Over the past few years, there has been a growing shift in recruiting among big architecture firms. More emphasis is being placed on young candidates who possess a broad skill-set, especially when it comes to design and modeling software, even if their level of hands-on design experience may be lacking.
This trend is creating a new one in its wake, particularly for those who are already more than five years into their career. In order for these individuals to advance professionally, they are facing a growing list of requirements, such as familiarity with several complex design and modeling applications, skills in presentation and business communications, data analysis and management, time management, as well as business management.
The professionals who rise up the challenge and get training in all or most of these areas then often find that they are caught in a funny catch-22. The more they learn, the more responsibilities they are given and the less time they have to really develop any of their skills on the job. This can be very disheartening. It’s as if trying to do a good job is becoming more of a burden, even a deficit, rather than an asset.
Jack of All Trades, Master At None
Architecture is rarely a private endeavor. One of the unspoken duties of an architect is to design buildings and spaces that promote public welfare. But to do this properly, the architect has to have a solid combination of skills, experience, and the time and space to focus on the project at hand. This is pretty self-evident. The reality within many architecture firms, however, is that such qualities are starting to give way to a never-ending stream of interruptions, increased project complexity, and the ever-present pressure to meet tighter budget and time constraints.
The result is that in these same firms less hands-on experience is being replaced by fluency in time-saving design software, coupled with the ability to professionally juggle several balls at once.
So, the question for experienced architecture professionals part-way through their careers is where should they draw the line? Should an architect be expected to compromise on the quality of his or her work or keep skills at a superficial level in the name of “career advancement?” Consider that it costs time and money to get trained and stay on top of software updates and other technological changes, and that’s in addition to the routine training architects need to go through. Big project mistakes due to poor focus or know-how can also quickly stunt the growth of a promising career.
My advice: Today’s architects need to seriously consider the trajectory of their careers. If they feel that they are not advancing because they are spreading themselves too thin, then it’s probably time to work for another firm. Small and mid-sized firms, in particular, tend to give their employees more room to grow in their roles- not just in breadth, but in depth. At a time when quantity is given preference over quality, it can be not only a good career move, but a welcome breath of fresh air.