There are several reasons you might have chosen to take a hiatus from architecture.
Maybe you reached a point where you had second thoughts about your career choice and decided to explore alternatives, or perhaps an unfortunate turn of events such as an economic recession resulted in your firm downsizing and having to let you go.
Whatever the case, it can be tough to get back on your feet and return to the metaphorical drafting table – a task made more challenging by the many fresh graduate architects that colleges and universities spit out every year.
Fortunately, as an architect or resurging architect, you have probably experienced more than a couple of difficult situations in your past, and this is just another pesky yet breakable obstacle.
Returning to architecture might seem the best option only after a hiatus enabled you to take a more in-depth look at your situation and career choices that led to where you wound up, so there is no need to ruminate. After all, shame will only hold you back from your true potential.
What steps can you take to get back into architecture with tenacity?
1. Do a Post-Professional Degree in Architecture
The longer your hiatus from architecture, the more qualifications you need to stay fresh and competitive. A post-professional degree is a suitable option if your education ended with a Bachelor of Architecture, and you want to demonstrate further commitment.
Pursuing a degree also demonstrates to potential employers when you are ready to job-hunt that you have maintained a connection to the field rather than being utterly disconnected for several years.
Even if you can land a new architecture job without furthering your education, it is still a valid consideration – although less critical – if you are interested in an improved salary and additional qualifications to add to your resume.
2. Take a Short Course on BIM Software
With frequent developments and consistent updates, it does not take long for building information modeling software to become tough to recognize, especially if your hiatus lasted several years.
Various collaboration and design software – existing or new – go through developments and improvements continually, even AutoCAD, the most basic drafting tool.
It is a good idea to brush up on the latest software, so you are not falling behind when you get back to work. You would also want to be able to discuss it confidently during the job interview.
3. Brush up on Your Local Contract Form
The likelihood that the firm assigns you the task of managing your local contract form is higher than you might realize.
For better or worse, young architects tend to value spending most of their time drafting and working with software than handling the complexities and “distractions” that come with contract administration work.
This area of practice is where young architects shy away from – just the perfect avenue for you to focus on to get back into the game.
If you are assigned to do it, prepare yourself so the added responsibility does not bog you down too much. Procure a digital copy of your local contract form and get a sense of what to expect.
4. Get Letters of Recommendation from Old Contacts
If you maintain a connection to industry professionals, you could argue that you never truly disconnected from the field, which can be to your advantage when returning to architecture.
When it comes to choosing a contact, you have a lot of flexibility – fellow architects and engineers, specifically those licensed or hold the job title of “senior,” and former bosses can provide a useful lead into new job opportunities.
If you have maintained connection, chances are you can find someone willing to throw in a good word – think of the sort of letters of recommendation you could get from them to support your future architecture job applications.
If you have not, well, it does not hurt to reconnect.
5. Gain an Industry Edge by Working with a Contractor
Many young architects often overlooked an entirely separate and equally important industry involved in the realm of building things; these are the people who materialize blueprints through construction work – the contractors.
While you likely are well aware of this, there seems to be an increasing gap between architecture and contracting, two industries that rely on one another for success.
If you want to gain an obvious edge over your younger competition, getting your feet hot and sweaty on the construction site demonstrates an added level of dedication.
You stand to gain knowledge and skills in construction and show your potential employer that you can bring added value as a senior in the firm.
6. Target Small Firms
If the salary is not the reason to target a small firm, added human touch is.
With larger firms, the hiring process tends to be more automated, meaning there is a largely superficial layer to their hiring process.
Usually, an HR manager – already inundated with other responsibilities – will be reviewing applicant resumes and following a preliminary checklist to slim down a hefty pile. Those resumes with even brief mentions of unemployment are going to be filed away.
On the other hand, small firms have a few factors that make them more likely to hire you after a hiatus.
Firstly, small firms generally do not have the budget for an elaborate HR department, meaning the person who looks at your resume is likely to be your boss or firm manager.
Secondly, smaller firms tend not to receive applications to the extent that larger firms do, meaning the recruiter will be able to put more time aside to view your resume and portfolio with scrutiny. This fact makes your skills the star of your application instead of your glaring hiatus.
The industry often discusses the benefits of working for a smaller firm from a young architect’s standpoint, but what it can do for a seasoned professional is less explored.
7. Be Prepared to Take a Lower Salary (temporarily)
No one understands the validity behind an extended hiatus better than you do. When you submit your application to a firm, the gap in your work history will stare the recruiter in the face as a lapse in experience, whether this is true or not.
So, what can you do to prevent your application from being thrown aside at first glance?
Offer a little extra incentive to a potential employer by agreeing to work for less – which is still probably more than you made during your hiatus – until you have a chance to regain your former salary by proving your skills once again through dedication and hard work
8. Get Licensed (if you haven’t)
Some sound advice for any architect, regardless of their employment history, is to get licensed.
You might have noticed that much of the advice for getting back into architecture portends to the theme of getting more qualified.
It takes time, so if you are considering getting licensed, you are better off getting started as soon as possible. The hard work does pay off in the form of expanded opportunities for a higher salary.
If you want a condensed piece of long-term advice for increasing your chances of getting hired for the best positions, this is it.