Architecture : The Lost Student’s Guide to Career Management

As we approach the end of the academic year, students are again discussing the issue of work. Whether you are a third year student looking for work for the next year, or a student looking for holiday work, one cannot ignore the importance of obtaining as much as experience in the working world as possible. All schools of architecture encourage this, and in some cases schools will only consider accepting students into the honours program once they have ventured out into the professional world.

Finding a job proves to be somewhat of a challenge, simply because of the competition from not only our peers, but also from other qualified architects and draftsmen in the profession. In any given class in the undergraduate degree, more than 70 of your closest friends will be applying for the same jobs you are; submitting portfolios and CV’s to 50 firms who have no idea who you are will not bring back the kind of responses you are looking for.A successful job application for a student requires commitment not only to the course, but also to the architect community. The world is one large network and we need to expose ourselves to it, make a face for ourselves as early as possible.

Most lecturers and tutors are either practicing architects and/or have connections to other practicing architects, making them the logical first port of call. This may seem obvious, but remember that in the world of tertiary education it is very easy to remain a student number. Make yourself known to your educators during your time at school, form relationships with them. Not only will you learn a lot from them that cannot be garnered through a 100% attendance rate, but should any opportunities come up in the way of jobs, scholarships, studios - they will remember you.

Another way to gain recognition as an individual in architecture is by attending and volunteering for events hosted by others in the profession. There are several opportunities to volunteer and meet other students and architects in Johannesburg alone – the Architect Africa Film Festival, Eunuch Studio are a couple of the large annual events, while smaller events would be those such as book launches, opening ceremonies, exhibitions, the list goes on. Once there, do not spend the whole of your evening at the free bar. Mingle, network. These events tend to be interesting and architects are generally engaging people - there is always something you can take away from it.

We must remember that we are part of a larger community – we cannot expect it to provide unconditionally unless we are prepared to give back where we can. The community can only survive as a whole if we put in as much as we are given and more. The Architects Collective Student Union aims to highlight the needs of students, yes, but part of that is accepting our responsibility to our profession and creating a middle ground where in helping ourselves we are able to give back to the broader architecture community.

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Article by Delphina Serumaga-Musisi First published on