Amelia Borg, Kushagra Jhurani and Peter Elliott: How to get a job

Kushagra Jhurani says people had suggested going door-to-door, but he wasn't sure if that was a good idea during COVID. (Supplied: Metro Trains)

Early career professionals are often guided by a practice’s development guidelines. Many help by pairing graduates with an experienced graduate, registered architect, or even an architect who has achieved the highest levels of success in our industry. It becomes apparent that the practice of architecture is very different to studying architecture.

Amelia Borg RAIA
Sibling Architecture

As we emerge from lockdowns and border closures in 2022 with a sprint towards increasing housing supply and delivering new civic projects, the industry feels extraordinarily busy. With this increased activity comes a demand for hiring new talent. While there may be an abundance of opportunities arising, it is always a daunting task looking for your first role as a student or graduate – no matter the state of the industry.

The biggest hurdle I hear from graduates looking for a job is that offices are always overlooking them if they have no prior experience. Applying for a position can be especially challenging if you have no experience within an office environment, and even more so if you are competing with other grads who have worked within a practice while they were studying. Gaining experience as a student within an office is a good way to counter this and can be mutually beneficial to both students and studios. However, this is not always practical for students who may have heavy study loads and other obligations. There are plenty of other ways to focus on what makes you a valuable and attractive candidate. Graduates often have amazing design and visualisation skills, particularly in relation to image making, modelling, and understanding the latest software developments. Embrace and showcase these skills and highlight how they can contribute to the design process within an office.

Another common concern I hear from students or graduates is that they feel as though positions are often filled through existing personal relationships. Having a strong professional network will always assist in opening opportunities. This will be true for your entire career. A good way to strengthen your network is to be active within the architectural community. This may involve attending talks, lectures, events, and workshops, asking questions and being involved! Connecting through online platforms and over social media can be a way to build connections and find practices that might be a good fit for you. Even making strong connections within the environment of university including your lecturers, tutors or any guest critics you may meet will help to build your network.

You will have the most success where there is an alignment of values and outlook on architecture. We love it when we receive applications where there are clear synergies in design approach and thinking. Tailored applications that highlight why you think you would be a good fit are always great to receive and stand out. Demonstrate what you know about the office, don’t just talk about what you offer, but how this could compliment the interests of the office

For us, it is all about approach, a good attitude, confidence in design and ability to communicate effectively in a team. We realise that students or graduates may take some time learning the ropes of a professional environment, and that is fine as long as they have the right attitude and approach. If an office says no once, it could be a matter of timing. Follow up with them in six months’ time to show you are keen. You could be the person they call next rather than advertising a position.

Kushagra Jhurani

The last year of my architecture masters was online, and that’s how we ended up graduating with no in-class thesis or meeting any of our professors. Indeed, there was a lot to learn while overcoming the stress of being at home. After applying for at least 200 jobs, I realised that during COVID, conventional methods might not work, and that I must reach out to the maximum number of people possible at the same time.

My colleagues and I were the first generation of COVID-hit graduates, and many of us were international students. When we started understanding how networking works, everything came to a pause. And I feel we missed out on building these contacts due to everything shifting online. The best skill to get a job currently is how you market yourself. For starters, what worked for me to get mentors and build up my resume for interviews was keeping my LinkedIn updated, getting certificates for learning or training in particular software, sending in entries for competitions, reaching out to people, and teaching Rhino with other software online.

I want to mention that you should select practices, not by their name but their people and work culture; you do not want to be stuck in your dream job and then not be able to follow your dreams. Know what you are good at and own that skill, even if you only know one software, be the best at it. Do not be shy about reaching out to your teachers, mentors, architects, and ask them to mentor you. There is no harm in networking on multiple occasions, though there is a fine line in communication that can often be misunderstood as nagging. You will always receive a response if you showcase your will and drive.

