New architecture job? Size Matters!

“I want to work projects from start to finish, but I want to work in a big firm where there is more consistency.”

I hear this a lot when talking with candidates that are considering a career move. To be honest, in my experience, this doesn’t really exist and I want to talk about why knowing this matters. Being realistic about your options and what life will be like at the next architecture or design firm that you are going to work for is important when you are making decisions that could affect the next phase of your career. This post is by no means comprehensive and there are certainly exceptions to my experience out there – but for the most part – these are the trends that I see when I talk to both clients and candidates about how their firms are structured. Understanding what the market looks like and the current realities of your industry will give you a solid foundation for launching a productive job search.

“I want to work on projects from tip to tail”

This is a common sentiment that many architects and designers express at certain points in their career progression. Many are looking for additional responsibility and hoping to move from more technical work to more of a design focused role where they can oversee a project from start to finish. Obviously in a 3 person firm – you do a lot of this – there is no one else to do it. I would also venture to say that most small to mid sized firms offer great opportunities to the experience the entire life of a project for a designer or architect.

Often times, I find that the larger the firm, the more compartmentalized the work. For example: Concept is handled by this group, client relations and communication by this person, technical documents by this team, etc. This is an excellent format for getting things done on a large scale. It is a great setting for someone who wants to get more experience in a specific phase of the design/construction process – or – someone who is really passionate about focusing only on design or only on technical aspects.

So, What’s Next?

When it comes to choosing a firm that you are going to work for you need to figure out what you want from your next role.

  • Is it about being able to wrap your arms around entire projects?
  • Are you ready to drill down on a narrower aspect of the design process because it is what you truly enjoy doing day-in and day-out?
  • Is the security of a giant corporate firm important to you?
  • Do you need to feel like your voice is heard during the design process?

There are a lot of questions you need to ask and answer in order to make your next move the right one. Doing that on your own can be a daunting task. My advice…don’t. Consult your mentors, talk with people about their experiences at different types of firms, and consider partnering with a recruiter to be able to ask the questions that you might not want to ask a potential employer directly.

A Career Sherpa

A recruiter can help guide you through the jungle of industry trends and the ins and outs of working for other firms through their insight and client interaction. Think of them as kind of a “career sherpa”, if you will. Use your recruiter by picking their brain and being open to having them coach you. Trust them to help guide you in the direction that YOU want based on the information you provided to them.

A great recruiter will want to know about what YOUR ideal next steps are and will help educate and coach you when needed. Although you work in the industry, recruiters work with hiring managers all day, they know ever-changing lay of the industry land, and they have a different perspective of the same job you might be considering. Use all of your resources to help make the best decision for you. You deserve every advantage that you can find when it comes to growing your career.

If you would like to pick my brain about the possibilities for your career, email me at dawnielle[at]dbifirm[dot]com. I would love to learn how I can help you.