New Beginnings

Graduation will quickly be upon us… to the graduates about to enter the workforce, I wish you heartfelt congratulations and my best wishes (and a reminder that this is a great opportunity to establish your NCARB record and begin IDP, if you haven’t already… but I digress…).  To the rest of us, its the beginning of another summer.

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In my role as the IDP coordinator, I’ve talked to quite a few students in the last year or so, and many of them have asked me the same question: “Where should I look to find an internship.” (Funny how their first — and therefore most important — question is the one that I’m the LEAST qualified to answer.) While I sincerely wish that I could give everyone the “silver bullet” that would guarantee them a position this summer, I simply can’t do that. Even if you leave the economic climate out of the equation; because of the short duration (and the fact that students are in school and aren’t really able to “pound the pavement” looking for a job), summer internships are particularly difficult to come by.

If you held an internship last summer, that’s obviously a good start. Here are a few questions:
1. Is there any chance that your previous employer would take you back this summer? (Have you checked with them, or are you only assuming that this isn’t an option?)
2. If not, are you friendly enough with anyone in that office (especially someone in their late-20s/ early 30s) that could suggest other offices that you could contact?
3. If so, would that person be willing to make an introduction/ put in a good word or two, so that you’re not making a cold phone call?

I would also suggest making contact with the local AIA chapter in the area where you’re looking for a potential internship — they might have job postings for firms in the area, or could at least take your name and contact information in case a firm would happen to call them looking for potential interns. Another avenue would be to get in touch with the Associate Director (i.e., the representative young architect) for that chapter. They might be able to steer you in the right direction, or at least start putting you in touch with people who could lead to opportunities down the road. (Those of you in Pennsylvania looking for your local AD should click here.)

If none of this is bearing any fruit, I’d suggest broadening your horizons beyond architectural offices, like an engineering firm or a construction office. Remember that IDP allows you to earn credit in non-traditional settings (Experience Setting “O”), and you can also earn Supplemental Experience in “Design or Construction-Related Employment”… as long as you’re meeting the guidelines, you can still earn IDP credit.

To be perfectly honest, volunteering in the architectural community is a fantastic way to spend your time and “immerse” yourself. There are plenty of avenues available to you — certainly the AIA (through the National Associates Committee (NAC) and the Young Architects Forum (YAF)) is one that immediately comes to mind, but there are several other like-minded organizations (such as Architecture for Humanity and the Green Building Alliance) that would offer good opportunities to volunteer/ network, as well. You could also look into non-profit organizations (two Pittsburgh-based examples would be the Design Center (www.cdcp.org) and the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation (www.phlf.org), both of which produce several architecturally-oriented programs throughout the year). PHLF in particular reaches out to local high schools with career fairs and an annual Design Challenge. There is also ACE Mentoring, which is another opportunity for design professionals to mentor high school students interested in our profession. All of these avenues are also opportunities for further networking with professionals in the industry, which might lead to an job offer somewhere down the line.

If you haven’t noticed, the suggestions above fall under the same basic category – networking. You need to spread your wings and get your name into the field, get to know people (and allow them to get to know you) and start to be recognized as part of the community. (Generally, this is good career advice, but not necessarily for an internship *this* summer. At the most, it might help lead to an internship — or a full-time position! — for *next* summer.)

Congratulations on finishing another year of school. I hope that you’ll find at least some of this to be helpful… Either way, leave me your thoughts in the comments. And enjoy your summer.

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