FIND YOUR NICHE in Architecture says the _self-help_ guru. What a load of...
By Stephen Drew
May 7, 2022
0:00 / 34:19
Stephen Drew00:01

Hello everyone. It's week two, week two in 2022. Oh my goodness. It's getting so busy, huh? Wow. I'm super excited because I want to bust this myth.

You think that you should find your niche? We're going to go for it, to gather in the seconds, letting everyone talk in, get your sandwich. It doesn't count as a CPD, but I'm sure you'll learn something like, all right. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Hello, everyone. My name is Stephen Drew and I'm calling and I'm calling, what am I on about?

I'm going live from the Architecture Social, and I'm just about Ghana. And I've turned that off because we're alive. We're live streaming. So no one called me at the moment. I was I'll have to cut you off, but welcome everyone. It's a Wednesday. And I'm super, super excited to talk about something which I saw online and it made me think, Hmm, I need to talk about this because how often in your searches have you heard that you need to specialize in a niche, you sat in up at business, you need that niche.

People need to remember you, you need that unique selling point. You need that skillset, which is going to differentiate you. And now it's all well and good, especially, you know, being strong in one area. However, what I've seen is people who specialize in certain sectors of architecture. It doesn't mean that necessarily they're going to get a job.

Because maybe as things change that sector or that unique skill set, that thing that they have is no longer needed and that can lead people in a stressful situation. Now I'm going to expand upon what I mean, and I've got my trusty graph. Yeah. So we'll all go through it, but here we go. I'm just going to check that everyone is logging in.

Here we go. Chris is here. Dodgy connection. All you can see is 21 while I hope it gets better in a bet. You let me know Chris, if it's still a dodgy connection and worst case, I will say it off again. All right. So we're going to keep talking in the meantime. So what are you thinking. Do you think specializing in having your niches really important?

Well, I'm going to jump straight into it and talk to you about what I see. So for anyone that's not seeing my content before I've worked in architectural recruitment for the last eight years. And what I've seen is the people who send a CV, some portfolios, and the ones that struggle to get the job interviews, as well as the ones that go through and get jobs.

Um, soon as possible, people who get the jobs, people get all the internet. So, Hey, Sean is working excellent. That is good to know. And Gregory, it's good to see you here as well. So how can, what can we learn from the people that get the jobs or do not struggle as much in between jobs? What do they have?

Well, I'm going to show you the common traits that I see and some things to think about in your career. Okay. So I've got a. I've got a graph again. I was tased by one or two friends last time, but I think it's really good to have a graph. Okay. So before we jump into it, I want you to think about, just bear with me.

You've got to humor me for a second. Okay. We're going to talk about your career. Okay. Now your career is full of many different things and I've kind of broken it down into what I think generally. When jobs come in on, when people have grease in architecture, how that's broken down, right. Well is involved in a career in architecture.

So you start, you're going to get your qualifications. You were going to start as a, when you're going to get qualified, but. Part one part two part three aside, let's break down what that job entails. Okay. So when you start in a Architecture practice, you probably going to be plunked on to a job in the commercial, a transport, retail, residential that's called sectors, right?

What sector of the Architecture market? You're in some people focus more on. Um, one sector because they joined architecture practice and they build up lots and lots of experience in that sector. And that can be really handy for other jobs in that sector. So what do I mean by that? If you are a residential architect and residential is booming, there's loads of developers who want to build residential buildings, then chances are when you look for a job.

That's going to be really handy. Now you might actually, um, start in infrastructure. I hopefully I've spelled it. Correct. You might jump in. Infrastructure is really interesting right now you can do really well in the infrastructure sector and you can get jobs which are wealthy. But that experience right.

Is going to be more specific to the infrastructure sector. Yeah. Transport architects are going to be hired by companies like TFL. They're going to struggle though, getting a job at a large scale residential house belt or an architecture practice, which does predominantly residential. Okay. So what you tend to find is that as well as.

