Meet Your Future Boss at This Free Event in Your City

There’s one event of the year that is ripe with job-hunting and networking opportunity, perfectly timed for post submissions, and completely free!

It’s your local AIA (Australian Institute of Architects) chapter’s Christmas event. Or any other industry Christmas gathering, for that matter.

While AIA events are technically only for members, they are usually informal and welcoming to keen students - this has certainly been my experience in the A.C.T. If you’re a member (this includes SONA/student members) then there’s really no excuse for not making the most of this friendly event. If you’re not a member, I’d still strongly encourage you to ask a local peer (most University tutors are connected to the Institute) if they know if your local chapter is having a Christmas event and if you think it would be appropriate that you came along to meet some local architects. Alternatively, contact your local chapter to ask if they are having a Christmas event, and when it will be. Keen students who reach out at architecture events are usually enthusiastically helped - you just need to make the effort. Most students don’t, so it can be an easy way to stand out from the crowd and prove your initiative.

If your chapter don’t happen to have a Christmas gathering, or you’re not in a Capital City, consider what other industry events may have a catch up at the end of the year. There are sometimes trade show events, or other industry events such as NAWIC (National Association for Women in Construction), FutureNet Young Professionals, or your state SONA or EMAGN (student and graduate arms of the Institute) might have their own special gathering.

Now I know that heading along to these events as a student can be daunting, but the truth is that no one there knows you’re a student! Until they meet you, you could be anyone from the industry. As a student, I used to think I had a big ‘L’ plate on my forehead, but now, as an architect, I realise that no one thought that. In fact, when I meet a student at an event I always go to the effort of making them feel welcome, as will most practitioners, because we remember how scary it can be.

My five tips for how to prepare for an event like this:

1. Ask around to find a peer that is attending. Tell them you’d like to come and hope that they could introduce you to some people. This way you are likely to know someone straight away.

2. Do some research before attending so that you might know a few faces or who you might like to meet. This also helps you ask the right questions, i.e. “Hi, are you X? I really liked your X project that won an award this year...” If you haven’t already, download our free Job Seeker Workbook for more preparation tips like this.

3. Practice your introduction line - out loud! It can be hard making conversation if it doesn’t come naturally to you so have some ready! An example could be “I’m a third year student and I’ve come tonight to try and meet some people as I’m starting to look for a job...” Don’t be afraid to state that it’s an intimidating environment or you don’t know anyone if that is the case.

4. Have a few lines up your sleeve that explain who you are. They can even be modestly self promotional, i.e. “I’m interested in residential design - our studio this year was X and I really enjoyed it,” or “I’ve just finished a course learning Revit so I feel like I have some skills to immediately offer a firm.”

5. The two most important things you can demonstrate are good communication and a willingness to learn. The easiest way to do this is to ask questions and show interest in the  person you are talking to. Practice a few - they can be simple ones like “how many people are there in your firm?” or more engaging questions like “have you had any standout favourite projects this year?”

6. Try to remember the names of the people you meet and where they work. Repeat their name back to them and write them down when you leave.

7. Hand shake introductions are powerful but not always appropriate, so read the scene. If you’ve had a good conversation, you might offer a hand shake at then end when you say it was nice to meet them. Offer a firm handshake and look them in the eye.

8. IF you are lucky enough to end up talking to someone who expresses interest in possibly hiring you, finish the conversation with a commitment to following up with them and/or sending them your CV and portfolio - and stick to it!

At the end of the day, remember that architects are just people too. We might also be nervous about attending an event, or unsure how to tackle hiring someone. The more you can be present in industry networks, and prepared to have a friendly chat, the more likely your are to expose yourself to an excellent opportunity.