A lot can be learned from a mentor, particularly one in a position you have yet to be in. This past year I joined PennDesign’s PIWA Mentorship program. I hoped that I might learn something about the field of architecture and the internship search process that I hadn’t learned through my own research.
My mentor was extremely kind, very available, and super helpful! I am glad that I did speak with her several times throughout the semester. She helped review my portfolio, talk about the job application process, and general ideas for keeping in the loop in the field.
I found her most helpful in the decision process. I was nervous to ask about wages, about assistance with relocation, about taking time to decide which offer to accept. My biggest fear had to be that by pushing too much in any of these areas I might offend or close doors before I had even fully opened them. What I learned is that it is all open negotiation. People can’t know that you need time unless you ask. It is okay to have options. Respect the time that you are given, be prompt to reply, courteous in your writing, and try to keep everyone up to date. Once you have accepted something don’t waste others time. Let people know you appreciate the follow up but have accepted another offer. If you are really interested in the firm despite accepting another offer, consider expressing this interest and mentioning future availability should they call.
I don’t believe that you need to go out and adopt a mentor at every single place. Certainly though there is lots to learn from those around you particularly those excited to teach. It was wonderful to have a such an amazing person to speak with!
I plan to participate in the Mentorship program again this year and look forward to what I will learn! As well I have rejoined M.Arch Mentors, a student led organization which pairs incoming students with returning students to welcome and help people settle in. I can’t wait to get to know my mentee and hopefully help her achieve her goals at Penn this year!