My Architecture Year Out Experience During The Pandemic
The first time I heard about the official term “year out” was during my third year of architecture. At that point, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do after I graduated. Start working, save some money, finally have my weekends to myself then start my masters about a year or two later. Pretty straightforward.
I managed to land a job mid-year after a two-week work experience organised by my university. It was a lovely two people company where I learned more about architecture than the combined 3 years of university.
I thought I had secured my place for the next year but then September came, and projects started to fall. I learned quickly that architecture comes with uncertainty. Architects provide a service, and frankly, if there are no customers there's no work.
My first job search started around October that year but little did I know the next few months were going to be filled with hopeless emails as everyone was preparing to go off for Christmas holiday.
I finally got my first successful interview around February, months after applying for work. My plan of completing my architecture year out had finally resumed and I would be able to get the experience needed in order to apply for my masters.
But then April 2020 came, and the world went to shit.
I still remember sitting on my desk at the office with a co-worker deciding which day we should stop going in as the streets of London became emptier and emptier.
No one knew how long the pandemic would last. The talk was “we’ll be back to normal in a couple of months max” and so I thought of it as temporary.
The best part about that period was being able to stay at home AND get paid. I can't think of a better scenario where you don't do anything and get money. I saw it as the perfect opportunity for me to start attending those competition projects, I even received an accolade for one which was a major accomplishment for me.
Weeks of furlough turned to months though and the certainty of going back to the office faded slowly away. By the end of September, my contract terminated as part of the redundancy process and I felt I was back to square one as I was the year before.
This time the job search was even worse as I had to defy the odds of not only the holidays but a pandemic.
By the start of February 2021 and 150 applications later I gave up.
I know a lot of people are going to think “ you should have kept going, never give up” but there is so much you can do until you realise that the market is dry and those who were seeking architectural designers required proficiency in specific software that had not been taught at university.
It fueled me that the education system was not organised in such a way to prepare me better for my year out. I wished that it exposed me to the software practices use. Maybe I could’ve secured a job faster. I wished that they had given advice on how to land a job rather than give us a task to write our cv. I had been taught how to work by myself competitively, a manner that does not apply in the architecture world.
Looking back I see a lot of flaws and I wish I could do things right. The reality is, life is hard and the world doesn't care about how you feel. I realised the best thing I could do is change and start doing the work myself, and that's exactly what I did.
I decided to take it upon myself to learn the software needed by practices. Do independent research on the different architectural drawing techniques that improved my work. I launched my own website, began blogging, marketing myself as a Part 1 architectural designer, and started creating opportunities for myself, by myself.
Things took time, but I saw opportunities growing where I planted the seeds. I had the chance to do several freelance jobs here and there and managed to learn loads on the way.
I don’t think freelancing is a replacement for working in a practice. At the end of the day, I am still an architect in training, and surrounding yourself with architects and live projects is how you learn.
Fast forward to today I can say I am still struggling, still unemployed, but in a better position than I started.
I got accepted for the masters course I wanted, added several new accomplishments and projects to my cv and portfolio, learned new software; and will be launching a Rhino course in hopes of exposing other 2nd and 3rd year architecture students to software and techniques I wish I knew.
My architecture year out did not go as planned, and I’m sure for several hundred other people. I guess the biggest lesson for me was if you can’t change the circumstances change and adapt yourself.
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