How to Prepare for your Undergraduate Architecture Job

Fronting up to your first architecture job can be daunting, to say the least. I often explain to non-architects that it’s a bit like turning up to play in an orchestra, when you’ve studied years of musical theory and history but never picked up an instrument.

The good news is that we’ve all been there, so hopefully your colleagues and workplace mentors will make your introduction and training an enjoyable experience. Regardless, there are certain things you can do before starting to make the transition more enjoyable and to help you hit the ground running.

1.       Study the firm

Research the practice you will be joining. Read their blogs, study their projects and try to get a sense of their practice history and philosophy. This should make the workplace somewhat familiar to you before you even set foot in the door, and give you a head start settling into the team, or being able to ask the right questions.

2.       Study the employees

Find out what you can about who works at the firm, and what their positions are. If you can connect a few names to faces before starting, then your first few weeks will be a little less scary. You may also be able to piece together the office hierarchy which is a commonly overlooked point of explanation when inducting new employees.

3.       Plan the logistics

Put some thought into the simple logistics of starting your job; How will you get there? When will you need to leave home? Will you need to take lunch or can you buy it? What will you wear? When confirming your start date, ask what time you should get there, if there’s anything you need to bring and what the office dress-code is.

4.       Browse local planning regulations

This one is purely optional but you may find it useful to do a little basic research on your local planning body and rules. I only recommend this because planning terms are something that quickly become part of an architect’s vocabulary and you may find yourself constantly asking what different acronyms or terms refer to. Check out your local council’s website (or territory planning body if you’re in the A.C.T. or N.T.) and search for things like ‘Development Approval’ process. Don’t feel pressured to understand any of it – just have a brief look around.

5.       Flick through the National Construction Code

Again, this one is very optional, but I wish that before I started working I had simply downloaded the National Construction Code and spent 15 minutes scrolling through it to get a sense of what it covered. This would have empowered me to find my own answers to some of the questions I had in my first year of working. Volume One is for multi-residential, commercial and public buildings, while Volume Two is for single residential projects. You can download them for free here.

You may like to browse our recommended resource books to see if any may be of value to you in your early career.

6.       Get ready to learn

You’re about to embark on an incredibly rich learning curve, so make sure you’re prepared for this. At a minimum, I’d recommend starting your own notebook or plastic-pocket folder to take notes and collect reference material. I actually recommend keeping three specific notebooks – click here to see why.

7.       Brush up on technical skills

If you have time up your sleeve before starting your job, you may want to put a little effort into improving your knowledge of the drafting software the firm will be using. These days there are endless tutorials online, whether you’re looking for a beginner’s introduction to a software that is new to you, or you’re searching for tips on how a familiar package is used in an office context.

8.       Make a plan to manage your time.

If you’re starting your first job while you’re still studying, make sure your time management plan is realistic and that you’re setting yourself up for sustainable success rather than burnout and stress. I recently discovered this new resource specifically focused on helping architecture students with time management.

While these tips are suggestions for making your introduction to the architecture industry easier, I also want to stress that your employer has hired you knowing that this is your first job, so don’t feel like you’re expected to know anything more than you what you’ve presented in your resume. I know your first days will be very nerve wracking, but I promise you will settle-in soon and those nerves will pass, and hopefully this will be the start of a long enjoyable and satisfying career for you! Good luck!

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Sarah Lebner