In the competitive world of architecture, it is vital for students to make the most of their opportunities. Saba Salman asked the RIBA's Pamela Edwards for advice on getting - and staying – ahead of the rest
You've beaten hordes of other graduates to get into that sought-after practice, you've survived the first few weeks without a hitch, you've even signed up for the office football team - so what next? What's the best way to rise up that career ladder?

Pamela Edwards, head of professional education at the RIBA, says that Part One students, those who have just done a degree and are on a year out doing work experience with a practice, should try to experience at least two different practices. "Move around, get experience abroad in both big and small firms. There's no need to stay within the same practice right up until Part Three."

As for Part Two students doing advanced diplomas over two years, it is vital to get experience of managing a job. "Don't get stuck just doing concept drawing, or only dealing with the diplomatic side of the job in the job-winning team," says Edwards. "Make sure you can argue your case and your entitlement to broaden your horizons. You must be clear as to whether the firm simply regards you as just someone who's not quite qualified yet, or sees you as someone they want to nurture after Part Three, which is when you do your professional practice exams. Work out what they want from you as well as what you want from them."

It is easy, warns Edwards, for time to slip by and to get trapped in a particular part of the process. "Lots of people come to us saying they're stuck in a rut doing office-based work. It's very easy for that to happen, particularly in a busy practice where everyone's getting on with deadlines and months slip by very quickly. People don't have time to think about where they're going."

Design a structure
One thing that definitely does help is following a continuing development plan (CPD). This is a kind of learning structure that enables young architects to highlight areas they might need to be updated on and areas of expertise that they might want to develop. The RIBA has introduced an online format for recording and updating CPDs. "You shouldn't see your CPD as a chore but as a real tool for development, for recording things you enjoy doing and things you want to get the opportunity to do," says Edwards.

She adds: "In a larger practice you might find a training manager with whom you can discuss your broad career path – and don't be backward in coming forward in self-appraisals. Tell them why should they send you on a course and not someone else."

This might involve demonstrating your versatility. "Show how your skills are transferable," says Edwards. "For example, if you've done a lot of pitching and work on the initial client stages, thereby demonstrating your job-winning skills, perhaps you can use the same skills communicating with people on site visits."

Collect evidence
Another tip is to keep records of positive feedback, what Edwards calls "milestone documents", so you begin to collate an expanded CV of sorts. This means that when an opportunity comes up, you already have hard evidence to hand for why you should get the position.

And when an opportunity does come up, it is likely to be in the pages of the press. It is important to keep a close eye on the careers pages, whether you are pushing for promotion or for further training. This will not only give you an idea of the kinds of opportunities on offer but will help you to keep abreast of the latest trends and developments in your industry.

Don’t get stuck just doing concept drawing or dealing with the diplomatic side of the job in the team