Author Anna

A number of people in the industry have been asking me to share my views on some of the new job titles currently circulating among architecture firms. So, here’s my take…

There are a significant number of up and coming architecture professionals out there today who are feeling undervalued and unsatisfied at work. While such feelings of discontent may be connected to several factors, such as work-life balance and compensation, the truth is the title that these individuals hold within the profession can be a big, yet overlooked part of the problem.

The issue is not so much about semantics, but more about a fundamental need for a job title that accurately describes the work being performed as well as the experience and knowledge of the person holding it. Few things are more frustrating and discouraging to talented, hardworking professionals than having a title next to their name that is ambiguous, belittling, or even misleading.

Not only does this send a confusing signals as to where these employees are holding in the equity ladder, but it also complicates work with clients and business partners. Even casual networking with peers can devolve into an awkward experience as these professionals struggle to describe what it is exactly that they do.

A Tale of Leadership Tiers

Once upon a time, architecture firms had three tiers of job titles that reflected three distinct tiers of leadership:

  •      Tier 3: Associate. Those just starting on the leadership trail, the up and comers being groomed for future senior leadership positions and potential equity
  •      Tier 2: Associate Director / Senior Associate. The senior leaders with broad management responsibilities for a variety of projects or project teams, including client contact, scheduling, and budgeting.
  •      Tier 1: Director. The owners, major equity holders, and firm principals. These days, a number of firms have up to five tiers of leadership with a boutique of creative job titles. Others have chosen to simply recycle the titles they already use.

Consider the title Practice Director. Traditionally, Practice Directors were the people who ran the practice. Seems pretty straight forward, right? But some firms have now decided to use this title as a new organisational tier. When there are twenty Practice Directors in the one studio, it sends confusing messages as to who does what as well as how much each individual should be paid for his or her work. So, for that matter, does taking an old title like Associate or Director and just slapping the tag of “Senior” in front of it.

Before I go any further, let me point out that many other established industries have a clear hierarchy of roles and positions. You can easily distinguish, for example, the difference between an enrolled nurse and a registered nurse, an engineer and a certified Professional Engineer, and someone with an accountant’s degree versus another who is a CPA. But as time goes by it seems the architecture industry is beginning to lose some of its structure.

Part of the problem is that some firms are still struggling to define the paths for career advancement and leadership development that their most promising employees can follow. In this case, it’s much easier to just create slightly new positions with important sounding, yet practically meaningless titles in order to make their employees feel like their careers are advancing. It’s a quick, band-aid solution that does little to change the status quo.

It should also be mentioned that there are a few studios that choose to define their organisational structure in their own unique, out-of-the box way by design. They’re different; they know it; and it doesn’t bother either them, their staff, or their clients.

But aside from these two examples, there’s really a deeper current within the architecture industry that I think is the driving force behind the current job title craze. I’ve mentionedbefore that architecture as we know it has been fundamentally changing over the past decade in response to seismic shifts in technology and client demand. As a result, architecture firms of all shapes and sizes are now facing new standards in the project research, design, and build process that are forcing them to rethink their business model. This includes re-evaluating the scope and responsibilities of current positions, creating new positions that didn’t exist before, and getting rid of outdated or redundant ones.

Some firms have been slow to adapt to these changes in no small part because the process is likely to be both onerous and costly. Instead, these firms are merely introducing a wave of new positions with recycled or ambiguous titles. So, while the organisational structure may indeed be changing in some way, the change is superficial. The job titles and the responsibilities of their staff are not really keeping up with the realities of the industry.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Given that the architecture industry is rapidly evolving, the need for standardised titles is greater than ever. In Australia, you can’t call yourself an Architect until you are registered with the Board of Architects, which means you have taken the Architectural Practice Exam, conducted the interview, completed your log book and officially passed. In a similar vein, I believe the architecture industry would benefit if there was a certain standardised level of experience professionals need to attain before they can rightfully be called an Associate, Senior Associate, or Director.

