10 Success Tips For Young Architects

Inside Guggenheim Museum Black and White
Editors note: This is a guest post by architect Stephen Ramos.

For new graduates and young architects, getting your foot in the door and moving up within an architecture firm can be a daunting challenge. I'm 9 years into my career and have been a licensed architect for 5. It has been a challenge every step of the way. When I evaluate my successes and failures, I notice consistent themes.

I was inspired to write this post after listening to the recent interview on Business of Architecture with Architect Frank Harmon on 7 Success Lessons For Young Architects. Based on my experience, here are 10 success tips for young architects. These tips will help you be a better architect or as Enoch would say, “help architects conquer the world!”

Let's start with my number 10 tip and work our way back up to number 1.

10. Make yourself indispensable.

Do you want to gain the respect of your peers?

Is your goal to elevate your status within your firm?

How about a raise?

If so, then it is imperative that you make yourself indispensable. Find an area of interest and become a champion in that area. One of my colleagues, Sarah Corbitt, has a big interest in sustainable design. Sarah immerses herself in all things sustainable, goes to conferences and sets up in-house seminars at the firm where I'm currently working, LS3P. Sarah’s expertise and willingness to share has made her indispensable to our firm.

9. Seek mentors.

Your fellow architects are resources. Find people who have skills and roles that you aspire to. These mentors will foster your development and be instrumental to your career advancement. Buy them a cup of coffee and ask them for advice and questions about the profession. Better yet, buy them a beer and you’ll get some real gems!

8. Spread the wealth.

Mentorship is a two-way street! Are you a photoshop wiz? Then give your office tutorials. Are you a sustainability guru like Sarah? Then organize a LEED study group. Your goal should be to spread your knowledge as far as possible. You will elevate your firm and highlight yourself as a team player and leader.

7. Network, network, network.

Architecture is a service industry and your ability to provide exceptional service is dependent on a strong network. A strong network will make your job easier and foster countless opportunities. And don’t burn bridges!

6. Seize the moment.

When I began my career, I was eager to unleash my design talents on the world. However, like most interns, I wasn’t handed the most interesting design projects right away. I had to first pay my dues to earn my dream role. [Tweet “I had to pay my dues to earn my dream role.”]

I developed a strategy. Whenever I received any little design task, I took it very seriously. Often I would work on these assignments on my own time after work. I would show up the next day with multiple design options that I had thoroughly vetted. It did not take long before my superiors noticed that I had a passion for design and a ‘hint’ of talent. I seized the moment. Now I am in a role where I get to lead design efforts on very significant projects.

5. Ask for it.

I have an embarrassing confession. I have never received a pay raise without first having to ask for it. [Tweet “I've never received a pay raise without having to ask for it”]Even after I completed my architecture licensure in 2010, I still had to ask! I know right!…WTF!

However, after I asked, I received. This is not just about salary increases, it applies to everything in life.

Want to get more design tasks? Ask. [Tweet “Want to get more design tasks? Ask.”]

Want more construction site experience? Ask.

You’d be surprised on what will occur as a result. What do you have to lose?

 4. Get out of your comfort zone.

A few years ago, I decided to take improv comedy classes. I kinda did it on a whim after seeing one of my friends perform. Getting up on a stage, creating make-believe scenes on the fly and acting like a maniac paid amazing dividends for my architecture career. These classes improved my speaking ability. I got better at thinking on my feet and I became comfortable being uncomfortable. This wouldn't have happened if I didn’t take that whim and move outside my comfort zone. [Tweet “Move outside your comfort zone”]

3. Talk the talk.

Public speaking is an invaluable trait for an architect. I don’t have any secret tricks, just some basic advice. If you have an important meeting, rehearse your presentation.   After the presentations, ask your peers for a critique of your performance. And avoid ‘archispeak'! Clients are not impressed by your ability to incorporate words like bifurcate and articulation. [Tweet “Clients aren't impressed by your ability to use words like bifurcate and articulation”]

2. Realize that you are lucky.

On a recent Uber trip, the driver asked if I had designed any buildings that he would know. I responded, “Have you seen the new addition to the Guggenheim?” He laughed and said he had hoped that is what I would say. For those that don’t know, I was quoting a famous line by George Costanza from Seinfeld. George lies and says he is an architect in order to impress people.[Tweet “Have you seen the new addition to the Guggenheim?”]

When you are an architect and you tell people what you do, you will often get responses like “Oh…that’s cool!” Or “I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid but wasn’t good at math or drawing.”

