What Is Your Dream Architecture Job?

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There is a common theme with most of the emails I receive and in my initial discussions with my career coaching clients: they are looking for an architecture job. 

This should be obvious if I am someone who helps people find rewarding work in the architecture profession. However I am not interested in helping someone find a "job". I am not even interested in helping someone find a "good job". I want you to find your dream architecture job.

If you are thinking about a new architecture job, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:

"I don't know what my dream architecture job is"

This is a common and legitimate concern. Do you really know what the ideal job would be for you? It is different for everyone.

If you could wave a magic want and create the perfect job, what would it look like? There are many variables that make up a great architecture job, I covered these in greater detail in, 25 Things To Consider When Choosing An Architecture Job Offer.

However, the major points that I often see coming to the top of candidates lists are rewarding work, fair pay, sensible hours and flexibility. 

Don't forget the simple things

A recent Time article, Millennials Want Peace and Quiet at Work, Not Free Snacks, covered a topic that I personally find to be extremely important.

"Open office plans that are meant to foster collaboration and teamwork also ensure that workers have little privacy throughout the day and must deal with near constant interruptions."

The article goes on to say that, "a full 50% of surveyed millennials (around 300 people) said it [office noise] bothered them, significantly higher than for other groups. They’re also more likely to take steps to tune out the chatter, like listening to music or leaving their desks, which in turn increases their productivity and happiness in the office.

“Finding quiet time is about happiness as well as productivity; more than half of employees say ambient noise reduces their satisfaction at work,” the report reads."

This is just one example of a job characteristic that you likely won't find in the description of the role. So it is vital that you understand what is important to you.

What is your dream architecture job?

How would you define your dream architecture job?

You need to think about how you work best and are most productive. If you work well in an open office environment then great go ahead. Otherwise you should seek out either a small employer with an open office configuration or a large office with individual offices.

Negotiating a work from home arrangement or freelancing could both be great options. Gritting your teeth and showing up somewhere you are unhappy is not only bad for you mental well being but it will negatively affect your long term architecture career.

For most people "I don't know what my dream architecture job is" really means: "I'm just going to hope that my dream architecture job shows up on my doorstep." 

Subconsciously, we often ignore what our dream job is to give us an easy out. Simply put, you will not be disappointed when you don't get something you never wanted to begin with. Obviously this is not a logical path to success.

I am a big believer in working hard to get what you want. Countless studies have shown that true happiness is found when you are rewarded for your hard work. A great architecture job doesn't just fall into your lap. You have to dig around, stay focused and make a ruckus to discover the company and position you really want.  

The end goal is finding a great architecture job that makes you excited to get up in the morning. By definition this is something everyone wants so the slots are limited and only the best and hardest working individuals are rewarded with this type of job. 

I recently asked the question in an architecture forum, "what is your definition of the perfect architecture job?"

Here are a few of the responses below:

  • Open minded, communicative client truly interested in collaboration with his or her design team.
  • Adequate budget for the task at hand.
  • Stimulating/challenging project brief.
  • One that provides a reasonable wage for professionals who go to school oftentimes just as long as doctors, lawyers, and the very same engineers we work on projects with
  • 20 hours a week, pays ok, no boss. Preferably working on bizarre and interesting small projects that don't require a lot of code-wrangling and paperwork.
  • ~60% of time using a pencil/mouse/phone.
  • ~40% of the time using a table/chopsaw, nailgun, carpenter's square, drill, sander, etc.

My obvious response to this feedback is that these are not out of this world expectations! All of these requests are possible in the context of working for an architecture firm.

As an example I have applied real jobs to each of the descriptions below that prove any or all of the requirements are possible. 

A designer in a small collaborate design studio:

  • Open minded, communicative client truly interested in collaboration with his or her design team.

An architect in a large international architecture office with billion-dollar projects: 

  • Adequate budget for the task at hand.

A designer working on an international airport project:

  • Stimulating/challenging project brief.

A project manager on a large commercial project in a major metro area:

  • One that provides a reasonable wage for professionals who go to school oftentimes just as long as doctors, lawyers, and the very same engineers we work on projects with

A freelance architect working part-time from home or in an office:

  • 20 hours a week, pays ok, no boss. Preferably working on bizarre and interesting small projects that don't require a lot of code-wrangling and paperwork.

An architecture model builder as part of a large practice or in a dedicated model studio:

  • ~60% of time using a pencil/mouse/phone.
    ~40% of the time using a table/chopsaw, nailgun, carpenter's square, drill, sander, etc.

Finding a role that can meet each of the requirements is a relatively simple exercise. Finding a job that meets all of the above may be more challenging but not impossible.

"Give and take"

Remember that an effective job candidate should always keep in mind that "getting a job" should be thought of as a two way conversation.

Meaning, not only what can the employer provide in terms of compensation and benefits but also what you can provide in terms of skills and experience. When all of these needs are in agreement it sets the stage for a mutually beneficial relationship that leads to a rewarding job and career.

Put it on paper

It is helpful to not only create a clear vision of the requirements you have in mind but also write them down in order of most to least important.

Which items are a deal breaker? Which are you willing to compromise? 

This will help to keep your priorities in order and help you to decide when it comes to the job search, selection and ultimately the negotiation.

I don't blame you if you don't know what your dream architecture job looks like at this point. Few people do. However, every decision you make from this point forward should be a step towards figuring out what you dream job looks like.

So what are you waiting for?

To help you with your architecture job search, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:

For further reading on architecture job applications, portfolios, interviews and more see The Complete Package below:

Thanks for reading, see also my posts on:

How To Stay Motivated With The Architecture Job Search

The Top 5 Architecture Interview Questions

Where To Apply For Architecture Jobs Online

Good luck!

Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C