In other countries, such as the US, efforts are being made to standardise the titles that architecture studios are using. The question is why can’t we do the same thing here in Australia or in any other country where such efforts are lacking?

What do you think? Should there be a standard set of rules that define the experience and responsibilities a professional needs before he or she can hold a particular title, or should we leave this up to the individual architecture firms themselves?

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I recently finished reading the book Disrupt Yourself, by Whitney Johnson. There are many notable ideas and advice on career transition and development in there, but one quote in particular stood out to me:

“Most of us are brimming with the confidence, even competence, to change the world. It is vital that we are also equipped with the humility to understand that changing the world and keeping innovation alive require that we [first] change ourselves.”

Johnson’s point is that only by actively choosing to embrace change, to “disrupt yourself” personally and professionally, can you avoid stagnation and live a happy, productive and purposeful life.

I’ve mentioned here before that the most successful architecture and design professionals I have worked with are the ones who take the reigns of their career development in their own hands. These people actively seek out the opportunities and experiences that will take their professional and personal lives to the next level- even if those changes are not initially comfortable or easy.  

When the Enthusiasm Wanes

In these first few years after graduation, many aspiring architects and interior designers are like sponges. There is a natural drive to soak up anything and everything that they can on the job. It’s a time of exploration, experimentation, new experiences, and mobility.

Yet, I have met many candidates along the way who landed in positions early on that didn’t match their strengths and ambitions. It’s easy to be blinded by the award winning, high profile firms that are spending a lot of time and money trying to recruit high potential talent– especially when candidates are just starting out in their career.

But once they get there, these talented candidates often don’t find the career development or learning opportunities they were hoping for. Other times, there is a kind of culture shock where new candidates have a hard time with the work environment at the firm.

These situations are often downplayed because there is the perception that younger workers have more time to decide what they want to be when they “grow up” in their career. But, I have seen it turn into a career setback, cooling off their enthusiasm for further growth and development in the profession.

Then there are the talented, older candidates who come to me after they have been with the same firm for several years. They are solid performers. Yet, opportunities for promotion and professional development rarely come their way. Some of these people even tried leaving only to be given an attractive counter offer that was never fully realised. They feel like they have hit a wall in their career and are now trying to figure out how to get around it.

Embracing Learning Experiences, Not Entitlements

Going down the road of entitlements will always lead to dependence, and this dependence can absolutely crush potential, bringing a promising career to a screeching halt. We are living in a fast-paced world where change, transformation, and renewal have become the norm. If you really want to make it, then you have to have the courage to forge your own path, to embrace new experiences, perspectives, and continuing education- both on the job and off of it.

I am seeing that the most successful architecture professionals are typically the ones who took a non-traditional career path. They may have a more diverse educational background; they may have willingly transferred to different sectors, positions, and even firms that allowed them to develop a broad range of skills; or perhaps they showed interest and respect for smaller, more local architecture firms and the knowledge they have to offer.

They are in touch with their strengths, take the right risks, and know how to get the most out of a setback. They have colourful careers and are living purposeful lives, and that’s a great place to be in.

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There is a popular perception that architects are an over-worked, under-paid, unhappy, and unappreciated bunch. While, the truth be told, many architects are quite content in their chosen profession, this perception is at the same time not entirely groundless.

Something for Nothing

I often meet with young architects who come to me in a state of disillusionment. They had secured what they thought was their dream job. Maybe it was at a well-known prestigious firm, or perhaps even a smaller studio that seemed to offer a lot of hands on experience. But the enthusiasm of these young candidates quickly fades away after spending months or even years struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance in a business culture that expects self-sacrifice and fanatical loyalty from its staff while offering practically nothing in return for all of this hard work and dedication.

The issue of unpaid overtime in particular strikes a nerve. Expectations of uncompensated work are widespread throughout the industry, and it occurs in firms of all shapes and sizes. According to the results of a survey conducted by The Architects’ Journal, almost 40 percent of architects work at least 10 hours of overtime every week, and over 80 percent of these respondents claimed that they never got any money for their extra work.

