10 steps to becoming a successful architect

The journey towards becoming a revered and successful architect can be fraught with difficulty, perhaps even moments of self-doubt. There’s not a successful architect in the world whose work wasn’t at one point called into question – or even rejected. It happens. But with time you quickly realise there is no failure, just experiences to learn from. Setbacks will occur, and they are all part of the architect’s journey.

Prepare yourself for the challenges and the successes involved in your future career by reading our 10 tips on how to become a successful architect:


1. Perfect your portfolio

A strong portfolio is and always will be your greatest ally throughout your career. From the initial steps along the path towards landing your first role, to later on when you’re competing for high profile tender – it’s invaluable.

Your portfolio should be unique, and should stand out from the thousands of portfolios developers, clients and potential employers see on a daily basis. It should be presented as a work of art in itself, and it’s equally important to not share all of your work, only some highlights. Leave them wanting more. Show versatility in design, but across only four or five different project designs. And of course, make sure it always contains your very best work.


2. Network and connect

Architecture, much like any number of sectors or industries, is as much about establishing and maintaining relationships as it is about talent and creativity. Meet as many people as you can, stay in touch with all the contacts you make. Arrange lunches, send the occasional email, make friends with as many people as you can within the industry.

The importance of being recognised as somebody who is friendly, open, candid and approachable can’t be understated. There are thousands of talented architects out there looking for the same position as you, but are they all good to work alongside? Your interpersonal skills could well be what swings it in your favour.

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3. Prepare for the tough years

Persistence and a distinctly resolute approach will see you through those early years. Initially, although you may think you’ve taken the toughest step by landing the job of your dreams, the challenges have only just begun.

You will certainly earn your crust in those early months and years, but patience is a virtue; show desire and enthusiasm no matter how mundane the task and a good boss will soon take note. An architect doesn’t only do design, drafting and visualisation. You could be involved in project or office management, specifications, contracts, client relations, marketing, or even on construction. Wherever you find yourself, attack each day with a resounding positivity that will make your potential hard to ignore.


4. Do not focus on one thing only initially

Experience as much as possible at the beginning of your career. Become a well-rounded architect with a solid understanding of all the facets of the profession. If your real passion is purely in façade design, you will get the opportunity to focus on that later. A broad knowledge base puts you in a much stronger position, as modern practices look at flexibility as an important characteristic of potential employees.


5. Find a mentor

At BSBG, we are lucky to have so many experienced, well-respected architects and engineers who are willing to share their expertise and insight with young entry level graduates. Find yourself someone who has the skills that you hope to one day have. It’s actually other architects that have the most influence on other architects. Find a mentor who will help you to develop, give you confidence and advice. Behind every successful architect is another successful architect.

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6. Stay out of your comfort zone

Taking risks, trying new approaches or methods – these are virtues that separate the very best from the quickly forgotten. With every brief comes the opportunity for expression and for being unique – for trying something you’ve never tried before. We all know that functionality and end user requirements are key considerations, but how is that ingrained methodology affecting your work? Is it impacting your ability to take risks, to design a building with expression and freedom?

Any memorable building that stands the test of time – those buildings are ones where the architect attempted something which had not been done, or was widely considered impractical or even impossible. Will it always be successful? No. But it’s the ability to keep trying new things, adopting new techniques and looking for the next trends that elevates an architect’s reputation.


7. Presentation skills

You have to be ready to speak and pitch in front of people. It’s a prerequisite for an architect. The key to being good at presenting is to practice. Again and again. Nobody is born with the ability to just stand up and reel off a 10-minute presentation or speech perfectly at the first time of asking. It takes practice. It also takes feedback, so try your pitches and presentations out in front of colleagues and ask for their evaluation. Engaging the audience can be done much more effectively with simplicity as oppose to presenting too much detail.


8. Take inspiration from everything

Everything around you is a source of inspiration. The concept of drawing influence from even the most mundane of objects is well-established. Object-oriented ontology is an approach that propels the idea that nothing – no object, animal or human – has special status. So open your eyes and see everything around you. A lot of architects don’t do this, but shapes and lines and new designs are everywhere. It’s just a matter of recognising and applying them.

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9. Embrace failure

Every architect has at some stage experienced what they might consider to be failure. And that’s very important. It’s disappointing at first, but the important thing is to learn from it. It makes you stronger and lets you experience the difficult side of your profession so as you may celebrate and recognise your successes when they occur. Never make the same mistake twice, and embrace failure as an important step on the journey to becoming the best architect you possibly can be.


10. Listen

It doesn’t matter which position you hold, how established or highly regarded you are as an architect. The importance of listening to those around you will dictate the success of the project. Did you really listen to the client when they briefed you? When they were talking about a particular aspect of the project, did you notice their enthusiasm or tone of voice change? It’s these nuances that can determine the success of client relationships.

But aside from the client side, it’s important to take on board everything that is said to you by your colleagues, your employees and your mentors. Nobody is the finished article, each day presents an opportunity to learn something new. As an architect, it’s inherently important to approach each challenge and each project with an open mind. Remember, your best resource to develop and cultivate a holistic understanding of architecture is other architects. Utilise them.

To learn more about the current opportunities at BSBG, go to our LinkedIn careers page.