I have been lucky to have great mentors, guides, and teachers throughout my journey. But as I mentioned before, conventional methods were not working for me; lockdown made architecture offices close shop, and door knocking was not the best idea during COVID. So, using my girlfriend’s advice and my architectural thinking, I decided to advertise myself on the major railway stations to reach out to maximum people. And I did it for weeks, with other methods and jobs already mentioned, so I wouldn’t say it was easy. It is tough to let your guard down and let people see through you. Eventually, it worked out for me, as someone found me at the right place at the right time, recognised my skills and honesty, which landed me a job as a Graduate of Architecture at Metro Trains Melbourne. Lastly, do not lose hope; better things are coming your way.

Peter Elliott LFRAIA
Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design

As a practice we have always employed architecture students, hosted international exchange students and work-experience placements. We enjoy having students and recent graduates in the office as they bring new energy and remind us of the importance of connecting the generations. In my own case I worked part time with two architecture practices as a student before starting my own practice upon graduation. I found the experience invaluable. For those who want to practice architecture it is critical to start to gather skills and experience as early as possible in parallel with studying. This is the best pathway to a job. Gathering experience as a student can take many forms beyond just working in an architect’s office. Some of the standout students that have come to us over the years have not necessarily worked in an office before, but had other life skills.

When it comes to developing skills I would encourage students to get involved and volunteer in as many ways as possible. If you can’t get a placement in a practice, then arrange to visit architect’s offices, building sites or into a factory where buildings are made. Join a committee, or share a studio space with other colleagues. Try and get experience in a practice as a gap year between bachelor and masters degree. When I was studying in the late 1960s it was mandatory to take a year off after three years to gain experience. Students typically come with great graphic skills, which is handy, but those with good CAD and some building knowledge are most likely to succeed in the job market. Another avenue to broadening experience is to attend events and talks that happen around the town. Parlour, Process, Loop, MPavilion, Melbourne Design Week are all great ways to meet and converse with others across generations.

made. Join a committee, or share a studio space with other colleagues. Try and get experience in a practice as a gap year between bachelor and masters degree. When I was studying in the late 1960s it was mandatory to take a year off after three years to gain experience. Students typically come with great graphic skills, which is handy, but those with good CAD and some building knowledge are most likely to succeed in the job market. Another avenue to broadening experience is to attend events and talks that happen around the town. Parlour, Process, Loop, MPavilion, Melbourne Design Week are all great ways to meet and converse with others across generations.

When it comes to networking, there will be many views about how best to go about it. I struggled with the concept as a young graduate. I think a more positive approach is to work hard at establishing good relationships and seeking out good mentors. In our practice we typically take on new students and staff by word-of-mouth recommendations. Sophia and Kate, our current Monash students, both recommend forming good relationships with your tutors who are often practising architects and full of ideas, tips and tricks.

Thomas Huntingford is SONA President Elect for 2022 commencing his tenure in 2023, and an editorial committee member. He is an architecture assistant at Kerstin Thompson Architects.

Published online:
3 Apr 2022

Architect Victoria
Edition 1

More from Architect victoria

Balfe Park Lane: Kerstin Thompson Architects

Considered across the scales of the neighbourhood, building and apartment, Kerstin Thompson Architects’ recently completed Balfe Park Lane is a demonstration of medium-density housing that is contextual, amenable and lasting. The project lies on a rapidly densifying section of Nicholson Street, where the facades of new developments jostle for attention above nondescript ground floors.

Read more


Through process and approaches that engage with multiple notions of heritage including problematic ones of environmental and cultural destruction, architecture can participate in the widening of a heritage discourse.

Read more

Maggie Edmond: Edmond & Corrigan

Edmond & Corrigan has employed an incomparable number of young architects who have gone on to have prolific careers with their own practices or as sole practitioners. Daniel Moore asked practice director Maggie Edmond some questions.

Read more

A crucible for new housing typologies

Faded photos of public housing projects from the early 1980s line the corridor walls of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, marking the time since the medium density infill housing program, led by John Devenish at the Ministry of Housing. The program became a crucible for new housing typologies as it pursued a policy of diversification through infill, opening up the opportunity to commission emerging practices.

Read more

Napier Street for Milieu: Freadman White

Freadman White’s simultaneous development of Napier Street and Whitlam Place harnessed unique efficiencies and resulted in a highly efficient model for project delivery.

