In Search of a Career
This will not come as a shock to a number of people who know me, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Yes, yes, I’m in my early 30’s and I spent over 10 years building a career as an architect, went through the tests and got my license but now that I have that little stamp (Which I will keep forever because I earned it, damn it!) I don’t know that I wanna do this anymore.
The thing is that I love architecture, I love buildings and design and interiors. The different stages of design, coordinating and learning from other trades and consultants, working through owner requirements and reality and being apart of watching a design become a reality through construction is fun! I, like a lot of people out there, can spend hours online drooling over beautifully designed homes and buildings, landscapes and interiors. I absolutely love coming up with plans, and laying out spaces. I recently met this woman who had this idea for an artist retreat and it was so inspiring that I came home and sketched out 3 different cabin ideas along with a community/ classroom center for it… just for kicks. These are the things I do for fun. They fill up my heart and soul and I feel so fulfilled when I’m designing. Same goes for being in school, I loved coming up with a concept and laying out a home or a gallery or a library.
Then I went to work for a few different firms and everything went monochrome and the life drained out of me. I was in front of a computer all day drawings wall sections and Toilet Room Interior Elevations, not going to meetings, not learning anything new and interesting. “We want you to be a Project Manager on the next project and be involved in all stages… “, I was told for 2 consecutive years, which never really happened. Maybe I’m good at producing drawings. Working through them and ironing out the kinks and answering the questions so that when they are handed to a contractor he/she can just go build it with minimum head scratching. During my employee reviews I would get told I was doing a great job, that I was good with clients and with consultants and did a great job on this and that project but when it came time to give me some constructive criticism, there never was any. How does one grow that way?
There were times when I was really enjoying my job, problem solving, working through details and coming up with ideas and it felt like I could stand it. Most of the time though I was just disappointed. Wondering how I ended up where I was. I saw other young architects who were going out on their own, how were they doing it? Where were they finding clients? How were they paying their student loans? I remembered a professor in undergrad who told us in an Intro course,
“…if we weren’t white, rich and a man we weren’t going to make it in architecture.”
I am only one of those things. So I have all of this experience and now I’m trying to figure out what my transferable skills are. In an attempt to get a job over here in the UK I’ve been applying to architecture firms like crazy, because it’s what I know. When I call to follow up about my CV they tell me that they can’t give individual feedback, they just receive too many CVs to be able to do that. Wow, OK.
When it comes down to it, I don’t want to work for a firm. Those firms can’t tell that though just by my CV. The recruiters I talk to tell me they could easily find me a job if I had a work visa. But because I need to be sponsored… well, no one even wants to interview me. I hope this doesn’t read like a pity party… I had that party years ago… Only my close friends were invited. I’m just putting my personal experience out there. I am WELL aware that I am not the only soul that dives into the pool of architecture and feels this way. I remember another speech we got in undergrad, it went something like this…
“Your class has 400 people in it during your freshman year. By the time you graduate with your Bachelor’s there will only be about 50 of you. If you carry on to get your Masters your graduating class size will be about 20. Only a few of those 20 will actually become licensed architects.”
This is so very true. Wondering why I even got licensed? Well, I like having something to work towards in life. If I can’t figure out which thing I’m suppose to be doing, well it seems like a good idea to just keep moving. At least that way I’ve accomplished something.
So I had a feeling the job search would take me a while and so I prepared myself with this thought,
“Spend the first two months looking into what you know… architecture firms. Spend the the remaining 4 months after that looking for anything. And during that time really think about what else you might like to do with yourself. I mean, yes, you need a job but really try to focus on what else you might like to do.”
So I’ve been doing just that. I got this workbook called Operation Career Cheer by Michelle Ward. Michelle is a career coach for creative types and she calls herself The When I Grow Up Coach.
She has a cool story and has helped a lot of folks. So I waded through the workbook and was so hopeful that when I was done with it I would have this direction and feel some sense of relief for once. Alas my dear reader, I did not. I now have a longer list of potential careers than I did when I started the workbook. See coming up with cool things I’d like to do has never been something I found difficult. Figuring out which one to pick, which one really goes with the things I want, which one can build on what I’ve already spent over 10 years and tens-of-thousands of dollars developing… that’s what I’m looking for. The one thing that I found helpful was a series of questions in the back that helped me weed out some of the directions I wasn’t really giving a lot of thought to. Some careers I thought maybe sounded like fun. After answering a series of questions I was able to cross somethings off the list… Thank The Universe!
I’m not saying the workbook doesn’t work… it just didn’t produce the outcome I was hoping for.
My personal list of “Things I’d like to do when I grow up” are as follows, in alphabetical order:
- Architectural photographer
- App developer ( I have a few ideas)
- Hotel/vacation home owner
- Online store owner
- Product designer
- Small scale developer
- Space planner/workplace designer
Now, she covers my concerns in her workbook and tells me about this book called:
People who have a ton of ideas and interests and never fall under the “Just pick one thing to do for the rest of your life” Category. I was so excited. “That’s me!! That’s me!!” I said out loud when reading it. Feeling like a little kid in school raising my hand so the teacher can see me. (No, I didn’t really raise my hand). So I bought the book. I am still reading it. It’s helpful too and she gives you tools for focusing your attention. She also talks about an umbrella career, which is a career you find or develop that uses all of the tools you already possess and the interests that are already peaked.
I wanna do that. I want an umbrella career.
I’m still trying to figure out where to start. I’ll be taking some classes and reading more books. I’ll tell ya about them. Maybe if you’re searching for a direction too you can take something away from this blog. If you have any constructive and positive ideas for me or just want to share your own inspiring story I’d love to hear it! I love inspiring stories! They’re…ya know… inspirational.