This practice is currently illegal here in Australia and many other countries throughout the world, yet there is often a lot of pressure on architects to tacitly conform to this setup. It’s safe to say that the pressure to do so starts at university, where students are encouraged to work long hours. They are not, however, also taught how to value and manage their time. Once these young candidates enter the workforce, they may face shrinking fees, project schedules that are set too tightly, and badly organised, under-staffed teams. Yet studios demand that these architects be “team players” and simply work longer and harder for less. Young architects are also made to believe that those who put in longer hours have a greater chance of promotion.

Not surprisingly, this often has dire consequences for the morale, emotional health and well-being of architecture candidates both in school and on the job.

Taking Responsibility

But who do we point fingers at? The architecture schools that venerate all-nighters?The firms trying to maximise their profit? The clients with unreasonable project demands? The global recession? The architects themselves?

Where ever we place the blame, that means someone somewhere has to shoulder the responsibility to make a change, and architects certainly owe it to themselves and those who they serve to take a good, hard look in the mirror.

Those who choose to continue to stay in an environment that forces staff to work crazy hours with little to no compensation and appreciation are themselves part of the problem. In a certain sense, it’s the easy way out. It may be more comfortable to bend to a situation that is exploitative, disrespectful, or oppressive, to point to the circles under your eyes and say that you simply can’t work any harder, than to stick yourself out, to take risks, and make the career moves that can propel your career forward on one hand, but have the potential for failure on the other. It’s easier to just shrug your shoulders and say, “that’s just how it is.”

This is especially true for those with a family, or those with any kind of life outside of client briefs, renderings, and piles of paper work. These professionals are usually not able to maintain such a work schedule and are denied the real opportunities for career advancement.

So, you can keep telling yourself that maybe things will change at the firm, after all, it has a good reputation… that you will eventually start your own practice one day… that you are doing it in the name of promotion because you see a future for yourself at the firm… and maybe, you are right. But once the reality of the situation shows the futility of this behaviour and the mindset behind it:

…when the change never happens… when the promotions don’t come… when it’s never the right time to start that practice of yours… when you are too tired and uninspired to focus on design (and how much design do you even do, anyway)… then it means a change is in order.

It’s not just about considering the value of your time in terms of dollars; it also means the value of your passion, your talents, experiences, and ultimately, your life and your self-respect. As one architect put it, “The fact that you accepted these terms and work for free does not help the situation or the bigger picture… Stop waiting for something external to change the situation for you.”

The change you really seek is internal.

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For all the talk of influence, artistic expression, innovation, and impact of the architecture and design industry, there is a rather inconspicuous undercurrent that rarely gets the attention it deserves.

The truth is that architecture and design is one of those areas that only reflects, like no other, the changing concerns, attitudes, and trends of the society it’s serving. This means that by nature the field of architecture and design is constantly evolving and constantly being redefined- from the outside in.

There’s No Room for Career Ostrich

Those who have chosen to make their careers in this industry should pay attention or else they may suddenly find out that their skills, experiences, and even career path have become out-dated and obsolete. The past decade, in particular, has seen unprecedented advances in design technology, the construction process, and the use of composite materials. We have also experienced great upheavals in the global economy and gone through deep sociocultural shifts. All of these factors have significantly affected the way projects are conceived, designed, and built.

In such a climate, architecture and design candidates need to take a good hard look at how they are positioning themselves in the industry. They must take the time to consider if they are really getting the experiences and developing the skills they need to ride with these major currents of change.

