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My Advice for Architecture Students

Hi, it's been a long time since I last updated this blog. The last time was in October last year, and I'm only getting around to writing again now. Before anything else, I want to wish you a Happy New Year 2023 (even though it's already been three months, haha...). Hopefully, this year will be better than the last in every aspect.

This time, I want to discuss the academic world, specifically the field of architecture, but not in technical terms (for that, you can consult your professors). This time, it's more about advice for you, whether you're a graduating student or just starting out, on what you should consider doing during your academic journey.

"Why suddenly write this?" After practicing architecture, I've come to think that my professional career might have been smoother if I had done some of the things I'll mention below. So, some of the advice I'm giving is based on things I should have done but didn't (and realized how important they were, hahaha...). To avoid regrets and repeating the same mistakes, here is some advice for you, architecture students.

Define Your Next Goals as Soon as Possible

Think back to why you chose to study architecture. Did you have a clear intention from the beginning, like "I want to become an architect"? Or were you influenced by your parents, or perhaps you joined because your friends were studying architecture too? Or maybe you thought architecture was cool even though you didn't particularly like the subject? This reason is crucial as it will determine your future goals.

For those of you who genuinely aspire to have a career as an architect, determine where you want to go after graduation as soon as possible. If you plan to practice architecture, you'll need to join the Architect Professional Program (PPAr) and intern for two years at an architectural firm recommended by IAI. If you don't want to practice but still wish to pursue a career in the field, you can work in consulting firms, construction companies, property development firms, or other companies that require graduates in architecture.

Your goal will be the first step in deciding what actions you should take next. The sooner you set your goals, the more time you'll have to prepare for them. Thorough preparation is the key to success.

Compile Your Portfolio Starting Today

For those of you aiming for a career in architecture, a portfolio is crucial for job applications or attracting clients. Since you're still a student, you can use your class assignments for this purpose. If you feel your work is insufficient, create some fictional projects. But before starting any project, there's a crucial question to answer: "What problem do you want to solve?"

The design process is essentially problem-solving. A design is born to solve a problem. Answering the above question is vital because clients will seek architects who can provide solutions to their problems. Can they find solutions to their problems by looking at your work? For companies, they want to see how you identify and solve problems, as this is a key consideration in their decision to hire you.

Portofolio Arsitektur
Compile your finest works into a unified collection. Create them in either digital or print format. Image by Adityuwana.

Many problems require design solutions, with common issues including space and land limitations, budget constraints, human needs, safety, and comfort. Class assignments are often based on real-world problems. Create a piece of work that addresses a real problem and provides a solution. For example, if the issue is limited space, your designed project should offer a solution, such as adding a mezzanine floor or an open-plan design with minimal partitions. If possible, think outside the box. The more unique the solution, the better. Break down all the existing problems and choose those you can solve.

Additionally, I've written tips on organizing an architecture portfolio here. Some of these tips might be useful when you're putting together your portfolio.

Observe and Listen A Lot

Education isn't confined to the classroom and college. Take the time to explore beyond your academic boundaries. Spend your weekends exploring your city, visiting art exhibitions, going to museums, or even taking public transportation around town. If you have the financial means, consider traveling to other cities or even abroad. As I've mentioned in a previous article, exploring through travel is a must for architects and architecture students. This activity is an excellent learning medium.

Traveling Arsitek.

From the top left clockwise: (1) Vintage tile patterns in a restaurant in Yogyakarta. (2) Intriguing door details of a building in Tulang Bawang Barat, Lampung. (3) Wall decor from the interior of Noice Coffee, Makassar. (4) Installation made from wooden pieces at the ArtJog exhibition. (5) Combination of square bricks, wood, and iron in Rumah Atsiri, Karanganyar. (6) Façade details of Duo Tower Singapore resembling a beehive. (All images by Adityuwana).

Traveling gives you the opportunity to observe buildings and environments directly. Through these experiences, you can gather ideas and design inspiration from the structures and surroundings you visit. This helps you develop creativity and innovation in your designs.

If your university offers study tours, try to participate, especially if the tour is international – that would be fantastic. Some universities collaborate with architectural firms to organize visits to their studios. This allows you to witness the activities and work processes in an architectural firm while interacting with its founders and employees. You can learn a lot from their practical experiences in architecture.

Socialize, Join Communities, and Expand Your Network

"More friends, more opportunities" Have you heard this saying? Humans are social beings who will always depend on others. That's why friendships and relationships are fundamental needs for everyone. Getting to know many people in the same field can help you gain a lot. One way to do this is by attending seminars or architectural events. Such events provide numerous opportunities to meet people in the same field.

Event Arsitektur.
ArchiFest Singapore. Image by Adityuwana.

Moreover, it's essential to socialize with individuals outside the field of architecture. If you're interested in, let's say, automotive, join an automotive community or a community aligned with your interests. Involvement in communities beyond your field broadens your perspective on various subjects you may not have known about before. This helps you develop collaboration and innovation skills. Your first projects might even come from these connections.