So we just covered briefly sectors. Okay. When you join an architectural practice, you probably going to use different software. Now software is probably going to be used more at the start of your career. When you go favor in Ukraine, you're going to get out of a skills as well, which we're going to touch upon, but you might join a practice which uses Katz.

And then we'll use the analogy that we used before. So you're trying to have an architecture practice with residential and you start working in CAD. You'd like to work in bend, but this architecture practices just CAD for now. As well as that, when you join this architecture practice, what you do on the residential team, you're in charge right now of projects, parts of projects and projects at earlier RIBA stages.

So what, what do we have here? Oh, that's my terrible. Are you. So we have what? Zero to seven. These are all the RIBA stages. This is what we use in the UK. Right? So you might find that you predominantly do the front and RIBA stages. 1, 2, 3. Okay, cool. Now over the course of your career, you're going to get pickup loads and loads of scales, which is awesome.

You're not expected to learn them straight away, but you know, you start working on UK building regulations, which is only. Um, you have another chance to get to do business development. You spot in now you just thought in Ukraine, right. But maybe you do a bit of client facing. Oops, I've got it twice, but that's fine.

Yeah. So you're building up your career on that front. Okay. Now let's pretend the clocks go back. Yeah. Let's pretend the clocks were back and the start of the pandemic hits. Okay. COVID. Lots and lots of jobs are, are under jeopardy, right? So that say that actually there was a few people on the front end team.

You might find that now you're looking for a job, right? So with this skillset on the market, you're going to be immediately relevant to other companies who have that skill. So, what do I mean by this? And I'm going to get my color now. So you'll see that there's lots and lots of jobs online. So let's see.

There's that a good, yeah, that's a good different color. Okay. So what you might find, so say now this person with this skill set, all right. And they might have two years in industry or free years or whatever it sends suddenly looking for a job they've gone. Oh my gosh. I've got to look on the job market.

I've got to find something that's really relevant for me quickly because it's the pandemic. Right. And so. There's a few companies which are looking for commercial. Good news, looking for residential. That's great because residential is a good sector. Right. And then, but oh, the companies use rabbit, they don't use cats, a dam, and they really looking for someone who's done all of these sectors.

Uh, so, and then as well as that, they want someone with UK building regulations. The client facing would be cool. Great. Got that. Okay. And, okay. So in this scenario you probably would get an interview because you've got a few with the skill sets then, which is great. However, let's pretend in another scenario that you are a retail architect and you've worked in retail all your years.

You're like an actual. And, you know, I'd run end stages. Yeah. You've got the UK building regulations and you could have better management. Yeah. You've got the cat. Now the problem is, is that the same job that that other guy went for before? And this analogy, here we go. You're not going to have all of the skill sets.

Okay. You're not going to have all the skillsets. And then what does that mean? You might be not asked for the job. You might not be asked for that job. Now you might say to me, Steve, that's just one job and you're right. And this analogy that I gave was earlier in their career, but the point of what we're talking about today and let me bring the camera back, let me bring the camera back to me is that I want to make sure that you are future proof because Simon, the niche is good.

Imagine if you were that guy or that lady, who's got 10 years of rabid XP, 10 years of retail experience, you've got a better rabbit. You haven't got that much, but you've got cats. Chances are during the pandemic, the main big sectors, which were looking was residential, especially modular data centers.

Okay. That's a new sector. And as well as that, not so much committed. But, so if you think about it in what we talked about, the residential was bag and, uh, data centers were big. A retail architect might struggle. Okay. So that's what I want everyone to think about when they look in for the job. So, okay. You could say to me, Steve, it's not as easy.

As going into an architecture practice and saying, I want to work on retail for two years and then move over to another sector and you'd be right, because it can be a little bit difficult in that, but that's go back to the graph again and talk. It's not just about sectors. Cause what I want you to think about is the sectors are quite important.

Software's getting important as well. Understanding it. BIM invited. Using rather than using our ads, that's really important, but there's other skills which you can build up. So that overall you become a well-rounded and have much higher chance of being employed. So we go back to my trusty graphs again.