There are three main points that architecture and design candidates today need to consider:

  1. Recent experience is given more weight. Studios and big architecture firms alike are putting more attention on what candidates have done recently in their careers. In today’s intense and crowded job market, hiring managers are becoming more intolerant of drawn-out resumes and portfolios that take up too much of their valuable time. Older architecture professionals in particular need to realise that their experience past ten years out will not have the impact in the job market that it used to.
  2. Technology savvy isn’t an elective. The architects and designers who do not embrace at least some of the technological innovations that are currently redefining this industry will eventually send themselves into extinction. This includes: building design software, mobile workstations, as well as the growing prevalence of virtual and augmented reality and even 3D printing in the design process.
  3. Relevant expertise outside of the fields of architecture and design is gaining in importance. Today, it’s not just about the depth of a candidate’s knowledge that employers are looking at, but also it’s breadth. Those who go in to their job search with some understanding of the various roles, players, and supporting functions of the design and construction processes have a clear advantage over their peers. In other words, strong candidates just know more. In the coming months and years, architecture and design professionals as well as the firms that hire them, will be taking on multiple roles at once. We are already headed in that direction with the growing number of firms seeking to be a one-stop-shop for their clients.  

Bottom line: those who want to be successful in the ever-changing and evolving architecture and design industry will be the ones who will learn how to change and adapt.


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One major mistake I see architecture and design job candidates making today is underestimating the impact of their online presence. There are generally two attitudes, and neither one is very good good. Some candidates are very concerned about hiding their online footprint. They take pride in being invisible so that none of their personal updates and information can hurt their chances of being hired. On the other hand, I have met many candidates who, though not invisible, fail nevertheless to fully leverage their profiles, networks, and content creation online.

While it is certainly very smart to be careful of what you do and post online, it is not a good idea to be invisible, since you run the risk being overlooked by serious recruiters and employers.

Today, the prevailing belief is that your online presence will predict your ability and behavior at work regardless of how talented or experienced you are or how polished your performance is during the job interview. Your social proof online is used to confirm that you are who you say you are, and it can help to distinguish you from all the other candidates competing for the same position. Realize also that it is much easier for a busy recruiter or hiring manager to quickly assess your hiring potential with an online search.

This dynamic is happening in not just in just in the realm of Architecture and Design, but in countless industries across the board. In fact, according to LinkedIn:

  •       70% of employers have rejected a candidate because of information they found out about that person online.

On the other hand:

  •       85% of employers say that a positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions.

The Four Essential Elements of Good Online Visibility

For candidates working in architecture and design there are four areas to focus on:

  1. Optimized online profiles. I’m starting here because this is often the first thing that recruiters and hiring managers see. Whenever you open an online account for social media or any online community, you have to create a user profile. Take full advantage of it. Make it easy for people to find out who you are, what strengths and experiences you have, and how you can be contacted. Where possible connect your profiles to a portfolio of your design work or any other notable contributions you have made to the community.
  2. A portfolio of your work. A digital portfolio is fast becoming an industry standard. You want to create a carefully selected collection of featured projects and other work samples that are well developed and documented and are easily accessible to employers. You can also link it to an online version of your CV. Doing this can be of great value since it gives hiring firms a first impression of your abilities, style, and interests.
  3. Communities. If you want recruiters to notice you and hiring firms to take you seriously, then you should make an effort to actively participate in the online communities and groups where you will be most visible to them and their contacts. This can include professional LinkedIn groups, or any good blogs and online magazines dedicated to architecture and design.
  4. Content creation. Any content that you create online, like the digital version of your portfolio mentioned above, gives recruiters and hiring managers a taste of your personality, abilities, and experiences. Content creation can take many forms including: posts on a personal website, videos, comments made in forums or on articles, and contributions to online publications and websites focused on the architecture and design industry.

Bottom line: when it comes to your online presence you have to strike a balance between covering your tracks and showing hiring firms that you seriously have what it takes to get the job done.

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There has been as of late a collective grumbling among architecture firms that today’s architecture students are not properly prepared for the daily challenges they are likely to face on the job. Indeed, over the past decade or so architecture has transformed into a multi-faceted process involving complex teams and clients demanding sophisticated solutions while staying on budget. The industry is also being transformed by evolving technologies that are changing the way buildings are designed, built, and used.

On the educational front, however, the pace of change has been slow. Many architecture degree programs throughout the world still place theoretical knowledge and creativity above practical, hands-on training and education.

