Posted by Anica
We just hosted a great group of Penn State design students who participate in a group called SEED. One of the participants reached out to me afterwards to ask for job advice and how to stand out in a crowd. I get asked this sort of thing a lot so I figured I would share here too. Please add any words of advice I forgot!
- Highlight real job experience if you’ve got it. Student projects are nice but real experience will set you apart.
- Take the LEED GA exam if you have the time to prepare and the money to pay for the exam. Everyone says they are into sustainability, but the credential shows you know what you’re doing. Take the BD+C if you have experience working on a LEED registered project and have already taken the GA. I took the LEED AP exam before I graduated and it said a lot to prospective employers about my commitment to sustainability.
- Highlight specific skills – software, professional writing, etc. that might not be universal to all graduates.
- Participate on committees in professional organizations like AIA COTE, USGBC, etc. so you can build relationships with the professionals you want to hire you upon graduation.
- If you get an opportunity to do an internship while in school TAKE IT – every second of real job experience will help.
- Use a simple and easy to read font on your resume and cover letter, this is not the time to be “unique”.
- Make sure your portfolio is large and clear to read/see when you print it – no teeny tiny little books. We can’t read them.
- Make sure you research the firm, the job opportunities at the firm and their body of work before you speak with someone. Ask to whom your cover letter should be addressed and send a cover letter explaining why you are the best fit.
- If you email a resume or portfolio, REDUCE THE FILE SIZE. We all have inbox limits at work and will have to delete your email w/ attachments if the files are too large.
- Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Most firms can train you where you need it but they need to know you can meet expectations when they hire you.
- Be willing to take a ‘regular’ design job and become a sustainable leader within your firm by educating your colleagues, organizing green events and even trying to green firm operations. Also be willing to step up and champion sustainability on your project teams. Most firms won’t hire you to be a sustainable expert right out of school, they need to see your track record.
- Ask for an Informational Interview if the firm isn’t hiring. It lets them know you’re serious about working at the firm and not just taking any job.
- Don’t be afraid to ask if the professionals you speak with can recommend any other firms you should approach. Ask, “who should I contact?” and “may I use your name when I request a call or meeting?”.
- Constantly participate in education events and read, read, read so you can improve your knowledge and skills. As a student you can usually ask for free or reduced conference registration fees if you are willing to volunteer at the event. It’s a great networking opportunity!
- Send a thank you note. Email is ok, but a hand-written note is even better.
- Don’t ask the firm to be responsible for letting you know when a new job opportunity appears. Go on their website often and stay in communication with the firm you want to hire you!