Interning at an architectural firm can be a life-changing experience for a student. Getting that real-life, hands-on approach to architectural work will help to prepare you for your future career and will allow you to learn about all the ins and outs of a company.
Perhaps not as lucrative in the material sense as you’d hoped, architectural internships will surely enrich your life and offer you numerous benefits.
However, interning can be overwhelming to a person who’s never done it before. It can be exhausting and confusing, and if you’re not well-prepared for it, you might even come to regret your decision to do it.
So, it’s essential to know what you can expect from your architectural internship. Coming prepared will instill you with more confidence and will help you make the most out of your internship. So, take a look at what you can expect as an architecture intern.
Before you start with your internship and build up your CV with it, you need to find an architecture firm that’s looking for interns. Whether you’re planning on doing a summer internship or a year-long internship, you need to know that the positions fill up rather quickly.
Architecture firms are aware of the semester schedules that universities follow, so their internship programs will match that schedule. This means that most positions will be open during the summer break in May and June.
Even though the employment of architects is expected to grow 8% between 2018 and 2028, if you want to secure an intern position, you need to apply early on. Get your CV, cover letter, and portfolio ready and start applying as soon as you can.
Everyone will tell you that college does teach valuable skills, but doesn’t succeed in preparing you for the real world. While it sounds like a worn-out cliche, it’s the truth.
The theoretical knowledge you’ve gained in university serves as the base for further development and improvement. You’ll quickly learn that you don’t have to do everything by the book and that there are many shortcuts and even turnarounds that will make your job easier.
With this in mind, your job will also be much harder than you might expect. Many real-world issues and obstacles cannot be covered during your courses, so even if you have straight As and have memorized every line in your books, you’ll still need to think outside the box and come up with efficient and creative solutions.
When you look up architecture intern positions online, you’ll see that they always include a seemingly thorough job description — prepare drawings, create 3D models, prepare architectural documents, etc. These descriptions rarely include a finite list of tasks that you’ll have to do.
You’ll likely be charged with many more tasks, some that don’t even seem to be related to your position as an architecture intern. You’ll, at times, act as an assistant, you’ll have clerical duties, you could be placed in a research role, or you might be in charge of the firm’s social media accounts.
It would help if you were prepared to handle every task responsibly. Even if it doesn’t seem like you can gain some valuable experience from some of the tasks, you’ll still be learning about the company, and you’ll be able to get something from it.
Regardless of the tasks you’re assigned, your first few weeks working as an architecture intern will be overwhelming. Architecture firms are always buzzing with activity, and there are always some new developments and conundrums. You’ll very likely feel a bit lost at first.
This is simply a normal part of the job. It takes time to learn the business culture and figure out most of the daily processes. Stay organized and keep a list of the tasks that you need to accomplish. This can be of great help.
You’ll get used to the daily proceedings and the firm’s way of doing business after a while, so don’t feel discouraged that you cannot keep up with everything in the first few weeks.
While, on paper, most architecture firms have typical working hours, you can expect to be staying overtime pretty often. Architects always have deadlines to meet, projects to finish, and clients to impress. So, if you want to impress the bosses and highlight your work ethic and dedication, you should be staying and assisting as much as possible.
While everyone will be aware that you’re a first-time intern, you shouldn’t expect anyone to pamper you. Many will help you learn how to finish your tasks to achieve the desired results, but you shouldn’t be expecting much assistance for very long.
Other architects and workers in the firm have tasks that they need to focus on, and you’ll be expected to know how to finish your job.
In relation to the previous point, if you need help or don’t understand something that you have to do, you’ll have to communicate your needs clearly. Don’t wait around for others to offer support. Be proactive, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be scared to request assistance.
Clear communication with your coworkers will be beneficial in a few different ways. Besides receiving the help you need, you’ll be able to establish professional relationships that can prove to be quite fruitful.
Over 85% of the jobs are filled through networking. So you do need to work on your professional communication skills both in-office and outside of it.
Many interns seem to be under the impression that architects primarily work alone. It’s never just an architect, a piece of computer software, and a pen and paper. Architects usually have a big team under them and have to collaborate with multiple people daily.
If you want to succeed as a full-time architect one day, you’ll need to learn to collaborate during your internships. Offer your assistance every time you can, and don’t shy away from job shadowing.
Staying organized is the only way you’ll get out of your internship feeling accomplished. With numerous tasks, long hours, and an overall confusing working environment, it’s very easy to get lost in it all. So, it’s crucial to stay organized and be punctual and responsible.
It’s a good idea to have a spreadsheet for all of your tasks, keep track of your schedule, and take notes. Taking notes will help you get accustomed to your work environment faster, and you’ll find it easier to stay focused and keep track of your progress.
Lastly, you should expect your architecture internship to teach you about your real strengths and weaknesses. No other place can teach you to honestly evaluate yourself and your skills quite like an architectural firm during your internship.
As long as you're open and honest with yourself, you’ll learn which skills you need to focus on, and you’ll get a clearer picture of what kind of career would genuinely suit you as an architect.
Architecture internships are hectic, exhausting, and stressful, but above all, they’re educational. For most students, these internships are the first taste of the real world, which can be quite frightening. Knowing what to expect from your architecture internship will help you stay on top of things and make your internship an experience you’ll never forget.