Read more

Lovell Burton: Springhill House and Barwon Heads House

Lovell Burton grew organically from a conversation over many years. We share a common endeavour to shape the built environment with a social, environmental and fiscal approach.

Read more

Emerging Architect Prize: Alexander & Sheridan Architecture

In 2021, Jacqui Alexander and Ben Sheridan were the Victorian recipients of the Emerging Architect Prize. With a diverse CV of research, publications, exhibitions, and built work, Daniel Moore spoke with Jacqui about her achievements in the time that she has been emerging in the architecture profession.

Read more

Calk House: Mani Architecture

Putting strong relationships with their clients at the forefront, and remaining bonded with their projects after completion, the Mani Architecture team are “reminded on how we have changed our clients’ lives for the best”.

Read more

Ozanam House: MGS Architects

Joshua Darvill, coordination, engagement and participation manager at Ozanam House provides a snapshot of the services provided, long-term sustainable outcomes and reassessing the needs of the community.

Read more

Architectural photography

A photo essay of architectural photography. Daniel Moore asked established architectural photographers about their first memorable project, finding their way into the profession and/or working with early career architects.

Read more

Investment in affordable housing quality: Why the industry should support it

Recently, we have seen many news stories pointing to the bounce back and now surge in house prices in our capital cities. With this, a host of public servants, politicians, residential property investors, and homeowners sit back content, another KPI met, clearly all is well in the garden. The low interest rates, the decades-long incentives rewarding this investment are working. But are they? Are we getting the housing infrastructure we need, in the locations and in the form and tenure required to build the Australia we need economically and socially?

Read more

Building a folio

We fell into our practice with little planning, much optimism and a dose of imposter syndrome. Our first project was to blame; a friend was starting a cafe and bar in a beautiful art-deco building on Carlisle Street and we were doing the fit-out. With the promise of a prominent built project on the horizon, we felt sure that we were on our way (spoiler: we were pretty wrong).

Read more

Homelessness and social housing

Arron Wood, former Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne, on how architecture and good urban design can have a positive impact on the supply of social and affordable housing.

Read more

Richmond House: Therefore

Director Alex Lake shares how Therefore has spring boarded into residential architecture from a prior base of commercial work – “an atypical direction given most small practices begin with residential work”. 

Read more

NGV Triennial Outdoor Pavilions: BoardGrove Architects

For the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2020 Triennial outdoor program, BoardGrove Architects designed a collection of transient pavilions situated in the gallery’s Grollo Equiset Garden. Drawing on their diverse experience, BoardGrove designed a novel response that skillfully responded to the project brief’s size and budget.

Read more

Revisited: Some aspects of housing overseas

With more funding available than we’ve seen in a generation, there is the will to reimagine social housing sites. Architects, urban designers and public servants have duly taken up the subject. But how to frame the problem?

Read more

Generation Exchange

In the rapid exchange of information that is now a daily reality of contemporary practice there seems to be little time for wisdom. Speed rules. Communication is dynamic. Considered correspondence remains an obligation of our profession yet the hourly deluge of emails that we all deal with in practice is anathema to this fundamentally important component of our practising modality.

Read more

Brunswick Lean-to: Blair Smith Architecture

Brunswick Lean-to is a discrete addition to a heritage-listed weatherboard cottage. The project draws upon the ubiquitous lean-to it replaced; a colloquial structure often overlooked or demolished in the event of an extension. Blair Smith Architecture demonstrates sensitivity and depth of thought, addressing opportunities and constraints through site-responsive spatial planning and the packaging of multifunctional elements in a robust, utilitarian structure.

Read more

Process over product

Breathe’s project for Aboriginal Housing Victoria has been approached with rigour to deliver a high-quality project embedded with sustainable design principles and cultural engagement.

Read more

This is not my Country

This is not my Country, and because it’s not my Country, I cannot speak on its behalf. This statement is true for me, and almost every built environment professional in Australia, so how can we work on and with the Countries that we are responsible for fundamentally modifying?

Read more