Bridging the Gaps

As the architecture industry and the world it serves become more complex, the skills architecture students need to learn in order to effectively work in practice has without a doubt greatly expanded. Architecture students of today need even more business and management skills than ever. They also are expected to show up with a basic understanding of several complimentary disciplines, such as design, construction, and engineering, as well as tech savvy and the ability to communicate effectively in a variety of situations across various mediums.

Now, this is not to say that creativity and talent are no longer important. But these qualities need to be tempered with practical thinking, sensible problem solving, as well as comfort using emerging technologies while simultaneously appreciating its limits.

So, young architects need to bridge the knowledge gap, the technology gap, the team member gap, as well as the gap in their personal attitudes and perceptions versus that of their clients.

Seems like a lot? It is. Yet, many new recruits will find that they will need to bridge many of these gaps themselves.

Architecture Schools Have Been Slow to Adapt

In a perfect educational setting, traditional design courses would be supplemented with hands-on, cross-disciplinary projects that would combine knowledge from other related industries as well as preparation to consider the legal elements that affect the design process, such as zoning laws. There would also be an emphasis in gaining skills in project management, which includes time management, financial management, and collaborating with a team. While a few select schools are now offering projects that allow students to develop hands-on technical knowledge and engage with end users, clients and other professionals, these are still the exceptions.

Educational institutions seem to be taking their time adjusting their curricular so that all the focus on creativity is balanced with more practical, less sexy topics like budgets and construction management.

Given this, how can current students enhance an imperfect education? The answer is to first be aware of the situation and then to start thinking outside of the box. This may mean finding a good internship at a small firm, or deliberately taking courses that fall outside of the traditional architecture curriculum, or even spending some time working in other, related industries, such as graphic or product design.

The truth is those who go in to the profession with a more well-rounded approach to architecture are the ones less likely to get the dreaded pigeon-holed assignments. They are also the candidates more able to land the positions that enrich and advance their careers- the jobs that make them want to actually show up for work in the morning.

In short, architecture is not a passive profession. Those who approach it that way, expecting that their degree alone will give them everything they need to succeed as an architect, will likely find themselves woefully unprepared later on.

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What happens when architecture professionals find out that they don’t like to be architects? For those of who are fresh out of design school and only just starting your careers, you may be thinking that this won’t ever apply to you. But it happens more often than you realise, and even among those who are mid-way through their careers.

The question is, if you find yourself in such a situation what do you do next?


Why So Many Architects Are So Unhappy

Though every person’s story is unique, there is a common theme among the dissatisfied, disgruntled, disenfranchised architecture professionals I’ve spoken to. It usually goes something like this:

Passionate young architecture graduates fresh out of university are focused on the creative design side of architecture. But when they get a job, they are greeted with a rather “unpleasant” surprise. All these young architects seem to be doing is sitting in the office, learning to manage projects and pushing paperwork. If the candidates took the time to master modelling and design software, such as Revit and AutoCAD, then they find themselves sitting in front of a computer all day cranking out “standardised” designs or making modifications on someone else’s work. There is also the constant pressure, particularly at larger firms, to do more and work harder with less, for less.

These young candidates may have started their first real jobs full of enthusiasm, but then realise quite quickly that they don’t enjoy the work one bit. They may push their feelings aside, thinking the problem is just that they are new. If the firm they work for is well-known, then there is even more incentive to ignore what they are feeling. After all, it took a lot of time, energy, and money to get to this place.

Eventually, they may be moved to change firms, but the same feeling of discontent follows them around. Finally, it gets too much for them to handle, and they begin to consider what to do next.

If the candidate is young, then there are many options for what to do next. If the architect is a bit older (and there are plenty of mid-career architects out there who managed to plough through their positions for several years), then they really have to be strategic.


So, What Do You Do Now?

If you have been following me for a while, then you know that I’m a big fan of those who actively take their career development in their own hands. Part of this means seeking out the career opportunities that already surround you. Many disenfranchised architecture professionals are still interested in the field, and if they’ve been around for a while (5+ years), they’ve already built up connections and learned about the industry from the inside. This is all extremely valuable going forward.

