How to Brand Yourself as an Architecture Student

How to Brand Yourself as an Architecture Student

It’s that time of year again where the academic calendar has come to a close. If you’re in your final year, you’ve ‘survived’ architecture school and are ready to enter the world of professional practice. Right? Unfortunately for most of us, the transition is not as easy as you may think. Part of a larger problem with the educational system and architectural industry, job prospects are hard to come by, and when they do, it’s often very difficult to meet the unrealistic requirements.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. In my personal journey, I saw the obvious difference in establishing a personal brand during the course of my Masters, and the impact it made in finding a job. As an architecture student, you may not think it to be the best time to build a personal brand or that you should focus on gaining skills and experience where possible. Both are true, however the earlier you can build a personal brand as an architecture student, the better.

Why build a brand?

When we think of the term brand, we often associate it with corporate brands or global companies that are recognisable in our everyday lives. However, a personal brand is exactly what it says on the tin, personal. Your brand doesn’t need to be as big as Kanye West or on par with Emma Chamberlain.

The point of a personal brand isn’t to turn you into a famous person or someone with a company behind them. A personal brand is the way you are perceived in the public eye, and more specifically, the industry you work in. It’s a way for you to establish authority or credibility despite not having anything to sell.

Part of building a personal brand often involves finding a USP (Unique selling point) or, as I like to frame it, an Unfair Advantage. This is a concept by authors Hasan Kubba and Ash Ali who primarily talk about how to harness certain factors that make up your unfair advantage in an effort to thrive in your business.

Similarly, one can identify their unfair advantage even if they are still studying their craft. Studying architecture involves a series of creative skills, ranging from the basic practice of drawing to technical understanding or physical model-making. There is scope for each individual to find an overlap of skills that is unique to them. Utilising this as your personal brand and subsequently publishing content online can be the key to getting noticed in a saturated industry.

For me personally, creating content for architecture students has allowed me to explore a range of interests and creative projects from writing to event coordination and even video production. However, putting aside the content creation, an aspect of my life that most people find relatable or insightful is healthy productivity. The ability to enjoy the work we do (especially in a demanding career such as the built environment) and avoid burnout or an unbalanced work / life whilst setting healthy habits is something I have become known for in my circles.

But not everyone wants to (or should) become a content creator. That’s totally fine too. The line between creating content for yourself and creating content from others is how I would describe the difference between being a content creator and having a personal brand. Ultimately, your personal brand works for you. It’s an extension of your career, regardless of whether you remain in the industry you studied or not. Everyone’s career journey is individual to them, and if positioned correctly, can be an asset when it comes to maintaining credibility online.

How to get started on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the oldest social platforms, yet it’s still a myth to our generation. Long seen as a place to celebrate achievements or announce career developments, the platform is hugely misunderstood. For the right people, LinkedIn is merely a tool for their thriving million-dollar businesses and if used correctly, a personal brand can capture even 10% of that impact.

There is a misconception that you must first have an established career or your first job in order to even be present on the platform. Let me debunk this myth right now. If you’re an architecture student, and you’re posting consistently on LinkedIn, chances are that you’re one of very few doing so. As a result, it means you are more likely to get noticed. If noticed by the right people - employers and architects - it could even land you your dream job.

If there’s one piece of advice you take away from this post, it’s to complete your LinkedIn profile as much as you can. I’m still baffled when I see students without entire sections in their profiles. It’s an opportunity lost. Plus, it truly doesn’t take as long as you might think, so it could be an evening well spent in an effort to kickstart your personal brand. The reason why I lean towards LinkedIn rather than other social platforms or even your own website is because LinkedIn comes with all the tools you need to get started on your personal brand journey.

How to set yourself apart in the architecture industry

If you’re living in a big city like me, chances are that you’ll have noticed the architecture scene is quite close-knit. Everyone sort of knows each other and there are a handful of big names that are worth making connections with. Your personal brand can help you to keep that link with the industry, even if you’re going to graduate in a couple of years. In one sense, it’s a way of informally networking, which is always a plus. I think the biggest lesson when posting on LinkedIn is that it’s a long-game. Even if you make the most incredible connection but you don’t know yet how that person might help in your journey right now, that’s okay. Down the line when you’ve got your own practice, they could be your next hire or a collaborator - who knows!

But in order to get to that stage, you need to set yourself apart. I already mentioned finding your unfair advantage and that does take some time to truly figure out which direction you want to head in. Additionally, it requires a lot of engagement on your part too. Posting things about your and your work is fine and putting it out there is a step in the right direction. But if no one is engaging with your posts or getting a glimpse of who you are, then you’re not going to be able to build up a name for yourself. Engaging with industry leaders such as architects, directors, even journalists is a good way to get your foot into that circle.

Once you make a few connections, they might introduce you to more. Eventually you’ll begin to understand the various relationships, practices, organisations in your industry which will help you to stay on top of recent news and events. Physical engagement is also crucial and you should absolutely take the initiative as a student to attend lectures or go to studios that are opening their doors to the public.

All of these factors contribute to building your personal brand. There’s no right or wrong time either so don’t feel as if you need to wait till you graduate to start posting about your work. Share your thoughts, the messy sketches, the awful models - after all, architects are known for having opinions on everything! Starting conversation with practices you admire is a great way to get noticed. Eventually if you end up applying to work at those practices, someone might even recognise you, creating that long lasting touch point that makes you seem impressive from the get-go.

But, if you’re truly stuck on how to go about building a personal brand as an architecture student, I offer 1:1 coaching sessions with limited slots each month to walk you through the entire process in just 4 weeks. It includes everything from a digital audit of your online persona to establishing goals and demystifying LinkedIn practices. I really want to help other students and graduates craft their personal brand in an authentic way to help you get that dream job much faster and easier! If you think it sounds like it might be up your street, book a free call with me.

Lastly, here are some action points to get you going (TL;DR):

  1. Complete your LinkedIn profile as best as you can
  2. Start posting your most recent work 1 by 1 (not a full portfolio pdf!!)
  3. Engage with people you find interesting in the industry for 10 mins a day

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