Have you ever been driving down the road and all of a sudden a little sport car goes flying past you? I started thinking about that car the other day after I was wrapping up a day in the office. I was picturing that car cruising along, oblivious to the fact that it was blowing a whole lot of smoke and causing a mess for everyone else to navigate through. I smiled when I passed that car pulled over on the side of the road, realizing if only they had taken better care of their car it wouldn’t have happened. For the purpose of this piece, let’s just say they ran out of gas.

I normally don’t like using analogies to make my point but this time I am going to make an exception. For the past year I have been in and out of so many offices searching for a place to start my career, just like every other recent graduate out there . Through that time, I have had the opportunity to see various offices and the character and culture of each.  This has allowed me to gain a better understanding of what an office environment is really like compared to anything my professors tried to explain. The analogy came to me when I was reflecting back over my experiences from the past several months and the thought of that little car came to mind.

I’m sure you’re wondering where I am going with this, right? Well, what I mean by that is that an engine runs on gas and oil. If you consider the oil as the collaborative and creative side of an office, while the gas in the tank as the productive side that keeps the office running, you’ll get this analogy. The point is that you need both of those to keep the car operating, so keep that in mind when you start the engine on your firm.

Think about this; if you run with too much oil and not enough gas, you just end up in a big cloud of smoke while you’re stranded on the side of the road. This means when you spend all your time thinking and playing without proper production, you just end up breaking down and on the side of the road with your thumb out asking for a ride. The opposite is equally devastating, too much gas and not enough oil, you end up going really far but burn out after that recommended oil change. What I mean is if you are only productive and don’t take time to play, then you lose your passion for what you do and quickly stop caring about the task at hand.

The right balance for everyone is different. Each firm has their own ratio that works for the culture they have created. A particular amount of oil to every gallon of gas is critical, some work better with a drop and some take it by the quart. Every firm is unique and there is no exact science to the right ratio but there does need to be balance. Finding that balance and individuals who believe in the culture of the office will keep it running smoothly and it is those firms that will stand the test of time. Now there will always be other factors to consider, but when the firm has a shared vision and believe in what they are doing they will always find a way to make it work.


Every school has a different way of teaching their students, some take an approach focused on theory, some do it on practical experience, and some try to take a balanced approach. Each of these has their advantages and disadvantages, but im not looking to discuss the curriculum. I’d like to discuss some of the things that were left out. Sometimes there are just things that only real world experience can teach you. Now I am far from knowing everything but I have a seen a few glimmers of hope on the horizon and that continues to keep me motivated as I have found we are all searching for our place in this ever changing world.

A very important aspect to connect with the design community is getting out and meeting new people that share your passion. There are groups all around the area, each of them with their own focus and agendas, but their common goal is to promote the awareness of design in the community. Some of the best conversations I have had are at various speaking events and happy hours. These conversations could range anywhere from talking about what could be done for housing in an urban environment to an hour and half conversation about a brick, and what it means to the city. These conversations are a great way to get connected and meet new people that might be able to help you along your way. This is not to say you should expect anybody to just give you something but it helps to create a personal relationship with others in the industry, because you never know what it may lead to.

This one is simple, you wouldn’t have made it through 5 years of architecture school if you didn’t love what you were doing. So be sure to maintain that passion when you leave school. This could be something as simple as creating theoretical projects for yourself to work on, studying for exams, sketching for an hour a day, learning a new program, or build something. A lot of young architects are still looking for work or have been let go, and while the average age of the firm continues to rise staying passionate about architecture can be tough. So while you might be out of work you might want to stay active, because you know the question that will come up in an interview is “what have you been doing lately?” how you answer that question has an effect of how you are perceived so keep that in mind.

This is a big city, there are plenty of groups out there and lots of events for you to be involved in. I always get asked how I know when there is something going on, and a lot of it has to do with being connected. There are lots of groups out there that broadcast when they have an event coming up or are getting together, and that’s because they want people to come out and get involved in what they are doing. This could be something as simple as going out to a lecture at the local college, grabbing a drink at a bar with other professionals in the industry to talk about a proposed project, or even just find a cause or organization that you care about and asking how you can help. Your options are limitless, but they are what you make of them and sitting at home on a Wednesday night in front of the tv isn’t doing much for your career.

The simple truth is if your fresh out of school and you don’t have much experience if you have any at all. After a few months of sending out resumes and cover letters, I was starting to get exhausted by it all. I had to start thinking harder about what I was doing and if it were really the right thing, and I realized I’m only sending a piece of paper. I wanted them to get to know me, and although I am able to get a bit of that across when sending out that cover letter it isn’t completely me. There are a lot of factors that go in to getting that first job, not only are they looking at your education and your professional experience, but they want to know you and make sure your the right fit for the firm. Each firm has its own personality, culture, and identity so finding the right individual for the firm requires a balance of skills and personality. The informational interview is what allows them to get to know you on that personal level and hopefully get your foot in the door.

This should be pretty self explanatory, that added boost of caffeine will keep you going hour after hour you sit at your desk late at night or early in the morning when you have to get that last detail done before the deadline. But going out to get that cup of coffee will get you up from your desk, get some fresh air, and brings you back with a renewed spirit and increased energy so you can focus on the task at hand. So enjoy that cup and get back to work.