Building a network can also help you secure internship or job opportunities after graduation. Many architecture firms seek candidates who not only possess strong technical skills but can also work well in teams and have good communication skills. In the long run, relationships directly impact your career and success. Most practicing architects get their first projects through connections, whether they're family or friends. Your connections are the gateways to your first, second, and subsequent projects.

The more connections you have, the greater the chance of success. However, be smart in choosing your social circle.

Learn Business and Marketing

As an architecture student, learning business and marketing might not seem like a top priority in your studies. But if you plan to establish a business after graduation, whether starting your own firm or entering another industry, invest time in learning about business and marketing. Business and marketing skills are crucial keys to competing with other architects and architecture firms to acquire good projects and clients.

Have you heard Tung Desem Waringin's podcast where he said, "You can choose any field to make money as long as you learn how to do business in that field"? This means that for success in business, one needs knowledge of starting a business, managing finances, marketing products or services, managing teams, and making sound business decisions.

For instance, if you plan to start a coffee shop business, you may have a background in culinary and coffee, but you still need to learn how to run a business. This includes finding reliable suppliers for quality raw materials, determining the right selling price, developing effective marketing strategies, and building relationships with customers. In this case, as a business owner, you can acquire these skills through courses or training, or you can hire a professional to assist you. However, the most crucial aspect is learning how to manage your architecture firm properly to ensure its sustainability and growth. This also applies if you decide to open an architecture firm.

Buku bisnis arsitektur
Some of my business and marketing books. Image by Adityuwana

Learning business and marketing doesn't have to be formal at a university or business school. There are numerous online and offline resources that can help you learn essential aspects of business and marketing. For example, you can search for books on business management and marketing, take online courses on creating a business plan or learning digital marketing. Look for free or paid resources that suit your abilities. Online course platforms like Udemy offer affordable options accessible anytime, anywhere. Some platforms like Coursera and edX even provide free online courses.

Personally, as someone who enjoys reading, I have several books on business and marketing, including those related to running an architecture firm. I have also participated in various online courses on the platforms mentioned earlier. Most recently, I attended a 7-week digital marketing bootcamp in August-September 2022. Besides gaining knowledge, I made numerous connections outside the field of architecture.

Kursus Bisnis untuk Arsitek
Bootcamp digital marketing. Image by Adityuwana

Find a Side Hustle

College life is one of the longest learning periods, and there's nothing wrong with utilizing that time for a side hustle. Since you're still in college, look for a side hustle that doesn't consume too much of your time, such as selling your creations.

The digital era allows anyone to sell products globally. You can try selling digital products instead of physical ones. Digital products, like software, video tutorials, or e-books, have the advantage of not requiring shipping services or physical storage space. That's why digital products are considered the easiest for those starting a business.

The first step is to identify your interests and expertise. After that, research what products you want to sell and where to sell them. Then, promote your products through social media. This is why learning marketing, as discussed earlier, is crucial.

If you're into photography, you can sell your photos on microstock sites like Shuttertock or 123RF. Can you create vector designs? Sell them on marketplace sites like Freepik. If you enjoy designing T-shirts or merchandise, try selling them on print-on-demand sites like Teespring. The benefit of these platforms is that you don't have to worry about production and distribution; they take care of everything. You just create the design and upload it to their site. Dedicate time to creating your work. You'd be surprised at how much you can sell in a year with just 1-2 creations per week. This can be an initial foundation for earning income besides your main income in the future.

Architecture Artwork
Selling artwork, one of my side hustle. Image by Adityuwana. Mockup by Anthony Boyd.

You can also freelance on platforms like Fiverr or Fastwork, with the condition that it doesn't interfere with your main tasks as a student. Architecture studies consume a lot of time, so you need to smartly divide your time between academic tasks and freelancing. Don't let the excitement of earning money lead to neglecting your studies.

Side hustles are indeed fascinating. I will delve deeper into this topic in another post.

Have Fun

Yes, I understand the academic demands on architecture students can be heavy. Busy class schedules, coupled with numerous assignments and tight deadlines, can be stressful and overwhelming. However, don't forget that life is not just about academics and assignments; it's also about having fun and enjoying small moments.

Allocate time for classes and assignments, but don't forget to include time for family gatherings, socializing with friends, exercising, or simply relaxing with hobbies or personal interests. Do you enjoy watching movies? Hiking? Reading books? Playing games? Set aside time to enjoy these activities.

While pursuing an architecture degree, don't forget to savor every moment. Treat each academic experience as an opportunity to learn, explore, and grow as an individual. Remember that life balance also involves the ability to enjoy life and have fun.

Lastly, if choosing architecture as your major was your decision without external pressure, do the best you can. I hope you succeed and achieve your dreams!

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