So what do I mean by that? We're going to use a different analogy. We're going to talk about an architect with 10 years experience or something. Okay. So let's have a look at my. Now, what I'm on about is think of this concept of skills stacked, right? Because when you're 10 years in Ukraine, You sometimes I find being observational is that you get these amazing architects who are really good at specific stuff.

So in this analogy, I've used the hotel expert and it could be that this person has done so much of hotels. That's one of the strongest things, skill stacks, and yes, that's going to be really desirable for someone in hotels. But here you can see that maybe they're super experienced on front end Rebus stages, or they've got a bit of cats.

They've got a bit of team. And this, I have a skills down here, which is not used as much. Now, if the job is in the whole towns area, or maybe the company's looking for our hotels director, you're going to think great. This guy's going to get the job. And he probably would have a good chance, but won't, if there was one or two other skills, which are really important to the job that the guy doesn't have, or the lady doesn't have.

Okay. And that's where I went. This is the one way to start thinking about a, a broader skill stack with one or two specialisms. Okay. So this is a broader skillset. So compared to the other one, you can see here that this person has got all round experience on all these things. So, whereas if you fail, you can see the shape of this is like this, where you can see this guy, or this person actually has a large wide base, and then it has some special.

Specialisms that go up. So what do I mean by that? Over the course of this person's career for the last 10 years they've done the hotels. They haven't done the as much hotels as the other person, but they've also done residential. Okay. And they've seen all of the RIBA stages. Okay. Maybe not as good as the design stage, maybe doesn't have as much experience in the design stage, but this person seen hotels done some residential at RIBA stages.

One to five. Okay. And as well as that, they know an expert use in BIM software, then I expect an Arctic cats, not an expert in rabbit, but they've got it. And they've done a bit of CAD as well. And on top of that, this person has done a lot of business development. Okay. So what that means is when the chips are down during the global pandemic, during a recession, This person is more likely going to fit into more jobs on the wider market, which can mean that this person is slightly more versatile.

Okay. They could be exactly the same smart level and all that. I'm just talking about niches. Okay. And it's fantastic that F if the hospitality sector is going through the roof, yes. This hotel architect has all the opportunities and it's, it's a buzzing sector and they've got lots and lots of chances, even with the front end Reeb estate.

Because the hotel market in this concept is doing really well. However, what do we know happened during the pandemic? The whole hospitality sector was struggling and therefore that this person in what really happened there in the pandemic struggled, they're really smart. They're amazing if you're going to be, if you're an architectural practice and you're hiring and you need something.

To build a hotel, get that amazing design. This person is going to be awesome. Or what if you don't need that? Because the hotel sector's down and in your architecture practice, suddenly the hotel team has less work and actually there's work and the residential team, and you need that person. Well, this, this person's on the job market.

They're more likely to get the job because they've got a broad. Average then this person who specialized. Yeah. You know, whoop, I'm terrible at drawing. You have to forgive me and I'm doing it live. So that's my fault Sunday. So let's bring the camera back and then I'm going to get all the comments here as well.

So we're talking, you can drop me a food. You can drop me what you think about the analogy. Okay. But basically you want a broad set of skills. Some specialisms. And I think it's riskier to have specialisms, which are massive specialisms in one particular areas. So let's bring up a few with the comments and we can go through things.

So give me one second, give me one second to do them. So Gregory. I like to have a niche and be a generalist at the same time. Yes, exactly. Gregory. If you, for instance, have a broad set of skills and then you are one or two specialisms, chances are that broad set of skills is going to be relevant to a lot of places.

And those specialisms are going to show that you can do certain things. It's going to show that you would Excel in certain areas. Yeah. Uh, you mentioned as well, BIM is a method and Revvit is a product name. Exactly. So, yes, I'm sure that's to do with John's comment about BIM and a rabbit, but let's put that aside drawn and thank you for coming Gregory, because I want to talk about.

