Things you should be paying attention to if you’re planning on getting a job at an architectural office. Firm culture plays a big role in any work experience you will have so trying to get a feel for what it will be like for you while you’re working there is almost as important as what you will be doing.
Top 5 Reasons to work in a Small Architectural Firm:
The small firm requires that each individual wear many hats – there are no specialists. In our office of 8 people, with the exception of the partners, everybody has the exact same set of responsibilities. You’ll perform your work under the guidance and supervision of one of the licensed architects but for the most part, you are responsible for thinking through the issues. You will get to do just about everything sooner rather than later – attend client meetings, contribute to the design, prepare construction drawings, organize and process bidding and negotiating information, and go to job sites. That last one almost deserves its own category.
2. Work Schedule
I know that putting “work schedule” on this list is an interesting decision and there exists the possibility that other people have had vastly different experiences than my own. In a small firm, you are very knowledgeable about the personal lives of your co-workers. Everybody knows just about everything there is to know about what you did last night, how your relationship is going, what you’re doing for dinner later … I mean everything. For this reason, It’s difficult for us (as management) to require our employees to work at a different set of requirements than we ourselves are prepared to work. I come in at 7:15am every morning so that I can leave by 5:30 every night to spend time with my wife and daughter, I don’t want to work evenings and weekends. As a result, I don’t require that the staff put in crazy hours either. We expect everyone to work hard and put in a full day, but we then want you to go home. In a big firm, you might not see your boss for days so what do they care if you’re working 16 hour days? Maybe that’s not fair but I don’t think I’m entirely off base either.
3. Exposure to the client
Small firms are built on personal relationships with their clients and since all the employees contribute to every phase of every project, clients are not isolated from the people who are actually doing the work. This means that as a younger person, you get to share in the excitement that an owner generally has over the development and construction of their new project.
4. Design Ownership
Working in a small firm gives you access to the design process almost immediately. I don’t think I can come up with a single project in our office where the design wasn’t shaped in some significant way by every single person who worked on the project. While it might be one of the more senior architects in the office who identifies the need for a solution, frequently it’s the younger architects on staff that get to develop the actual design solution.
5. Mentored for Personal Growth
Since everyone has to wear all the same hats, you will be exposed to all facets of the business. As a result, if and when you leave the firm, you’ll be better prepared to go out on your own if that’s something that interests you (believe me … it interests ALL young architects).