This article was originally published by The Architect's Guide as "How to Create a Target List of Architecture Firms."
In a previous article, 5 Reasons Why You Need Multiple Architecture Portfolios, I discussed the importance of creating a targeted employment application. This process begins with selecting the office(s) where you would like to work.
So with the thousands of architecture firms out there, how do you know where to apply? I am sure you can come up with a few companies off the top of your head or perhaps you have a specific firm in mind.
Regardless if you are targeting one employer or are simply looking for a “new job” these strategies will help you create your ideal architecture firm list.
Even if you are only considering one office, take the time to perform this exercise. The act of doing so may reveal opportunities you would not have otherwise considered.
To How Many Employers Should I Apply?
I typically recommend applying to 30-40 potential employers. This may sound like a lot but stay with me. This should not be a long exercise, don’t spend more than an hour or two on this step.
Obviously if you are not planning on moving then this is less relevant. However, even if you are set on staying in town it does not hurt to research what is out there. This will help with your later negotiations and give you an idea of what other employers are looking for in the marketplace.
For example, let’s say a large number of firms are requiring Revit experience (which is actually true). If you are a Revit expert, you can leverage this knowledge in your application and later in the interview.
Dream positions: You probably already have the names of a handful of dream offices where you would love to work. That is a great start. Write them down. This should probably consist of five or so offices.
I have found that the best method of keeping track of the applications is a spreadsheet. While we are in a creative field and generally despise spreadsheets, it is worthwhile to keep organized.
The last thing you want to do is become confused and apply to the same place twice or leave out a great opportunity. Dealing with 30+ potential employers it is quite easy to become disorganized.
Include a column for the company name, location, the date of your application, if you have received a response and any contact information.
See example format below (download the Excel version here):
One of the most valuable tools for creating your target list of firms is your network. This can either be existing contacts or people you reach out to that may not know you directly.
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools for research. Not only can you see the company information but also the past and current employees. You can dig a little deeper and see the past employees work history, look at how long they stayed. Obviously a large number of short tenures might be cause for concern.
Depending on the size of the architecture firm you can also search Facebook groups to see if there is a community for your targeted office.
Reach out to your university alumni, find them on LinkedIn if you don’t have their contact information. This will also let you see their current and past employers. Check with your alumni office to see if there is a database you can use to contact a potential connection or employer.
They may be able to let you know if either one is hiring and/or can put you in touch with the hiring manager. I have been on the end of overly persistent candidates many times. While I am always willing to help someone out, like everyone I don’t want to be bothered with dozens of messages across multiple platforms.
Keep your message short and to the point, only ask for one or two things. Don’t create a request checklist that overwhelms the recipient. If they can’t fulfill one of the many tasks they will often not respond.
Networking is an extremely valuable weapon in your job search arsenal, just don't abuse it.
Once you have your target list complied you can dig a little deeper with your research. Again, LinkedIn is a great resource for this, the company website is great for data, and GlassDoor can be helpful with inside information.
Disclaimer: Some of the job review sites have the problem of ratings bias. Meaning, if you really hated the company you worked for, you are more likely to write a review. Keeping that in mind, don't take the negative feedback as the only source of insight - try to speak with former employees to get their take on the office culture.
Be careful with over-researching, you don’t want to waste too much time. Before you know it you can burn three hours reading through every architecture website. For this part of the process you only want to create a list that you can use for your applications.
What Is a Good Fit?
Remember that you are simply wasting your time by applying to EVERY job posting out there.
It may feel like you are being productive but by not focusing on the appropriate positions you are not being effective.
The time you invest now will benefit your job search later when you are deciding between firms that you have already established are a good fit.
Keep in mind the importance of finding a good fit for the architecture firms you are researching and ultimately applying. If an office isn't a good fit, it may meet your financial obligations in the short term but it can damage your long-term career prospects.
For example if you are employed for a short time because it is a poor fit, this can reflect negativity on your work history.
Obviously it is impossible to know exactly what it is going to be like working there but by doing your due diligence ahead of time should reduce the potential downsides.
Finding Architecture Jobs
There a lot of different sources to find architecture job postings. For more information on this topic, check out my previous post, Where To Apply For Architecture Jobs Online.
Thanks for reading, I hope this will help you put together a target list of architecture firms for your next round of job applications.
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