The following is a compilation of my professional practice lecture on the last day of class. Instead of recapping the course or giving a final exam, I share with my students a presentation titled Advice as You Finish School and Start to Practice. I present a series of statements followed up with a brief explanation.
Advice as You Finish School and Start to Practice
1. GET STARTED ON YOUR CAREER PATH
- You can start earning IDP hours right after high school graduation.
- If you haven’t already, sign up for IDP and get started on the path to licensure!
2. DON’T GET CAUGHT UP IN “OLD GUARD” FIRMS
- The youth are the future.
- Firms need to embrace the ideas, energy and enthusiasm of young people.
- Be observant as to what the Millennials in the office are doing.
- Make sure emerging professionals are valued in the firms you are interviewing with for full-time employment.
3. NETWORKING = THE KEY TO ADVANCEMENT
- Get to know everyone in the Architecture community and allied fields (all ages and experience levels).
- Don’t underestimate the value of AIA membership and networking opportunities.
4. DON’T GET UPSET BY CLIENTS THAT THINK THEY KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE
- Be patient.
- Educate and show multiple options (divergent thought processes) to open up thinking.
- Be a professional.
- Remember that you were educated as an ARCHITECT (not him/her).
5. DON’T BURN BRIDGES
- The Architectural world is way too small.
- Your actions and decisions will be remembered.
6. LOOK OUT FOR #1
- It is your career and yours alone.
- Make sure you are getting the appropriate experience (IDP), opportunities and compensation.
- If you aren’t, MOVE ON!!!
7. VOICE YOUR OPINIONS
- The best ideas are never incorporated into projects unless they are heard, presented, and defended.
- Many processes in firms and details on projects can be improved if you simply point out a better solution to decision makers.
- An improvement is always appreciated by principals and clients.
8. YOU MUST DESIGN YOUR CAREER AND POSITION
- All of us are Unique = Unique jobs/positions
- Continually reflect on your experiences to determine what you really want to do.
- Make career decisions to attain this position.
9. DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF
- Develop your unique skills and abilities.
- Demonstrate how they make you a better employee and contributor.
- Potentially utilize these skills to go out on your own.
10. DON’T CONFUSE AN INTERNSHIP WITH FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT
- An internship introduces you to how a firm and projects work.
- Full-time employment mandates responsibility for your work and productivity (deadlines).
- Full-time employment = STRESS!!!
11. TECHNOLOGY WILL LEAD THE WAY
- You must stay at the forefront of technology.
- Volunteer to learn new software and lead firm implementation.
- Learn BIM (Revit) and become proficient while in school.
12. SUSTAINABILITY IS YOUR CALLING AND OPPORTUNITY
- If you endeavor to learn a lot about sustainability while in school, you will be able to share your knowledge with current practitioners and become peers.
- Take the sustainability lead within your firm.
- Become a LEED Green Associate while in school.
13. YOU NEED TO BE A CHAMPION OF SUSTAINABLY BUILT BUILDINGS/ENVIRONMENTS
- You must educate EVERYONE about sustainability.
- Future clients will be the result.
14. BUILD COMMUNITY
- Only 2% can afford the services of an Architect.
- What are you doing to help the other 98%?
- Get involved in your community.
15. SAVE THE PROFESSION
- Architects aren’t compensated fairly because the general public doesn’t value (or know) what we do.
- Teach-Share-Show-Demonstrate to others how we improve the world.
16. EDUCATION DOESN’T END IN SCHOOL
- You must continually learn to stay at the forefront of materials, systems and technology.
- Don’t let the world pass you by.
- Help teach the next generation.
- A two-way street (look up, look back).
- You will learn something in the process, and be reminded why you joined this profession.
18. NEVER GET GRUMPY
- Continually be inspired by the next generation and harness their optimism and energy.
- Be a positive and optimistic employee.
19. FIX SOMETHING
- The world is full of problems.
- Choose one or two things, and fix them.
20. COMPLETE THE TASK
- You set out to become an Architect… so take the A.R.E. and become one.
- Keep your eyes on the prize!!!