Niches again. I w I want, I want to do is for everyone to think in their current career, how can they future-proof themselves? How can they make themselves really, um, few, you know, desirable in any Architecture market? So if you, you don't need to be the expert, but if you've got cats and you've got BIM and you've worked on residential, And commercial now it's, in my opinion, they're the two sectors, which generally one goes up, one goes down and there's usually jobs in those sectors and you've done a little bit of hotels as well.

You can't do everything right. But if you imagine you've got that. And I think a really important one, which I would encourage every architect here to do is to steward all RIBA stages because that future proofs your jobs. Uh, just from the front end, what we're talking about that, and I'm going to bring it back to me just so you know, front end designers, they always struggle during the pandemic.

It's the old round does that do really well technical focused architecture, usually in demand as well because we're buildings on. Project management skills, all that is really, really valuable front end designers are valuable, but in you typically in less demand, I get less roles on the front end designers.

So keep yourself safe and be an all-rounder and do RIBA stages zero to seven. Okay. Let's bring it back up. All right. Cool. So imagine you've done that. And during your time as well, you've got UK building regulations, you've done a bit of management. You're got a better client facing. That's going to be really, really useful.

So you already are tipping the odds in your favor. Yeah. You're making yourself really employable. And I think that's really, really useful. Alex. Brett talks about an excellent question. Is there an issue of going too broad, too fast? At what stage do you Korea, do you think you should branch out? So sectors are going to be the hardest one to move away from because probably in an architecture practice, you're going to be put on one or two, two.

But you can make yourself quite versatile pick understanding one or two pieces of software and always going along with the flow. So if you're in CAD, you should make, for instance, an effort to go to the bed. But what I would say to Alex is all what you can do without causing the shuffle in an architecture practice is you can always ask your, the architectural practice for more responsibilities on the team, doing administration, helping out on projects, maybe doing a little bit of.

You know, been ma uh, BIM Manager, if that's your thing, maybe it could be going on site all the time, you know, practicing client facing these are skills that you can constantly develop without moving in teams, which are going to make you so valuable and so employable, you know, and I think that's really important.

And if you find that you're getting stuck on certain RIBA stages, that might be a good one for you too. Two different RIBA stages. You say, look, I really enjoyed, uh, RIBA stages. One to four. I wanted to do 5, 6, 7. So Alex, I hope that's helpful. Always you and down the line, you can ask to move to different sectors, but in the short term, you can work and broaden, then your skill sets in the project that you're in.

And that makes you really employable. Another example, Alex could be that say, now you're an architect. And you qualify and you've got like one or two years you could ask to, um, manage a mentor or a part one and part two. And that's going to give you a little bit of management experience, which you didn't have before, and that is increasing your skill stack, because you can see that you've done management on top of the sectors that you were.

And I think that will really help bond drop the message. Hello, Steven analogy, 2022, when your Arctic says, um, for you for the third year in a row, I change, please give me a name of a project. They exactly Vaughn really good to see you and we'll have to have a catch up soon, but I think it is healthy at that point to ask for a little change, ask for a little variety and always go back to thinking about how can I broaden my horizon.

Generally, and I can't prove this, this is anecdotal, but in terms of recruitment, I think a lot of the very good architects that I see work, and maybe they've got residential, but perhaps they've done a bit of hospitality as well, or maybe they don't want it to mix use projects. And they've done commercial as well as residents.

You know, a retail architect is always, who's got 10 years to when retail is going to struggle to go to residential because the UK building regulations or compliance for housing regulations and so forth. I mean, you guys will tell me more because you will practice in, but that's not going to apply. And that's going to be difficult to come by us in, in an interview when you don't want to be in that position where you're trying to convince someone about the sectors in the job interview the best time to try and get different sectors.

It's when you're in the job that you're currently end. Okay. So we've got one or two of, uh, points here as well. Um, Sean, in case I didn't bring it up, um, I agree a niche market, but a generalist architect and team project manager is the right way to go. Thank you, Sean, for contributing that I completely agree.

