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Architecture Employability: How Can I Increase my Employability?

There’s no denying it, the recession has brought tough times upon architecture students. The competition to land that elusive graduate job in architecture is at an all time high so  you should be doing everything at university to maximise your employability. But don’t worry, help is at hand. We present to you our top ten suggestions on how to prepare yourself for the tough job market:

1. It’s a balancing act. Examine your skills and assess what you’re getting from your architecture school. Is your course better for developing your creative side, or does it focus more on technical or practical aspects?

2. If your course and work is very creative and conceptual, balance this out by taking on some small practical design projects. This could be designing and overseeing the construction of a tree house, a shelving unit or a chair for a friend. Small design projects are a great way of testing out the skills you will need as a qualified architect overseeing larger projects, such as taking budgeting, aesthetics and sustainability into account.

3. If you think you’re picking up plenty of practical and technical skills, but feel your creative side is a little undeveloped, enter some architecture or design competitions. Competitions are a great way to exercise those creative and conceptual muscles, and winning one won’t look too bad on your CV either. Keep entering competitions during your placement too.

4. Work on those drawing and CAD skills. These are areas in which architecture students and recent graduates can be of most use to architectural practices. Really develop those card model-making and computer model-making skills.Being able to create 3D visualisations of models on the computer is a really valuable skill to have.

5. Don’t just rely on your placement; find work experience in architectural practices during your Part 1 and Part 2. Work experience is a great way of establishing relationships with practices and contacts in the world of architecture, as well as developing those workplace skills.

6. Get some work experience on a building site. Architecture students are sometimes criticised as being ‘too conceptual’, so step away from those drawings and designs and get some work experience on a building site.It’s a fantastic way of getting to know the issues and problems surrounding construction, how people communicate on building sites, safety issues and how to ground your design ideas in a practical framework.

7. If you can’t find any work experience, then what about getting some holiday work on a building site? Sign up to temp agencies, contact employers and see if you can land yourself some temporary work on a building site - whether it’s helping out with office admin or doing manual work. Yes, it might not be very glamorous, but it’s a great way to get a real sense of how building sites work.  

8. Develop your communication skills. We don’t need to tell you that architects need to be great communicators. So during one of those long university holidays, you might brush up on those communication skills by finding work in a customer facing role. The trickier and more demanding the customers the better, clients can be a lot worse!

9. Maintain an interest in architecture outside your course. Attend external lectures and events put on by organisations like the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), subscribe to some architecture magazines, or even set up your own student-run architecture magazine.

10. You might want to brush up on those foreign language skills. An ever increasing proportion of work, particularly in larger practices, is now coming from overseas clients. Architecture is an international business, so it might be worth building on those GCSE or A-level language skills.

But, above all, enjoy yourself! Don’t get too worked up about ‘employability’, relish the chance you have at university to delve deep into studying architecture and explore all your creative and conceptual ideas.