21. FINAL THOUGHT
- The easiest building to design is a box, but Architects don’t design boxes.
- Architecture is about serving others through the design of the built environment. Make sure your work is the best it can be through its service to others and contribution to a more sustainably built world.
I hope this list provides you with an opportunity to think back to your time finishing school and embarking on your career. If you could go back and give advice to your younger self, what would you say? What advice would you give to the next generation of architects? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I appreciate your feedback and plan to incorporate it into my final class this fall.
And what do you have of architecture in your life after this? Nothing. You will die alone, in the dark, and nobody will care.
Sounds bleek. I’m going to die as a kamakazee hang glider at 100.
Kent Brown says
Mark (and Kevin Singh),
I have a background as a builder and I have been involved with technology and BIM in the AEC industry for 15+ years. I enjoyed this article/post and at 1st I thought I would distribute it freely to the many AEC students and interns in my network, however, I cannot as there is one mistake or omission which I feel compelled to point out. Item 11 contains a common misconception/misperception that is fairly rampant throughout the EDU and AEC sectors: Learn BIM (Revit) insinuates Revit IS BIM which is simply not the case. Revit is merely an authoring tool whereas BIM is a process from concept to completion and even into the lifecycle of a facility. Also, students, professors, and AEC professionals throughout the globe have other options and one of them is ArchiCAD. Graphisoft’s “Virtual Building” concept started in the late 80’s with ArchiCAD being recognized as the 1st program able to create 2D drawings simultaneously with the 3D (BIM) model. Today, ArchiCAD is a highly sophisticated, intuitive, and comprehensive BIM authoring program that runs natively on both MAC and Windows operating systems, even simultaneously within the same work environment. I think you will agree that when it comes to education, exploring and contemplating all options is best and this is especially true in the ever-changing world of technology.
Mark R. LePage says
Elrond Burrell says
Totally agree. There are many BIM authoring software tools & students should explore as many as they can get their hands on, and explore the processes of BIM too.
Neil Barman says
I’m glad you piped up on this Kent as I was just about to! BIM is certainly not something that only Revit does. In fact I use Vectorworks for all my BIM, 3D and 2D work with great success.
But beyond the software, the more important thing you bring up is that BIM is a process… and a mindset. I have found firms that think they should switch to Revit to do BIM, but while arranging the budget for this massively expensive move, they keep exhibiting a lack of BIM-thinking with the tools they already have. (Often this ties back to Kevin’s “old guard” firm advice.) Regardless of the tools used (which can be learned online, from trainers, from books), I think that developing a BIM Mindset will be a key to successful projects and efficient & productive firms in the coming times.
I totally agree and need to reword this one. BIM is a process and mindset and not limited to Revit. I’ll remind students to learn as many types of BIM software as they can during their time in school.
Terrain Land Architects says
As landscape architects we are using a combination of SIM (Site Info Modeling) tools–Revit doesn’t offer much in the way of site design. We have found many of our fellow consultants are using Archicad and other products. We have been using Rhino and Sketchup in addition to AutoCAD for collaboration. BIM (or SIM in our case) is process, not software.
Nex, you don’t have to die alone and in the dark…just design the place where you would like to be laid to rest, and use a juxtaposition of natures materials combined with man- made items such as glass and steel, to make sure you can always be remembered. I can see a niche in the market for this…..
Mark R. LePage says
I love the enthusiasm Rosey : ) Keep smiling!
Rich Kniss says
Thanks for the 21 rules. They will certainly give young architects food for thought.
I have three simple rules as a practicing Architect that I use all the time.
1. Don’t kill people.
2. Don’t let water in the building.
3. Do great architecture.
They are deceivingly simple, but can be applied to nearly every situation or issue that arises in the design/documentation of a building. Does anyone else have rules they use in their career?
Mark R. LePage says
That above covers it Rich. Thanks for sharing : )
Simple and to the point. I like it!
Be grateful for every opportunity along your journey, no matter how small. Don’t judge it’s value, instead infuse it with the best you can come up with. That will make it worthwhile.
Be grateful for every employer and supervisor that is taking the time and energy to impart their knowledge to you. Be specific when you say thank you to people. Say thank you alot.