So I am coming to well, w I think we generally covered. But I'm going to open it up again to the audience, um, and ask one or two more questions, feel free. I'm going to be here for the next 20 minutes or so. And we can talk about any questions you have. And what I'm going to do is I'm going to go through an existing job that I'm working on and we're going to pick it apart.

And I'm going to tell you what skills are transferable and what would work really well for him. Danielle says I have a lot of sector experience. How can I push a highlight? Um, positions at experience seems not to be enough. Okay. Um, good question. So I would bring it back to, obviously I haven't got your CV here right now, so I'm speculating as well, but how can you be really valuable to a company if you've got lots of sectors experience, but how can you push for higher level positions?

So, I mean, a good example. And obviously I haven't got context cause I'm going to CV here is talking about a, to add value. Okay. So one of the most criminally underrated skill sets is business development client facing and basically being able to pitch pitch in front of clients, maybe design team competence.

Okay, now I'm freestyling now. So I'm sure we could word it a little bit better, but you get the general gist. So in my experience, how to add your value to a business, you get comfortable working with the. And do you foster that relationship? You nurture that relationship. You help generate business for the architecture practice.

So architects who generally have business development skills and work closely with the client, I'll have a relationship that will struggle less than someone that does not have a relationship with a client because that's powerful. And if you can bring in business for a company, they're unlikely to let you go.

How'd you build business with? Um, a client, maybe you develop a good working relationship at an architecture practice where you are, and you spend a lot of time delivering that clients projects. And if they move to different companies and you can follow them around. So, you know, quickly, how do you do that?

You could probably as well as asking you bus for that exposure. This is once we get in front of a client, if you deliver on what they want and you, and you nurture that relationship and you try and be really socially. You try to develop a professional relationship, as well as a, let's say a friendship, but you know, a personal relationship then that can work really well.

You know, it's all about delivering. And all of my clients that still work for me, I have to deliver for, but actually as well as that, if you can get along and you can have a bit of fun with the client, or you can connect to them on a personal level, then you're going to have that emotional connection. So you're going to deliver factually.

So logically you're the right person to work in there. But then emotionally they think that you're fantastic fat because you're fun to work with while you deliver the goods. So to answer your question in a roundabout way, um, Danny a have a look at building relationships with clients, have a look at how you can bring in work for the business.

And as well as that, maybe there are some other ideas. Yeah. Which I put down such as, you know, taking more management responsibility, managing part ones and Bob who's coach and mentor. And just doing things a little bit outside of, um, uh, what the job description entails going above and beyond doing that extra bit, that's going to add real value.

Okay, cool. So I'm going to keep gift for one or two minutes and I'm going to go through a job that we can talk about. And then I will unpack, um, the, kind of the skills and transferable skills, which can be. Relevant for the job. Now I'll give you a flavor of how it currently, you know, how you would approach him and what would be the right person for the role.

Last common that's popped up here is Gregory says the design of billings in the UK zero, the seven would be a good focus area. I feel biased towards education, coaching and mentoring, professional and career support. Gregory. It's very good to, um, to do coaching and mentoring. I'm sure. You'll agree that it's a two way thing.

You impart wisdom, but you also learn a lot yourself. So don't worry. I think that's a good bias to have. Okay. So now here, I've got a job description. Okay. Up. We can't really see it. So I'm going to get rid of that. I'll talk about it now. So there's currently a BIM consultancy, which I'm working with and currently they are looking for a project manager or a digital delivery person.

Okay. Digital delivery manager. Okay. What the heck does that mean? Don't worry. I, it's very hard to find someone who already does digital delivery. So it's not about that. It's actually looking for someone who is currently in architecture, maybe they're a BIM specialist and has done a bit of project management and they are currently excited to do something different.

Maybe they've got stuck in their current position. So the right kind of person for that role is someone that has a wide variety of skills. Someone that perhaps has done project management seven that has worked. Um, C D E environment, which I believe starts for common data environment. Someone that's familiar with that.

