Job hunting after graduation isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking experience. Read on for 11 strategies to help you take charge of the process by maximizing online resources like LinkedIn, Archinect, and the AIA Career Center. Before you know it you’ll land your dream job and get your career off to a great start.
Waiting around for a job to appear on Indeed or other online job board isn’t enough. Many jobs don’t even make it to an official listing, and the ones that do will likely have a lot of interest. Getting noticed often requires more effort.
“I refer to it as a proactive approach versus simply a reactive approach,” says Scott Scheible, Associate Director, AAP Connect, at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning. “It’s not enough to reactively apply to job postings on job boards. You can do that and be successful, but more and more you have to proactively get on these firms’ radar long before the recruiting process begins.”
Begin by identifying firms that you want to work with, then get on their radar. For example:
Interact with firms on LinkedIn. Follow firms you’re interested in and engage with the content they post through likes and comments. Make note of their projects and news to use in your outreach and, later, job applications and cover letters. “If you can spend 15 minutes a day commenting on company pages or in groups, that gets you on their radar,” notes Rikka Brandon, founder and chief executive recruiter of Building Gurus, a boutique executive search and consulting firm in the construction and design industries.
Interact with architects on LinkedIn. Identify architects you’re connected with, then reach out to request a phone or in-person chat to discuss their firm and their work. This is a great way to gain insights into the company as well as to keep your name top of mind.
Utilize LinkedIn job groups. Follow LinkedIn groups tied to architecture jobs. Within those groups, recruiters and hiring managers can message you for free.
Meet offline. Use LinkedIn and email to connect with firms, then get face time. Scheible notes that many of his students use school breaks to head to their city of choice for informational interviews or casual meet and greets with firms or associates they may be connected to through a shared school or interest. “Build in valuable time to devote to a job search versus just putting out as many applications as you can,” he advises. “That networking piece, getting on the radar, can make such a big difference.”
When architects come speak to your class, introduce yourself afterward, connect via LinkedIn, or send a follow-up email. Many firms use these speaking engagements as a way to scope out potential talent, Brandon says, so don’t waste the opportunity.
Finally, take advantage of your local AIA chapter. You never know who you’ll meet at an event, whether it’s a new friend or an architect who’s working at a firm that’s hiring. If you’re not a member, now is a great time to join. It’s free, for up to 18 months, for new grads.
Give yourself an edge
With thousands of similar profiles on online job sites, it’s important to make sure yours stands out.
Leverage keywords. Ensure your LinkedIn and other profiles are keyword optimized, advises Brandon, as recruiters and HR managers use those terms in their own searches. Include key terms for your skills and expertise as well as your project areas of interest. For resumes submitted electronically on job boards, incorporate those words there, as well, since electronic sorting is often used.
Create search alerts. LinkedIn, Indeed, and other platforms allow you to create alerts when jobs are posted with your criteria. This will help you be one of the first to know about openings you might be interested in.
Get endorsements. Make sure your contacts are endorsing your listed skills on LinkedIn, which will help boost your ranking in search results.
Avoid common mistakes
Even with technology, many of the best practices that have been true for decades still hold true.
Use a quality head shot. You don’t have to have a formal head shot, but make sure it looks professional, is clear, has a neutral background, and is cropped from the shoulders up, Brandon advises.
Customize your applications. A cover letter is your opportunity to convey your specific passion and interest in that firm and to include things that your resume doesn’t allow for, Scheible notes. Demonstrate your initiative in understanding the company’s work, refer to conversations with current team members, and offer specific tie-ins between your interests and their projects. A cover letter should be as much about them as it is about you, perhaps more so.
Customize your portfolio. As with a cover letter, adjust your portfolio based on each firm, highlighting specific elements of your work that align with theirs. This level of customization takes more time—but can add real value to your application.
Have an elevator pitch ready. “Tell me about yourself” is a question that always comes up in interviews but isn’t always answered well. Get ahead by developing an elevator pitch, a concise description of who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and why you’re the best candidate for the job. Be prepared to describe yourself and your best skills in just 30 seconds. Practice your pitch so it sounds authentic—not forced or stiff.
A free AIA membership for new grads can make your job search more productive and less stressful. You’ll gain access to invaluable career resources such as our salary calculator, AIA Career Center: the industry’s premier job board, extensive networking and education opportunities, your local chapter, and community of 95,000+ professionals.
Another way to be better prepared is to take advantage of AIA’s networking events, endless resources, education, and more. Learn more about free AIA membership options for recent graduates here.
Ready to join AIA?