Decide with discipline to see the positive; appreciate and celebrate each task well done along the way. Your discipline in this and acknowledging tiny milestones along the way will help you keep going. Never give up.
Mark R. LePage says
Those are fantastic Cathy. Thanks for sharing. Do you write? You need to share those wise words on a Cathy Hayes blog : )
Great advice! My list is going to get a little longer.
My advise after 30 years in guiding positions in recognized design firms; endeavor to be your own client.
Make money doing something else that let’s you impact the built environment without clients.
Few will share your visions, fewer will pay to implement sustainability, and fewer still will pay anything to advance housing the underhoused.
Take what you learn and make things better for all species.
#22. Endeavor to be your own Client. If students take your advice to heart, they could really impact the built environment and be very successful if they start early and keep this as a goal.
Sig Bjornson II, AIA says
Here’s my 2 cents (aka 40 years worth . . .)
1. IDP after high school? I was lucky in that I worked for an architect my junior and senior years of HS . . . but it didn’t qualify for any IDP credits??
2. “Old Guard Firms”? Great on the resume but not so much for learning. Work for smaller firms and you’ll garner a much more rounded experience. Especially if you want to run your own circus someday.
3. Networking . . . the key to anything you do in life.
4. Don’t get upset with ANY client. They can’t help themselves.
5. Never burn bridges! NEVER!
6. Yes, look out for yourself . . . but fitting in and helping others does wonders for #1 (you).
7. Yeah, voice your opinions . . . but when it isn’t working for a curtain job – move on. The biggest drag of most interns in their insistence that THEIR design is perfect and won’t give it up. Sometimes your brilliant ideas just don’t pan out – get over it.
8. Yup. Your career is yours alone. Do it. your own way.
9. See 8.
10. Just work . . . some situations work and some don’t.
11. Generally yes . . . but don’t forget how to draw. Or do whatever it takes to communicate your ideas. The answer isn’t running the biggest, best machine.
12 & 13. I did solar/energy efficiency in the 80’s . . . good luck. Sustainabilty/renewables will happen when we have a society that cares and someone can make a profit doing it. Until then . . . make sure you pay your utility bills to giant corporations.
15. Good luck saving the profession. We architects are a back-stabbing lot . . . which is the root of the issue. Don’t be an a-hole, ego-tect. Be nice to your fellow architect. Hell, be nice to everyone.
16. Education should never stop for anyone in any profession . . . or life in general.
17. Nobody succeeds on their own . . . soak-in what you can and pass it forward when you can.
18. Grumpy? Just don’t take yourself and your designs to seriously. Some day you’ll look back on your college work and laugh.
19. Fix anything. Quit buying new as the solution for everything.
20. Always complete the task . . . even if it doesn’t need completing. Half done anything is worthless.
21. Final thought? Architecture is a rough and rocky road. Do it because you love it. Period.
Thanks for taking the time to critique the entire list. Could be a good comparison for class discussion.
Since I can’t leave a reply elsewhere for some reason.
1. What distinction between internship and full-time work? I started out of school with full-time pay, benefits, and raises long before I got my license. Most of the firms I know do the same.
2. Architects do far more than just design. This is emphasized far, far too little in school.
We are in-charge of meeting a clients needs even if they are not glamorous. We safeguard their money, guide them through design and construction. Many firms find there is far more value in a good reputation for clear, on-time, and in-budget projects than there is for high-design.
It makes me cringe at how often I hear of a high-design building that is over budget, leaks, or had too many change-orders. Far better you make the client happy with the building and construction result and process than using Brazilian cherry and curtain wall.
We recently did a building for a hamburger joint that is a small chain. We had an intern helping and I told him as a I’ll say now: “We’ve got several sets they sent for reference from two different architects they used before us. Take note because our drawings must be right and we must think of the price-points. There is a reason they didn’t use these other architects again.”
3. I think some of the problem in being undervalued is the way we do deliverables.
We as a society don’t put much value on digital images – they’re all free aren’t they?! – or paper – it’s disposable, it’s cheap. So why would a client think our work was otherwise? We don’t do a good job of communicating the value of our process.