And someone that's maybe got stuck stuck in with the BIM model. They've done a bit of Ben coordination. Okay. So there's a wide variety of skills there, which could be applicable for the role, but actually someone that's done a little bit of BIM coordination, a little bit of, bit of management and a little bit of general and project experience in architecture.

It's going to be a great. However, and this analogy for this digital delivery expert, someone who's just done project management, they're probably not going to be the best fit because they kind of this person, this, that would be right for the role needs to have a little BIM experience. So in this scenario, the old rounder is the person that's probably going to get the interview and probably is going to be the right.

So you see that as well. You will see that a lot. And generally, I think if you worked in residential commercial sectors, you will find that a lot of, um, jobs, uh, are, you can let, you can actually apply for a lot of jobs. And, and specifically the RIBA stages are so poor important. So as Gregory said, I think that, um, if you have repurposed ages, zero to seven, chances are, that's a really.

That's a really good base grant. And if you've got residential, you've got commercial. Maybe you could apply for that education job. Probably the person that's that education is going to have the first appeal when they, when someone's figured for the CVS, they're going to match education education. But the fact that you've worked in a few sectors and you'd done all of real estate.

That's pretty good. And you might be more desirable than the education architect with just front end zero to free RIBA stages. So we'll summarize things up, but short and sweet and pay my pleasure and Gregory. No problem. So short and sweet. Have a think. Next time the guru says have a niche expand upon.

And think what they really mean. Do they mean just have a niche or do you think that all of the successful business people out there actually have a strong base of skills with one or two specialisms? Let's see, in my experience, the people who get to the top of the top of businesses, they've done everything.

They've done all the RIBA stages. They've worked as a manager, they've they. Joining the company, perhaps from the ground up or they sat at themselves. They, when work, yeah, as they've done, maybe the late nights once or twice, but they've seen a little bit of how the business is developed. They nurture people, they have a wide variety of skills.

Maybe they have one or two languages under their bouts, but, and perhaps they've seen one or two sectors. And then at the end of their career, they got, you know, well, I've got a bit more residential than anything else. You can, you can say that I do residential, but I guarantee you, if you look at all the directors and managing directors accompany, they have such a vast wide variety of skills.

And that really is why they are at the top of the ladder. And then maybe they have one or two specialisms there, and I guarantee you that, um, on the other side of the. You might, you can still get awesome people who specialize in very narrowly in one particular sector. However, there are, there's always that risk should a sector change or should the architecture industry go one way or another?

That if the situation is not great, there's not many jobs or that sector, there's no need for those buildings to be built. There's no need anymore for retail because it's. How business is going to have a humble job, a time finding another job. So don't leave yourself exposed. Have a think about how you can let's get the graph up one last time.

Have a think about how you can develop a wide variety of skills across the boards and bring everything up rather than bring in one. Yeah, don't be rushing to do that. Build this area up, build this up, build it all up, and then you can specialize in one or two, because this is much more employable you get at this.

This is much more employable than someone who's just in this area. Yeah. Yeah. Just like that. We have a little. It's not as employable as this. So on that now Miro is messaging me. I've got people messaging me here. I've really enjoyed this live stream. It's always a learning curve, go in live, kind of feeling it out, but I hope that's helpful.

Um, and I enjoy it. Unfiltered chat, you know, I'm not interested in screen. I'm telling you everything that I've learned over the years from my anecdotal experience, whether or not you apply that knowledge, that's totally up to you. Okay. Do not get yourself caught out, have a think about, and, and broaden that skill set, bring the base of your skills up.

All right. On that note. Leave it there feel free to drop a message. We found this useful to share it with a friend or a colleague. If you think they're in that position and they might benefit from this, have a fantastic Wednesday. I'm going to go back to my job now at work. I'll see you soon. I'm sure there'll be a topic for next Wednesday.

Okay, Cameron. Bye. Bye.