You need it to get it

Back when I first started looking for a job in architecture I kept running into the same hurdle that I could never seem to get over.  After reviewing my resume or even possibly going in for an interview, I would seem to always get a similar response, ‘We’re just looking for someone with more experience’.  I was applying for recent or soon to be graduate positions, so I’m not sure what they were exactly hoping for.  It was a catch 22, I needed a job to get experience, but I needed the experience to get a job.  Aaaahhhhh, how did all of my friends in school get a job if this is what was happening out there?

This is the 39th installment of #ArchiTalks.  A monthly collaboration of architects from all over writing about a single subject, posted at the same time, not knowing what the others are going to say.  This month’s subject ‘Experience’ comes from Lora Teagarden.

It’s the beginning of June, and we have quite a few new summer interns testing the water in an architectural firm.  Hopefully getting a broad view of the many possible paths this profession has to offer.  Since it has been a few years and my memory has gotten a bit fuzzy, I’m sure that similar experiences were available in my final school years, but honestly I don’t remember them.  Probably because I was too busy going from almost full time at my ‘I have to make money to be able to pay the rent, eat food, and get to school’ job to work as much overtime as I can to help cover the associated costs of school life.  At a point like this, what do you do?  I didn’t have many choices, keep trying to break into the world I wanted to be a part of, while you keep sloshing through the world that is keeping you around.  I wonder sometimes if the people at my job during high school and college were thinking that I was pretending to go to school and would just be there forever.  There were definitely times I felt like I would be.  It took a while, but I was able to finally break through, or they just needed a warm body to get the amount of work they had done, and I was able to say goodbye to my job and hello to my career.  Did I hear a “Yay!” in the back, of course I did.


Since that first venture into the world of architecture, I have always worked in an office of about 10 – 15 people.  I think the largest an office got was about 20 people when we had so much work we didn’t have any other choice than to get bigger.  Working in a firm of that size, everyone learns that you have to wear multiple hats, you get the opportunity to get experience in almost every aspect of a project.  I remember the first set of drawings I worked on for an actual project.  I remember the first consultant meeting I was a part of.  I remember the first time I visited with city officials to explain a project.  I definitely remember the first time I was asked to present design ideas to a client.  Whether those firsts turned out perfect or if they were a total flop, they helped prepare me for the next time.  But up until recently I was never deeply involved in the types of projects that the firm was going after.  I’d make a suggestion every now and then, but it was usually someone else making the decision.  I’d get to see the projects once they were already in the door.  I’ve made it a point to at least try to be a bigger part of that conversation.  There is an unbelievable amount of discussion about the types of projects we will pursue.  Do we have the time, the staff, the knowledge to do it right, can we show the owner we have the right experience to have their project be a success?  It’s a delicate balance of working on the types of projects you are talented at and reaching for the types of projects that will push you in new and exciting directions.

I guess it’s a lot like going after your first job, you keep trying, reaching, struggling to get that new type.  Eventually, after a lot of ‘You just don’t have the experience we are looking for” you will find that one that one that is willing to say ‘I like you, lets make this happen.’  Once you hear that, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.

So, how did the rest of the ArchiTalks crew decide to discuss their experience, let’s find out.

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
experience comes from experiences

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Gaining Experience As A Young Architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
knowledge is not experience

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
That’s Experience — A Wise Investment

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Channeling Experience: Storytelling in the Spaces We Design

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
The GC Experience

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Leah Alissa Bayer – Stoytelling LAB (@leahalissa)
Four Years In: All Experiences Are Not Created Equal (Nor Should They Be)



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