Editors note: This is a guest post by architect Stephen Ramos.
For new graduates and young architects, getting your foot in the door and moving up within an architecture firm can be a daunting challenge. I'm 9 years into my career and have been a licensed architect for 5. It has been a challenge every step of the way. When I evaluate my successes and failures, I notice consistent themes.
I was inspired to write this post after listening to the recent interview on Business of Architecture with Architect Frank Harmon on 7 Success Lessons For Young Architects. Based on my experience, here are 10 success tips for young architects. These tips will help you be a better architect or as Enoch would say, “help architects conquer the world!”
Let's start with my number 10 tip and work our way back up to number 1.
10. Make yourself indispensable.
Do you want to gain the respect of your peers?
Is your goal to elevate your status within your firm?
How about a raise?
If so, then it is imperative that you make yourself indispensable. Find an area of interest and become a champion in that area. One of my colleagues, Sarah Corbitt, has a big interest in sustainable design. Sarah immerses herself in all things sustainable, goes to conferences and sets up in-house seminars at the firm where I'm currently working, LS3P. Sarah’s expertise and willingness to share has made her indispensable to our firm.
9. Seek mentors.
Your fellow architects are resources. Find people who have skills and roles that you aspire to. These mentors will foster your development and be instrumental to your career advancement. Buy them a cup of coffee and ask them for advice and questions about the profession. Better yet, buy them a beer and you’ll get some real gems!
8. Spread the wealth.
Mentorship is a two-way street! Are you a photoshop wiz? Then give your office tutorials. Are you a sustainability guru like Sarah? Then organize a LEED study group. Your goal should be to spread your knowledge as far as possible. You will elevate your firm and highlight yourself as a team player and leader.
7. Network, network, network.
Architecture is a service industry and your ability to provide exceptional service is dependent on a strong network. A strong network will make your job easier and foster countless opportunities. And don’t burn bridges!
6. Seize the moment.
When I began my career, I was eager to unleash my design talents on the world. However, like most interns, I wasn’t handed the most interesting design projects right away. I had to first pay my dues to earn my dream role. [Tweet “I had to pay my dues to earn my dream role.”]
I developed a strategy. Whenever I received any little design task, I took it very seriously. Often I would work on these assignments on my own time after work. I would show up the next day with multiple design options that I had thoroughly vetted. It did not take long before my superiors noticed that I had a passion for design and a ‘hint’ of talent. I seized the moment. Now I am in a role where I get to lead design efforts on very significant projects.
5. Ask for it.
I have an embarrassing confession. I have never received a pay raise without first having to ask for it. [Tweet “I've never received a pay raise without having to ask for it”]Even after I completed my architecture licensure in 2010, I still had to ask! I know right!…WTF!
However, after I asked, I received. This is not just about salary increases, it applies to everything in life.
Want to get more design tasks? Ask. [Tweet “Want to get more design tasks? Ask.”]
Want more construction site experience? Ask.
You’d be surprised on what will occur as a result. What do you have to lose?
4. Get out of your comfort zone.
A few years ago, I decided to take improv comedy classes. I kinda did it on a whim after seeing one of my friends perform. Getting up on a stage, creating make-believe scenes on the fly and acting like a maniac paid amazing dividends for my architecture career. These classes improved my speaking ability. I got better at thinking on my feet and I became comfortable being uncomfortable. This wouldn't have happened if I didn’t take that whim and move outside my comfort zone. [Tweet “Move outside your comfort zone”]
3. Talk the talk.
Public speaking is an invaluable trait for an architect. I don’t have any secret tricks, just some basic advice. If you have an important meeting, rehearse your presentation. After the presentations, ask your peers for a critique of your performance. And avoid ‘archispeak'! Clients are not impressed by your ability to incorporate words like bifurcate and articulation. [Tweet “Clients aren't impressed by your ability to use words like bifurcate and articulation”]
2. Realize that you are lucky.
On a recent Uber trip, the driver asked if I had designed any buildings that he would know. I responded, “Have you seen the new addition to the Guggenheim?” He laughed and said he had hoped that is what I would say. For those that don’t know, I was quoting a famous line by George Costanza from Seinfeld. George lies and says he is an architect in order to impress people.[Tweet “Have you seen the new addition to the Guggenheim?”]
When you are an architect and you tell people what you do, you will often get responses like “Oh…that’s cool!” Or “I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid but wasn’t good at math or drawing.”
I feel extremely lucky to work in a profession that is my passion and one that is highly respected.
1. Embrace failure.
I have one last confession. Throughout my career, I've failed at every one of the items on this list. In fact, I struggle with these things on a weekly basis. The secret is to learn from these challenges and to acknowledge failure as an important step to personal growth.[Tweet “Failure is important for personal growth”]
Big thanks to Enoch Sears for this tremendous opportunity. The Business of Architecture is an excellent resource and a major inspiration for my blog. In fact, I was listening to the episode Social Media for Architecture Firms when I made the leap of faith to start the website where I blog, buildingsarecool.com.
Steve Ramos, AIA, LEED AP is a project architect for LS3P in Charleston, South Carolina. On his blog BuildingsAreCool.com, Steve shares his experiences as a young architect in Charleston, SC. You can connect with Steve at:
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