If you fit this description, then the very first thing for you to do is to rethink your career goals. Remind yourself of why you got into the field in the first place. Then, see what areas would match those ideals.

You basically have two options:

  1. Look for Something Directly in the Field. If you still want to tap into your creativity, then specialise. Take interior design, for example. Being an architect means you will have plenty of transferable skills when it comes to interior design. Interior designers deal much more with the end user, and will typically specialise in specific areas. This means they are able to maximise their impact on a given project. They also work closely with architects.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a break from design side, but don’t want to give up on the field, then there are plenty of professional architecture jobs for non-architects and designers. This process can start by looking at the options within your current firm. How do you feel about research and design, marketing, or project management?

  1. Go a Bit Outside of the Field. Completing a degree in architecture and getting the necessary licenses and training can be a long and arduous process. But what happens if you decide 5 to 10 years out that you actually don’t want to be around architects at all? Here are some related careers that will allow you to transfer your skills and background:
  •      Landscape Architecture. Design outdoor landscapes that include elements, such as infrastructure, public areas, agriculture, and natural resources.
  •      Restoration Architecture. Focus on the conservation and restoration of historical buildings and other artifacts.
  •      Industrial Design. Design products and objects that are to be manufactured through techniques of mass production
  •      Furniture Design. Create innovative furniture designs for all kinds of spaces, uses, and materials.
  •      Graphic Design. Design images and graphics to be used in a wide variety of mediums.
  •      Video Game Design. Constructing the virtual architecture of a video game.
  •      Architecture photography. Capture a space’s composition, colour, environment and experience through a lens.

Bottom line: if you’re an architect and you have come to hate what you do, it’s not the end of the road (nor your career), and you certainly aren’t alone. With a little creativity and an open mind, this situation could turn into a stepping stone to something much more fulfilling.

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One of the most crucial factors to moving a firm forward is the level of passion, enthusiasm, and loyalty that exists among its employees (and by “employees,” I mean entry level staff all the way up to its senior leadership). Most firms, of course, dream of building a team of super staff who willingly put in long hours, come up with creative solutions, and generally go above and beyond their job descriptions.

But bringing this dream to fruition, however, means that those at the top need to start taking a good look at what is happening on the other side of the fence. On that side are the employees and promising candidates themselves who dream of an employer that values their time and efforts and that allows them to make a noticeable impact- both within the firm and outside of it.

While each employee will obviously come in with his or her own work ethic and personal level of enthusiasm, the onus of bringing these two sides together is really on the firm.

Why Employee Engagement Matters

A lack of employee engagement can be a leading cause of poor work quality, low morale, and difficulties in customer relations, ultimately resulting in missed business opportunities. In fact, there is a large body of research and numerous case studies out there that directly tie employee satisfaction and engagement to company performance.

This means if you can sell your employees on the firm’s future and the importance of their role in it, there are numerous advantages. Your employees are more likely to generate their own ideas, contribute with enthusiasm, and keep slogging away even when the road ahead is rocky. They also have a greater sense overall of fellowship and cohesiveness. All of this will help to ensure that your projects are successfully acquired, planned, and executed; that your clients walk away satisfied with your work; and that your firm is on top of the emerging trends in the industry.

Leave the Lip Service at the Door

So how can you foster real employee engagement in your firm? For starters, leave all the lip service at the door.

Firms are notorious for talking about things like employee satisfaction, engagement, and leadership development, while there’s little in practice to back up their words. The harsh truth is that the mere concept of “employee engagement” can easily be abused by firms that seek to strengthen the commitment of their employees without giving them anything in return.

Of course, this attitude on the part of firms just won’t work in the long run.

Only when employees have a clear understanding of the firm’s goals and mission, a strong sense of how their roles contribute to the larger goals of the firm, and knowledge of the areas where they need to be performing better… only then can they really take pride in the importance of their work and do the best possible job on every project.