I feel extremely lucky to work in a profession that is my passion and one that is highly respected.

1. Embrace failure.

I have one last confession. Throughout my career, I've failed at every one of the items on this list. In fact, I struggle with these things on a weekly basis. The secret is to learn from these challenges and to acknowledge failure as an important step to personal growth.[Tweet “Failure is important for  personal growth”]

Thanks, Enoch!

Big thanks to Enoch Sears for this tremendous opportunity. The Business of Architecture is an excellent resource and a major inspiration for my blog. In fact, I was listening to the episode Social Media for Architecture Firms when I made the leap of faith to start the website where I blog, buildingsarecool.com.


Good Luck!



Steve Ramos, AIA, LEED AP is a project architect for LS3P in Charleston, South Carolina. On his blog BuildingsAreCool.com, Steve shares his experiences as a young architect in Charleston, SC. You can connect with Steve at:

Email: buildingsarecool@gmail.com
Twitter: sramos_bac
Instagram: buildingsarecool
Facebook: Buildings Are Cool



Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.

16 Responses

  1. It’s interesting to learn that an architect should have good public speaking skills. My brother is wanting to become an architect and he was wondering what kind of skills he should learn. I’ll be sure to tell him to improve his public speaking skills to become a great architect.

  2. I absolutely love how you said that failure is part of personal growth. Without failing, you won’t be able to learn from your mistakes and figure out what you can do that will work better. I’m going to keep this in mind while I design the house I’m planning on moving into with my fiance.

  3. I wanted to thank you for these tips for architects. I’m glad you mentioned that an architect should have a strong network because it can help you find opportunities. This seems very important especially if networking can also help you understand what opportunities are available and why.

  4. I really appreciate that you talked about how you should seek mentors when trying to be a better architect. I’ve been trying to get out of my comfort zone of learning to advance and get better. Maybe this will help. Thank you for your tips on being a better architect.

  5. Thanks a lot for this informative article, i was looking for this information as i want to be an architect, i just had basic information on this topic but this article given very detailed explanation about architect, so thank you so much. Going to bookmark this for sure.

  6. I like that you mentioned that Architecture is in the service industry and networking is really key to your success as an architect! Who you know can really change where you go. I have always wanted to study architectural design, but I never had the ability to do so, so now I want help other out in any way I can!

  7. Hi,
    I use to take much more time than usual for design my projects.

    Even if i completed my designing process, I used to feel, “Is this my limit?” Or “Is it all i can do in this project?” or “Shall i go for something more?” etc etc..

    In every final drawings i made, yea this feelings will pop-ups…

    That’s the point, but the client will be much happier, and even my comrades…
    But, me,… What should i say…

    And for sure, i must take a final decision. By finishing my each projects, its getting better and better.

    I would like to know that am I the only one who is suffering from this kind of thoughts?
    And how you guys are dealing with it?

  8. I like that you mentioned that we need to be prepared to fail. If I was having construction I would want everything to be done right. Maybe we should all remember that everyone makes mistakes and that everything can’t be perfect but we can try.

  9. I like the suggestion to seek mentors for inspiration on architectural projects. That is a great way to learn from the best and to get to know possible employers. I would think that the connections you make in the beginning of your career are what will help you become great in the future.

  10. Thanks for tips..
    Explanation on each point is also awesome..
    Each & every point will shape the career of student like us.

  11. Thanks for the tips. I am hoping to get into architecture, but am just now beginning the process. I didn’t think of public speaking as such an important trait for architects. I will make sure to incorporate that into my preparation.

  12. Thanks for this article! I feel like a lot of these tips apply to people in other careers as well. I’m a dance teacher, and networking is extremely important as well. Working to get your name and reputation out is hard, but once it is, it is very rewarding.

  13. Great tips! I think that my favorite is Tip #1: Don’t be afraid to fail. I can’t remember who said this, but it’s true: “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Don’t be afraid to fail! It’s not the end of the world, even though some people think it is. I would love to talk with an architect about designing a few sustainable houses or off-the-grid tiny houses. Are there people that specialize in that, or would any firm have someone for that?

  14. All you guys are awesome! Listening to your stuff I found Kimberly Sheldons business of design books. They are answering the questions that have been burning in my mind of how to set things up for consistent business practices from the beginning. It seems each person starting a perm just a dream up their own way of doing things but it essential framework was hard to come up with. Everyone of your articles including this one is just filled with Great advice thanks again!

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