First Week of the Real World 101
by Thomas Murphy
0Congratulations! You’ve graduated. You survived the long nights, caffeine overdoses, brutal criticism, and guilt-filled socializing before a deadline. You’ve networked your way into an internship and start on Monday. Your parents are so proud. You, on the other hand, have worked yourself into an empty stomach. Your mind races; will your co-workers like you? What if they ask you to lead a project and you can't make decisions? What if they shove you in a closet and make you draw bathroom elevations all day without breaks for the rest of your life?
0Don’t worry, there’s only a slight chance of one of those situations happening.
0All kidding aside, starting a new job is tough. Starting an architecture internship isn’t much different. There are plenty of manufactured stresses your brain creates on its own because, let’s face it, humans are worriers. Your brain is punishing you for all the procrastination you did in studio. Here’s the good news: chances are the first couple of days will be written off. You’re going to spend some time getting oriented; learning where the supplies are, how to answer the phone, and where the bathroom is. You're going to be given a combination of mundane tasks (like filling out a lot of paperwork) and simple architecture tasks (like drawing a plan from field measurements.) You’ll be part of a team with plenty of fail-safes built in so you don’t screw up royally. Take them seriously. The tasks given identify your baseline knowledge. Your employer wants to know how fast you work, how you problem-solve, and where your talents lie. They're not testing you to find out if you’re a fit employee; you already passed that test when they decided to hire you. They’re trying to find out where your training begins. They may be disappointed with your capabilities, but architecture students learn to adapt quickly. Whatever your baseline, you’ll progress quickly into a lean mean architecture machine. But you’ll only get there if you ask questions, sketch and speak clearly, and by helping other team members in any way possible. Being a team player is the best way to contribute to a project.
0Your last big project in school was probably a fifty-million dollar mixed-use development with innovative structure, skin, and programming. Walking through into your new internship with an ego the size of a starchitect will get your butt tossed out the door faster than any mistake made trying to calculate the profile of a raking cyma for a traditional colonial architrave. Sorry, but your professors played a cruel joke on you. They led you to believe you would be designing skyscrapers sitting next to Renzo Piano. Unless you’re his child, you probably won’t be. Don’t be discouraged. Architecture is fun. Your co-workers will be genuine. You’ll use state of the art modeling programs. You will still draw. You'll get to argue your case for design ideas and witness the magic of your imagination manifesting itself into physical form. Always remember: you are more prepared than you realize.
Sketch courtesy of Thomas Murphy.
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