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The Coach: ‘How does a Part 1 get a foot in the door of a practice?’

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Getting noticed isn’t only about presenting a perfect CV, says Matthew Turner

I am a Part 1 student and have been applying for roles without success. I send my CV to practices I know are busy; I ring; and they say they aren’t looking at the moment. Responding to job ads hasn’t worked either; they don’t even bother to reply.

Matthew turner

For someone with only a small amount of work experience finding work can be daunting. This is also a difficult time, as employers are in a state of uncertainty. But you should stick at it, find wells of optimism and, most importantly, try and learn how you can improve your chances.

Your CV reads like a list of things that have occupied your time for the past years, and not a record of achievements, enthusiasms, and interests. This is one of the things that is stopping you standing out. Using action words like ‘researched’, ‘investigated’ when talking about student work can make it more relevant to the world of work.

If you can make your experience reflect achievements rather than sound like drudgery, then say it. Your statement ‘my tasks were mainly drawing amendments’ could be put much better by saying ‘managed and completed large quantities of drawing amendments to tight deadlines’, for example. 

Getting noticed isn’t only about a perfect CV. Think through any unique selling points you may have. Whether you volunteered with a youth group, speak Somali, or are a keen athlete – put it on your CV. Who knows, this may be enough for a practice that has community consultation to do or a sports building on their books to get in touch. 

Get involved in the architectural scene

Another way to get noticed is to get involved in the architectural scene. As you live in London, you are especially well-placed, with organisations such as the Architecture Foundation offering lectures and events you can network at, as well as job openings. 

Lastly, there are a few mistakes in your CV. Get someone with good writing skills to read it. Even minor mistakes hugely increase the chances that your CV will be binned.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. Email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • We hire a Part 1 student every year so see this from the employer's end. I thoroughly endorse the all the advice above and particularly the need to have your CV checked - and to see if it can be clearly read on a small screen. So much of an architect's work is now written. This is your chance to show you can do it right. Please send it with a short cover saying why you want to work for us. We get more than enough impersonal emails from product suppliers.

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  • We get to the end of school, college and university, excited and terrified at applying for the position we have found available within a company, it’s what we have been studying and training for, we’ve put all those years into the career we want to have. We’ve learnt about structures and building methods, we’ve learnt how to draw technically, learnt a small amount of law. We’ve learnt about the history of architecture and how different civilisations designed Temples and created structural elements from trees to hold roofs up and named them Crucks and went on to develop trusses. We learnt many abbreviations such as QS, SE, SO and how to use BRK WK and BLK WK in Method Statements and Specification Guides, and how to interlink them with Gantt Charts, Critical Paths and Lazy S Curve graphs to schedule and organise the sequence of the construction phase of the Project. And we find that there is nowhere to fit all this into our CVs or even Covering Letters, as our CVs and Covering Letters are full with snippets of experience and successfulness of our time in our employment and education in an effort to demonstrate how much of a great dynamic enthusiastic employee we will be, showcasing our vision and design philosophy with each page.

    With all this experience gained through our education in college, university and work in Architectural Practices we find a mind field of prospective employers wanting experience in different CAD packages, such as Auto Desk, Rhino, Vectorworks, Microstation and Revit and we find there is a myriad of variations to these software programs and even many ways to use them also. Then we get to image manipulation and design software, and find there are many of these too, with a myriad of Plugins. Sometimes we read in the prospective employer’s expectations in the skills they are asking for section, that training is also available. We get our hopes up, we set about researching the practice, the surrounding areas and local housing market for a place to live, we pluck up the courage to apply for the position knowing that we fall short on one or two of the skills required, but hey, the advertised post stated that training is available, but that doesn’t really bother us, as we are at Part 1 stage, and therefore excited at being architects in training. And yes, we fail to get through clearance, we became excited that we could have learnt a new CAD package or image design software and improved our skills, put many hours into working on and in part co-designing someone’s dream house or vision for a clients’ business. We are then told in our rejection letter that we don’t have the right CAD experience. We are all told through university that we would never stop learning new techniques, software and new regulations and updates to the later, and that it forms part of the conditions to us obtaining and keeping our Indemnity Insurance Cover which will allow us to remain on the ARB Register when and if we finally pass our Part 3 exams.
    It seems odd that an educational route into a profession which has three parts to achieving the final qualification where we have/need to gain experience and gain further knowledge before each part is signed off by the RIBA already feels like an Apprenticeship. And yet we struggle to be given a voice outside our CV’s and Portfolios, a chance to say, Hi, this is me, this is what I have done, it is different to the other candidates. This is where I want to progress to in architecture, this is what I would love to achieve in my Architectural Career.

    It is Friday evening (just the same as any other evening) and most people are out enjoying the night or enjoying a relaxing evening at home. As usual I am sat with my head in front of the laptop screen checking and re checking job sites, agency web sites, Social Media, and Job Alerts sent to my Email account, making sure that I haven’t missed a Part 1 position vacancy that I can apply for. I sit tired and frazzled after a hard day searching for work and letting Architectural Practices know that I am available, worried up to my eye balls about my life and career plans swirling down the drain. I long for the days I feel a sense of achievement so that I can relax and brush-up on my CAD and sketching skills better than I am able to do so right now as I have a laptop that is unable run BIM and unable to afford Photoshop, so I sit trawling the internet looking for knowledge so I can advance the CAD skills that I do have.

    I have an educational back ground studying the aspects of the professional industries of construction industry including the Science of the Materials for Construction, Surveying Process, Construction Design Management, along with other professional processes at my local college before I studied the Architecture course at university achieving Bachelor of Arts with Honours. I have an employment back ground in Architecture working on office and residential extensions along with industrial new build developments, bespoke residential newbuilds, right up to submitting for Planning Approval. During my employment I have drawn up plans by hand and by various CAD packages including Microstation Auto CAD LT and Sketchup, conversed with CoW and QS. During other employment roles I have designed products and liaised with clients, clients’ representatives and dealt with customers, making sure their needs where fully met, which has given me some transferable skills as to extract crucial information so I can help the clients more effectively and efficiently.

    Time after time after time, my application is declined, often without a reply, reason, or on the grounds that my CAD experience doesn’t match the CAD package that they use in the office. CAD is CAD, doesn’t matter which package is used, they all share the same basic building code, only with different interface and varied command structure and slightly different features. I am left with the ever-constant question I have been trying to answer and to have answered which is – How is a candidate supposed to gain experience if they are unable to become employed there upon gaining the specialist experience that the employers are looking for? Not a single person I have become aware of can answer this question. People are not born with any skills, we acquire them through life, learning by being in a certain environment, having an interest and learning those skills in and out of school, college, university and being in the very employment environment to use those skills. Every year I hear and watch on the Breakfast News that employers are struggling to find prospective staff with all the skills that they are looking for. Well those prospective employees are already employed elsewhere for competing companies. And there are other people who would love to work in the sector who are finding it hard to gain the experience, they have the enthusiasm to put the extra work and effort in to learn those very skills that the employers or looking for. Who is to say that these people will not make great employees. They are seen as a drain on time in the office, but will they really be, maybe for a few weeks, but that depends on the methods employed to give the clients the experience that the employers want to give, in their own unique style.

    I can only hope that the great and enthusiastic people who are looking to have a varied and exciting career in Architecture can have a great start to their career being part of the Apprenticeship Scheme, and that it will give a great grounding, providing a brilliant foundation to which they can build a fulfilling and exciting career in architecture, which is for me the most exciting industry which I have dedicated my life to work in.


    Paul Marsland
    Frazzled Part 1 Seeker

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