After going through the process of applying and interviewing for internships (and also my first full time position), I noticed a few things when reaching out to architecture firms. I thought through my discoveries and decided to write three tips based off of my experiences and the experiences of close friends and colleagues.
Tip #1 Sending mass emails does not always get the job done.
Do not send out mass emails to firms’ generic “careers” email address and expect to get an internship off of that alone. From what myself and friends have experienced, the majority of the emails you send here will never be seen. You MUST take another step. After you send your resume and portfolio to their generic “careers” email, you have to keep going. Yes, the majority of firms have a general email like “email@example.com” that they will tell you to send your resume and portfolio to. The problem with only sending your resume to that email is that it will get lost in the midst of the hundreds of others that get sent to that same email. You’ll get an automatic response saying “Thank you for your interest in The Best Firm Ever – we will contact you if your qualifications meet our needs.” Most firms (especially the big, popular ones) get more resumes than they know what to do with – it’s rare to hear back purely off of this generic email. So after you send your resume to this email and get the automatic response, do some research on their website (or go to Tip #2). Find an ACTUAL PERSON’s email to send your resume to. Most firms have an Operations Manager or an Office Leader who probably does most of the hiring, so look for their name and email to send your information. A person is a lot more likely to respond to you if they are emailed directly. They may say “hey, thanks for your interest but send it here” OR it may say “thanks, I’ll forward this on to the partner who does the hiring”. Even though you may get a basic response back, the majority of the time that person will actually forward your resume on to someone who can do something with it – instead of it getting lost with all the other emails sent to “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Tip #2 Call, call, and call again.
The first contact I had with a firm (that led to my first interview) was because I called the office before I ever even tried to email them. Make a list of your top ten firms and sit down one day and just start dialing. And what do you say when you call? When I called, I explained that I was in my 4th year of architecture school and I was very interested in an internship with their firm. I said I would love to speak to someone about the firm itself and the possible opportunity for an internship. When I did this, I had 2 firms that didn’t answer, I had 2 firms that told me to email them my resume or fill out their online application, and I had 3 firms that put me on the phone with someone that had the actual power to get me an interview. All 3 were very helpful and willing to talk to me. By the end of it, 2 of those 3 calls led to interviews.
Tip #3 Use your contacts.
One thing I learned very quickly in the architecture and engineering world is that it is all about who you know. If you know someone at a firm(s), contact them! Family, friends, school alumni – use them all! Even if you don’t want to necessarily work where they do, ask them for advice or if they know who all is hiring. Ask them to look at your resume and portfolio for you. Even ask them to forward your resume to their friends at other firms. This by far is the quickest way to get your name and resume passed around the architecture community. Need an example? During my last summer internship, I sat in front a project architect (let’s call her Sara) that was really involved with the American Institute of Architects and the Dallas architecture community. We got to know each other and I mentioned that my then fiance was looking for a full time job. Sara offered to look at his resume and portfolio and to send it out to people she knew. Not even two weeks later, he started receiving emails from firms that he had never even contacted. Not only had Sara sent his stuff out, but multiple people she sent it to forwarded it on again! His resume and portfolio probably made it to ten to fifteen firms within two weeks. From Sara sending out his resume and portfolio, he ended up with three interviews and ultimately two job offers. Your BEST resource is who you know – so don’t be afraid to use them.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid of rejection. Be bold and consistent, it takes time to get an interview and even more time to get a job. And if you are hunting for your first full time job – don’t settle! Just because you got an offer does not mean you have to take it. I know that sounds crazy, but waiting for a job you’ll actually like is much better than being miserable at a job that you don’t like.