4. BIM…the big buzzword. I’m a nerd. I love computers, CAD & BIM. I have experience in lots of packages. The truth is that BIM is not realistic or necessary for every project.
Doing a retail renovation, tenant fit-out, etc. for an average GC and owner they don’t care about having BIM. It sounds fancy; they like seeing the models but have no use for it. You’re still producing a set of 2D prints they will use to build. How you get there is up to you.
Most firms spend more than other businesses would deem appropriate for tech. You buy a workstation for 2K, add software for 8K, add a yearly subscription for 1K and by the end you need to cover 10K per person….then revolve that cost at 1K a year and replace workstations every four years. That doesn’t include all the other software you need: bookkeeping, Photoshop, etc… That’s allot of money for BIM nobody can ‘see’.
“But its the future!” you say. Certainly. It’s worth knowing, its worth using on some projects but if your good enough no one will notice the difference in how you draw that toilet renovation or re-roof project.
angelo m (@angelo_arch) says
Nice reminders Kevin (to BSU!). It’s way to easy to get into a rut and give into all those stereotypes.
Thanks man! Ball State provided a great foundation to practice architecture.
Whoo hoo! CAP rocks!
Roger F. White says
… and Replenish the Earth.
Ebenezer Ogunbiyi says
Salmah Lasbury says
I do like your balanced wry approach, wished I had a friend like you when I was at the beginning of my working life.
Deborah Jensen says
Great list! It actually made me feel a bit better about my career path over the years. Except for #2 “Don’t get caught up in old guard firms.” The large city in the south where I began my career had little to offer except the old guard. My one regret is that I spent as much time in these firms as I did. As a female, it was pretty crushing at times. Really appreciate the positive articles and insight into our profession.
That’s a tough one. If there aren’t options, I’m not sure what you do. As more positions open up for recent graduates, I want them to consider their choice of firm and the impact it will have on their career.
Thank you for all the great feedback and advice that will impact the next generation in our profession!
Neil Barman says
Thank YOU for the list Kevin. I think it serves as a great target for new colleagues and a valuable reminder for those well into the profession. The discussion that this has generated has been inspiring too. (And thanks to Mark too of course for the superb venue.)
#3 is so true. You may not be an architect, but may have experience in the industry that is and can be of great value to you. Be kind to all who walks through your door. Chances are they know something you may not, or even yet, could be a future client.
Some true, some naive. There is the way it is supposed to be, and there is the way it is. Who set’s the rules?
There’s also the way you want it to be and the way it will be, which is determined by conscious and deliberate choice, planning, and action. Every great journey starts with one step. It won’t really matter who sets the rules for if you don’t like them, don’t follow them and set your own rules. Free-will is a beautiful thing. Differentiate yourself from the pack. “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities; it is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak” – Thomas Carlyle
Tim Oates says
Nice article Kevin. I am glad to see you continue to aspire to greatness. Keep up the great work.
Reityar Sou says
Best Advice… too much thanks u sir.
David Sanders says
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Mr. Singh has never owned or managed an actual architectural practice (viewed his LinkedIn profile to check)… Is that correct? I’m a little perplexed by this advice column; particularly in regards to client expectation management. Clients don’t come to me to get an education. They come to me to solve a design problem. If they’re interested in architecture, and want me to educate them, then fine… I’ll expound. Mostly, they don’t.
Quote: “The easiest building to design is a box, but Architects don’t design boxes.”
Hmm.. What if a box is the best solution to the design problem? I can’t do blobitechture designing a room addition to a Pulte tract house. I’m licensed in two states. I’ve designed a helluva’ lot of boxes. Do I reject a client on the basis that they don’t want a ‘progressive’ solution to their building project? That’s some real academic arrogance, right there.
Some of the points made are good… But some are a direct route to poverty (case in point; #10: Full time work leads to an INCOME… Stress is part of the game, kids. You can’t avoid it.).
For me, the biggest thing I strive to do is to satisfy my clients’ program requirements within the law, and try to be a responsible steward of their construction funds. Didn’t see any mention of that at all in this list. I have a license to be a design professional, not a philosopher. I have a philosophy, but it’s of very limited utility in the ‘real’ world.
