By Caitlin Morgan, senior Architectural Design student at James Madison University.
Having an internship as a college student is one of the most rewarding and valuable educational tools. When I began my summer internship with the Gaines Group in 2018, I had no idea that my three-month office job would turn into a potential post-graduation career. To make the most of my architecture internship over the past two summers, I absorbed every moment I could, whether it was in the office, at a job-site, or with a client. Here is what I learned:
Connections Within Your Community are Key
Knowing people within your field is important, but knowing people outside your field can be the determining factor in what drives your business. Spending thousands of dollars on marketing and advertising could help sometimes, but meeting people at the Valley Business Keynote, art galleries, and farmers markets are where people will learn who you are and what your business is really about. As a student, however, I don’t have a business to market; I have myself.
Marketing an emerging skill-set online may include a razor-thin portfolio and a resume that fits on a Post-it note. Meeting people face-to-face is the best way to sell your personality and interests; would these potential employers or clients enjoy working with you on a daily basis? Having a strong resume and portfolio usually seals the deal, but having a large circle of community connections will get your foot in the door to begin a successful career.
Document What You Do
Keeping track of what you work on during your internship will greatly benefit your resume and skill-set. Every day is an opportunity for growth, and a three-month internship is plenty of time to grow professionally, personally, and academically. While at the Gaines Group, I visited construction sites, red-lined shop drawings, drew kitchen and bathroom elevations, placed dimensions on apartment buildings, and met with clients in their homes or offices. To do these tasks, however, I needed a deeper understanding of the project and architecture in general. By documenting your processes, you can expand your resume from saying “red-lined shop drawings” to “used AutoCAD software, familiarized myself with project details, and corrected potentially expensive errors.” Track your progress, record your work, and grow your skills.
“What is important is using one’s talent, intellect and energy in order to gain an appreciation and affection for people and place.” -Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee, Architect, Rural Studio
The most important lesson I learned, however, was that it is never too early to begin promoting yourself in your career. I first met The Gaines Group my sophomore year at JMU, and by that summer, I was working for them full time. By the time I graduate, I’ll have had two years in a professional architecture office setting, which is rare to see on a recent undergraduate’s resume. Having the passion to better myself has come from my love of art and the idea of helping others. Architecture can last beyond your lifespan and generation, so designing with intention and a responsibility to those following has inspired me more than I’ve realized.
Click HERE to see a Facebook post about Caitlin’s pre-thesis research.