Top tips when joining a practice

Rachel Hoolahan, Architect & Sustainability Co-ordinator at Orms and judge of AJ Student Prize gives her top five tips when joining a practice…

1. Learn everyone’s names - It sounds like a really basic point but learn everyone’s names and what they do. If people are busy they may not think to stop and chat to you, but by learning a little about everyone it gives you an opportunity to start a conversation and get to know them when you have a chance. Remember everyone was in your position once, meaning most people will be supportive. Don’t take it personally if you come across some people who aren’t, just find someone else who can help you.

2. Get involved - Sign up to social events to build friendships with people around the practice. Although in the working day people might not have time to chat, social events are a great way to enhance your support network. It takes a huge amount of dedication to become an architect and the studio atmosphere and closeness that you experience at university continues into practice. The studio culture is unique and integrating into the practice means people will care about you, look out for you, and most importantly support you.

3. Listen & Observe – Often there are a lot of people in meetings, meaning sometimes you won’t get the opportunity to attend. But you can ask to sit in on discussions and meetings to listen and observe. Sitting in on design team workshops are a great way to understand a project and will help you get a sense of the design process.

4. Be a sponge – when you join a practice you will be exposed to so many new experiences and you need to take them all in. The environment is fast paced, so it’s important if you don’t understand things you ask for clarification. No one will mind you asking questions about what is happening and why, and this will help to accelerate your learning.

5. Don’t get pigeonholed – As a Part 1, it’s really important not to get pigeonholed. Make sure you get lots of exposure to different types of projects, and this can be at one practice or multiple. Moving between a few different practices as a Part 1 can be useful to get varied experiences. Think about moving between different sized practices too. Use your first 5 years in practice to get as much experience as possible before you settle down to do Part 3. Although moving is a great thing for you, it’s also important to show commitment, so stay in one place for a minimum of 12 months.