The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB).
I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard the term “networking” in relation to the architecture field. And as a student, I’m starting to see why. Ensuring you have a strong, broad network of connections and resources is essential for success as an aspiring architect. I’m almost halfway through my B.Arch program at Alfred State, but I’ve already learned how to use the power of networking to improve my work and understanding of architecture. So, how do you build such a network?
1. Learn From Your Peers
My studiomates and I are a family, and so we help each other out. Some of my peers happen to know more about Revit and AutoCAD than I do. Some are exceptional model-makers who show me the ways of their artistry. And if ever I can help them, I do. Also, don’t forget about upperclassmen. When they’re not pulling all-nighters, maybe they can provide tips to help you avoid your own.
2. Connect With Your Professors
Architecture professors can be an excellent link to internships and potential employers. Plus, they can serve as mentors after graduation. With that said, make an effort to connect with professors you admire and would like to learn from. It might seem hard when they’re criticizing an assignment, but that’s how you learn!
3. Get Involved
If you’re the type of architecture student that has spare time (they exist—I swear), take part in extra projects. Architecture organizations often have design competitions that can count toward the Intern Development Program (IDP) and be a nice addition to a portfolio. If you have an opportunity to volunteer for small-scale projects in your community, take it. It also wouldn’t hurt to join organizations such as the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS). Finally, attending conferences and presentations allow you to meet a ton of people from all around the nation, even the world, with unique backgrounds and talents.
4. Reach Out to Architects
Chances are, you know someone who knows an architect. Right there is a shimmering beacon of opportunity. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals you’d like to learn from. Maybe your school’s AIAS chapter could organize a firm or site visit. Ask your school’s architecture department to bring in guest lecturers. In summary, don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Make opportunities for yourself.
5. Start Your Internship
Did you know you can start earning IDP experience after high school? Working at an architecture firm is one of the best ways to develop your network. Not only do you meet professionals who can serve as supervisors and mentors, but oftentimes you meet other students. Perhaps you and that Revit wiz will start a firm someday.
Finally, keep in mind the essence of time. Building a network now will put you way ahead of the curve. When you graduate school (and you will graduate), your connections will hopefully help you land your dream job.