I’ll also add that the whole ‘sustainability’ fashion of late has led to soaring construction costs… Particularly since these concepts have begun to manifest themselves in code language. Be careful what you wish for, or you may end up with no clientele capable of financing this ‘great architecture’ being spoken of.
Have you installed $20,000 worth of PV panels on your own house, Mr. Singh?
Sorry for the mild snark, but man… At least practice for a few years before teaching these kids, and especially before trying to pump them full of ‘wisdom’. This is truly terrifying.
First off, this advice is for fourth year architecture students about to begin their career – not for seasoned professionals.
Did you notice ‘AIA’ behind my name when you checked out my LinkedIn profile? I updated and included my practice experience and have worked in firms ranging in size from 7 people to 300+. I have been a sole proprietor since 2009 designing single family residences. I’ve worn all the hats and take on all the professional liability on projects.
Educating clients (talking about the process, decision making, roles of the Owner-Architect-Contractor, etc.) is important to outline goals and direction for a project. I’m not talking about lecturing the client about the high and mighty architect!
In my practice experience, each and every project is important and worthy of the best design possible while staying within the budget (that’s what the client wants). I’ve worked on residential additions. Some were better than others, but they all fit within the existing context. Yes, I can pick and choose which projects I take on because I’m a full-time educator. I understand to make ends meet that firms need to take on projects that are not all great, but you have to do the best work possible (that’s how you get better clients). When I talk about “boxes”, I’m referring to the simplest most basic design that involves no thought whatsoever. A good addition is not a box.
I sure hope you aren’t mentoring recent graduates. Your tone is toxic.
Also, you might want to reread #18. Optimism is important.
I am currently in grade 12 thinking of what angle to approach my architecture career from. I have researched tons and have a passion to learn. I love this article because it has helped me understand the hurdles I will have to pass through my life, and career as an architect. Also this article helps me feel that as a young architect who is looking for help from the older generation, fearing I will be shut down, can see that they have the same passion to teach others as they have for architecture.
Mark R. LePage says
Thanks for your comment. I am so happy to read that Kevin’s article has inspired you. Stay focused. Continue to learn and connect with as many architects as you can. When you are ready to enter architecture school you will be fully prepared for the adventure waiting for you.
If you are not already listening to the Archispeak Podcast, I recommend that you give it a listen. I think you will enjoy it.
Please keep us posted on your progress.
I wish you the best.
I’m a fresh graduate and getting into my apprenticeship is something I’ve been seriously thinking about. Thoughts on what I really want, what my principles are, and a lot of similar things in between. I also did my checklist and it kinda resembles what’s written here. I’m glad I came across your article and I felt that it was a verification that I might be doing what’s right for myself. Made my mind clear, sir!
In conclusion, I just have to stick in what I think is right and what my gut tells me. I mean, all of us know what we want and we just have to discover on our own how we are supposed to get there. I’ll be taking baby steps and set the stakes not too high and not too early. I’ll take it easy and give my self the ample time to grow into the career. And just like a baby, I wouldn’t mind if I fail or bruise myself in the process.
Mark R. LePage says
That sounds like a good plan Kristoff. Architecture is a fantastic profession. If you love what you do, follow your passion. Be sure to educate yourself with the tools you will need to succeed and you will have the life of which you dream. Keep us posted on your progress.
Pantelis Soteriou says
Thank you! Very helpful! One thought though: Revit is not BIM. BIM is much bigger than that. 🙂
Jeff Carbine says
I loved it when you said that architects aren’t compensated fairly because the general public doesn’t value what we do. This is an interesting article to read I’ll share this with my aunt. Thank you for the information about architectural peer it would give her an idea of what he should do.
Mark R. LePage says
Thanks for listening Jeff.
Victoria Addington says
You made a good point when you mentioned that developing your exceptional skills and abilities is a great way to a successful architect. My brother wants to pursue a career in the field of architecture. I should advise him to look for an institution that specializes in higher education building architecture to attain proper education.