February 21, 2018
Talking with our Designers: The Career Fair

Just as we’re settling into the new year and new projects, students at the University of Kansas, Kansas State, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are preparing for the end of their school year and annual career fairs. Members of our office are also gearing up to attend in hopes of connecting with students who are in the same position they were last spring.

Within the past year, IAA has welcomed Morgan Robinett (KU ’17), Lex DeWitt (KU ’17), and Sarah Tappe (UA-Fayetteville ‘17), all of whom are eager to share their job-searching experience and give insight into their time at IAA. Additionally, Principal Elizabeth Amirahmadi wanted to share a brief tip on what she thinks makes a compelling portfolio.

Q: What made you choose a career in architecture? 

M: I’ve always had a passion for psychology, art, and design, and until college had primarily only explored two-dimensional art/design. I knew whatever I made a career out of I wanted to help people, and often found myself thinking about how people interact in spaces.  I am inspired by design that not only crosses the threshold of improving people’s day-to-day lives through organizational efficiencies, but also inspires, excites, and influences the way people work and live.

S: When I was little my parents built a house and I played around the construction site and even tried to design my room. From there I made a hobby out of creating houses in Google SketchUp. When I got to college, it seemed like the logical place to start and I ended up sticking with it.

L: My mom actually suggested the idea of me exploring the architecture field. It was a good choice; it allows me to use the left and right side of my brain.

Q: What was your approach going into your school’s career fair?

M: I wanted to be open-minded to things I hadn’t previously considered. I hadn’t looked into historic preservation until I attended the career fair and it ended up being something I’m really interested in.

S: I had a location in mind before I considered jobs, I wanted to experience a new city and I knew I wanted to move to Kansas City, so that narrowed my scope. I also e-mailed the firms that were going to be at the fair before I attended to see how they communicated.

Q: What type of firm were you interested in pursuing?

M: I knew I wanted to work for a small company; I didn’t want to be just a number. I was also looking for an open-minded culture and a firm that was constantly growing.

S: I knew I wanted to work for a small firm, but first I identified what I wasn’t looking for in a job and went from there. I researched firms online and studied their projects to see if they were in line with my interests.

L: I wanted to work for a small firm with a one-on-one, hands-on experience.

Q: Why did you prefer a small company over a larger one?

M: I wanted a mentorship experience; there’s more opportunity to learn one-on-one from people who have been in the industry longer.

S: I wanted to be able to get to know the people around me!

L: I thought I’d get lost in a big company and wanted to be able to practice a lot, and quickly, in order to grow.

Q: What was your job application process like?

M: When you apply for jobs looking at the quality of work is really important. When you’re job hunting you focus on what you’re looking for and how the job can fit your specific skills.

S: I think it’s important to know yourself in the decision-making process. I also wanted to get a sense of what the office was like during this process, it makes it easier to determine if you’d be a good fit by talking to people in person and seeing the office yourself.

Q: What has your time at International Architects Atelier been like so far?

M: I get to work on multiple projects at once, which is different from college projects where I only worked on one or two phases of design. I’m getting more exposure to the entire process and it helps me piece things together, which is useful for the future.

S: I get to do a variety of projects and tasks, and I’m never doing the same thing for every project. I’ve been able to gain experience quicker while getting a wide range of experience.

L: Joining IAA has been like joining a family, I have been able to experience so many different projects and really enjoy being around my co-workers!

Q: Do you have any advice for current students on the interview process?

M: Work on how you present yourself verbally and nonverbally, it’s important to present yourself as a professional.

S: Put yourself out there and send in your portfolios and resumes early! It’s also important to understand you may be rejected from a few places, but you have to be persistent.

L: Be yourself and show (the firm) how you can benefit them. You can prepare pamphlets, business cards, whatever you can that shows you’re a good designer. It’s also important to show your personality in your portfolio and have everything prepared early.

Q: What advice would you give to a student who is preparing his/her portfolio for the career fair?

IAA Principal Elizabeth Amirahmadi: When you’re assembling your portfolio, make sure to only include projects you’re proud of (at least four quality examples). If any were completed with a group, it’s always a good idea to share that information, and then take the opportunity to explain and highlight your specific contributions!