By Erin Ayers
Searching for an internship can be overwhelming. There are so many great firms, and finding the right one might not be as easy as you’d hoped. After going through the internship experience, I wanted to share some insights on getting through the process successfully.
Use your school’s resources
While it is important to go through a firm’s career website and online application, make sure to use your school’s career resources. Go to career fairs and portfolio review nights. Join your school’s American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) chapter and attend firm tours and events. It was through my involvement with AIAS and my university’s health and wellness program that I secured my internship.
Architecture is a career that demands a lot of face-to-face interaction, and showing you’re not afraid to step up and be involved will set you apart. Don’t be afraid to be proactive and reach out and ask a firm for a tour. Showing up and being involved helped me build my network.
Who you know
A big part of finding that perfect internship is who you know. Reach out to friends, classmates, and family who may have a connection to a firm you’re interested in. Remember the classmates you met at all those firm tours and portfolio review nights? Talk to them. Asking classmates who are a year ahead if they liked their internship and, if they did, to put in a good word for me helped me get my foot in the door at Hoefer Wysocki. Don’t just limit it to other students though. If a friend of a friend works at a firm, ask to go to coffee with her and pick her brain. Not only will this give you valuable insight into the company, and hopefully provide you an in at the company, but it can benefit her as well. In fact, many firms offer referral bonuses!
Figuring out what market you want to explore more can be difficult. For me, there was an immediate connection to healthcare architecture thanks to my husband, who is a social worker, so I found a firm that had a large healthcare studio. If you know what building types you’re interested in, search for a firm that works on projects that will help you explore that market. If you aren’t quite sure what market you want to jump into, find a firm that works in multiple market sectors. This will give you the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and talk to coworkers working on all types of buildings. You’ll gain so much experience during your internship, it might as well be in an area you’re interested in!
Architecture is a global industry and offers endless relocation options. However, having so many choices can be overwhelming. A quick way to narrow down your search is to consider where you see yourself after graduation. An internship is one of the best ways to secure a full-time job after school, so pick your internship as if it were a long-term move. Don’t apply to internships in place you know you wouldn’t want to live. Even if you don’t stay at the same firm after graduation you’ll make connections in a city you like, which will put you ahead in your future job search. With that said, don’t be afraid to move out of your comfort zone – this is a great time to explore and make big moves!
About Erin – Erin is graduating in May 2019 from the University of Kansas with her Master of Architecture degree. She is a non-traditional student, returning to school after her time as a professional singer in Las Vegas and on cruise ships. Her favorite part about working in healthcare architecture is knowing her hard work helps create healing spaces.