned with finding a full-time job. I still had a semester to figure out my next steps. More than anything, I was really content with being a student. I had the summers off to explore, travel and relax but knew that three months later I would get to continue learning in an environment that fostered creativity, curiosity and change.
One year later, I sit here having just gotten home from my “9-5” job at Path21 Architecture (lesson 1: 9-5 doesn’t always mean 9-5, it could be 8-6, 7-9…it’s something you just get used to). I can proudly say that I submitted my first bid package today and more importantly; I find myself in a work environment that not only fosters creativity, curiosity and change, but also encourages it on a daily basis. As much as I loved a perpetual learning environment (aka school) I will admit, I reached the point in my educational journey where I was a little exhausted (okay, a lot) from studios every semester for the past seven years and was ready to start my professional life. I consider myself lucky, because I found my dream job with a great firm. Some would say that luck has nothing to do with it, that hard work and great portfolios are the key to finding a great job.
I don’t disagree with the previous statement, but I do think there is a lot more to it than getting straight A’s in school and working continuously on your portfolio for seven months. Having been a student and having felt the pressure of the “real world” not too long ago, I thought I would take this chance to give some tips to recent graduates, soon-to-be graduates or students who want to get a jump start on finding a place in the profession.
- Write out your goals: short-term, long-term, very distant and some goals you think impossible but have dreamed about. It will help you to align your job search with what you want out of a job or internship. Be comfortable with allowing your dreams to change. They need not be set in Microsoft Word or Moleskine stone, but it feels great to work towards something.
- Develop your network. By nature, people connect socially. Figure out what is important to you and try to find people or organizations with similar interests. Networking can be a scary thing. Start small. I tell students that the best way to start networking is to join a committee. Meet a few people. Attend some events and eventually your network will grow naturally and you will feel more comfortable when striking up new conversations in unfamiliar places.
- Interview the firm just as much as they will interview you. If you don’t have a good feeling about the people or the job, maybe it is not the right fit. It is just as important to ask them questions about the workplace, their team and how you fit into the picture. My dad always told me, “Be sure to ask the last question”.
- Figure out what keeps you excited. Whether it is traveling, volunteering, running, etc. It is important to know what keeps the excitement in work and life. I use traveling as a refresh button. It allows me to get out of my habits, explore new things and understand the larger picture of the world in which I am designing.
- Push yourself out of your comfort zone. The more you do it, the less terrifying situations become. This goes for both professionally and personally.
- You never know whom you will meet. Make sure you present yourself well, always have a business card and be spontaneous. It’s hard to know if you were in the right place at the right time until after the fact. Presentation is not only the impression you bestow both on your peers and elders, but on your ability to carry yourself well in any situation.
I could go on, but I’ll save that for future posts!