I entered the workforce when I was thirteen years old, delivering newspapers from the back of my dinky old bicycle on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The bike was red, festooned with spokey dokes and eventually crumbled into pieces. But each week for the two years prior it helped me earn $20 cash plus an apple slice from the bakery across the road.
I went on to do some cleaning and office filing, and worked in hospitality for a number of years at everything from a dodgy wedding reception centre to fancy fine dining restaurants. Then halfway through my architecture studies, I set out to obtain my compulsory year of industry experience and first job in architecture.
Three years later I graduated from the post-graduate portion of my studies and set out to obtain my second.
My second architecture job
Résumé: three pages
Portfolio: design thesis plus documents of a house I had designed for my parents
Delivery method: recommendation through a friend
It was with great relief that I returned to the safety of the post-graduate portion of my architecture studies. I had gotten used to the rhythm (and meagre income) of full-time employment, but I don’t think I was quite ready to thrive in it.
I was also presented with the exceptional opportunity to design a house for my parents, which I had doodled on throughout my undergraduate degree but now felt able to tackle with greater seriousness. This kept me busy at all hours in the final few years of my studies, and made a follow up student job tricky to manage. Thus job number two came in the same year I graduated with my Bachelor of Architecture (one of the last cohorts to miss out on a Masters I might add).
This time, I took a less systematic approach.
Thinking back on it now, I believe I intuited the desire to work somewhere with a supportive and fun workplace culture, but I probably couldn’t have articulated this sentiment at the time. Fortunately, a friend of mine (with whom I was joint SONA representative at Melbourne University) was finishing up her student position at Perkins Architects, a mid-sized studio that happened to have such a workplace culture. She was asked if she could recommend a fresh graduate to take her place. That someone turned out to be me, and I was asked in for an interview.
I had a slightly longer résumé this time, perhaps three pages in Trade Gothic Condensed font, and a portfolio that incorporated my design thesis project together with the documentation and construction photos of my parents’ house, which was by now almost built. The latter represented an incredible gift from my parents, giving me insights into design, documentation and construction that would have taken me years to gain otherwise. It also gave me a considerable edge compared to my peers: yes, I was a fresh and very green graduate, but I not only had a year of student work experience under my belt but an (almost) built project too.
Of course, I recognise that such an opportunity is not available to everyone.
But a year or more of student work experience is. If you’re reading this while still studying, I can’t recommend strongly enough that you get out into the workforce before you graduate. It will make you substantially more attractive to prospective employers a few years from now, and will also accelerate your maturity in a way that the cosseted university environment cannot.
Anyway, back to my job search.
In the interview with Ian, my future boss, he very patiently indulged me as I laboured my way through explanations of my design thesis and construction photos. I probably should have cut back on my monologue a touch, but I’m pleased to say he saw something in me and offered me the job on the spot. I accepted and took on my second job in architecture: an experience that taught me a great deal about being a good employer, and the value of a positive studio culture, great colleagues and supportive boss.
Thanks for joining me on this little trip down memory lane. Over coming weeks, I’ll be sharing further insights into how I’ve obtained every job in architecture I’ve had. You can access an archive of the series here.
- Parisian waiter; sourced from The French Touch; photo from the Gamma Keystone collection.
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