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Bespoke Careers

21 August 2019

21 August 2019

Bespoke join industry professionals at EMBARK in Sydney

The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning Alumni Association invited our leaders to participate in EMBARK, a one-day conference for Sydney University’s students.  With over 50 speakers, this year marked the biggest EMBARK yet.  Joining industry professionals from practices including Cox Architecture, AJ+Cm, Bates Smart and  Hassell,  Ryan Barton and Krista Shearer had the opportunity to engage with students and share their vast range and wealth of knowledge.

The event was divided into three sessions. Session 1: “Beginnings” provided a broad overview of pathways available to students from all disciplines. Following this, session 2 “Future Global” was intended to expand the horizons for students, and explore the diverse range of ways they can engage on a global scale. 

Bespoke Careers was part of Session 3, built around the idea of a “Living Library”. The “books” were the speakers who shared their insights on topics related to architecture and provided the students - the “readers”, with career advice.  The purpose of this session was to help students with the more practical aspects of beginning and navigating their careers following graduation. Just like any normal library, “books” were available to be borrowed, engaged with and learned from, except the “books”, in this instance, were real people with a unique personal experience or perspective that they generously shared with “readers”.

In ten-minute sessions, groups of between four and six students per “book” were encouraged to ask for advice on portfolios, interviews, and industry. Questions were based on the subject of what employers looking for – for example what kind of skills and experience are required and how to find jobs. Krista and Ryan shared their stories about what they had studied, what they did after graduation, and highlighted the different steps and decisions that got them to where they are today.   

Our top tips of the day include:


Make it count: Making yourself stand out from the crowd is probably the most important (and maybe the most difficult) step in landing your first job after university.  Sending an email with a link to your website will, most often, be overlooked and potentially never seen.  Design studios receive hundreds of applications a year, sometimes as many in just one month.  Directors/ principals are extremely busy people with very little time to spare, if they look at your portfolio it’s likely it will be only for a few seconds. Make sure the first project they see is your best, most impressive piece of work and start with ‘The Money Shot’.  Get their attention with your best design and they are more likely to look through the rest of your work.

Make a connection:  Follow up with a phone call or even better, get dressed up and take your work into the studio.  This may not be everyone’s cup of tea but they will remember your face and it could be a great way for a potential employer to experience your communication/interpersonal skills, as well as your design skills.


Mix it up:  we always recommend including a good mix of visual material (be it a picture of a built project or a visualisation) and some strong technical drawings from 1:200 floor plans down to 1:10 bespoke detailing.  A potential employer is usually looking for a strong all-rounder with a good eye for design and the technical/ CAD skills to back this up.

PDF is best: Websites can be great but it’s always worth creating a PDF portfolio (max 10mb) even if this is just a snapshot of a longer portfolio which is online and can be presented at an interview.  Portfolios don’t need to be any longer than 10 pages.  At interview stage, yes, bring extra material; construction drawings, 3D renders, anything you think is impressive and relevant to the job you are applying for.

We are proud as a company to volunteer in this event, as Krista explains “it allowed us to give practical help to students on how they may approach looking for their first role or taking a planned career path.” She added: “As an alumnus it’s inspiring to go back to school, meet today’s students and learn what inspires them”.

The event took place on Friday 2 August 2019 at Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning Wilkinson Building G04, 148 City Rd, Darlington, NSW 2008.

Author: Ryan Barton & Krista Shearer, Bespoke Careers

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