A Change in Perspective

Many times when I ask the senior leaders at a firm to describe their firm’s mission, I am fed a series of memorised talking points that revolve around their strategy for achieving future growth and improved productivity. In other words, they are all to happy to tell me where there are going. Yet, when I try to get them to tell me who they are, my prodding is met with silence.

A lot of good can be achieved if firms would focus a bit less on where they are going versus who they are. Once there is a sense of what a firm stands for, senior leaders can begin the process of implanting these values into their key business decisions and ultimately into their daily operations. Every decision and every action then becomes a branded representation of the firm as a whole, creating a distinct culture that will attract suitable employees as well as clients and business partners.

A rather automatic consequence of operating with this attitude, is that the senior leaders at a firm will start to look at their employees differently. Instead of expendable assets that help them to achieve their goals, their employees will evolve into a hard-to-replace reflection of their core beliefs. These firms will then be more likely to invest in direct, personalised forms of culture building and leadership development, such as mentoring, effective employee evaluation and feedback programs, and even increased face-to-face contact between entry and mid level staff with those at the top. All of these things can generate a high level of trust, loyalty, and commitment among employees.

In closing….When firms want to increase their employee engagement, they typically consider their benefits package: how much money they are offering, what titles to give out, and who should be brought into their ownership program. They are working backwards. Once a firm figures out what they stand for as well as how their employees want to be shown that they are valued and make an impact, they can then go about fitting these concepts into the system. Armed with this knowledge, they can design a benefits package that truly and naturally elicits the engagement they are looking for.

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You have finally landed your dream job in a well-regarded firm. The position matches your skills and career goals perfectly. It even pays well. Yet, you dread showing up to work.

There is a whole lot of advice out there aimed at helping up-and-coming candidates land the job of their dreams. But what do you do when the reality doesn’t match up to the dream?

In practice, most jobs are far from perfect. Every position in a firm comes with it’s ups and downs, its own set of opportunities, challenges, and personality conflicts. Fantasies can quickly give way to the responsibilities, workload, corporate culture, or career projections that you may not have been expecting. Or, perhaps the expectations more or less match up, but you start the job and quickly find out that you just don’t like the work/projects/culture.

Of course there is nothing wrong with having career goals or even an ideal job in mind. Just don’t be lulled into thinking that once you obtain this position, you will necessarily have a clear career path ahead of you.


Waking Up From the Dream

So what do you do when you have already achieved the job of your dreams and it falls flat- especially if you made major sacrifices to pursue it? How do you re-set your career?

You basically have three options:

  1. Cut your losses- Move on to another firm
  2. Grin and bear it- Try to make it work with your current job
  3. Dig for gold- Seek out internal, high-potential opportunities that are suited to your strengths

Obviously, there is no one right way, nor one-size-fits all solution. But before you can take action, you need to figure out where the real issues lie. Are you frustrated by the firm’s leadership who does not seem to recognise your potential, or do you feel that your work is not challenging enough? Perhaps you do not like where the firm is heading. Trying to pinpoint where things are going off will help you to identify which actions to take going forward.

In the end, you may come to the conclusion that you didn’t do enough research on the firm during the interview process, or maybe your career goals were not realistic, or perhaps you will uncover new strengths and passions you didn’t know you had.


Creating a Career of Your Dreams

When you start focusing on personal development and playing up your strengths instead of trying to follow the defined path that someone else decided for you, your whole concept of career development changes.

It’s what Whitney Johnson refers to as “an era of accelerating disruption” where opportunity, new skill mastery, innovation, and personal growth fuel productivity and happiness and give the person a real competitive advantage. According the Johnson, you alone have the power to create the career of your dreams by taking the right risks, enhancing your distinctive strengths, embracing limitations and failure, and even having the foresight and courage to step back in your career path in order to grow.

In the end you have the freedom to look for the most promising internal and external opportunities. Maybe there is a better fit for you somewhere else in the firm or perhaps you are applying for the wrong position in the first place. The point is though a nightmare job may leave you feeling like you want to shut your eyes and run away, you really need to be doing the opposite.

Keep your eyes open. There are opportunities all around you. You just need to have the courage and the insight to see them.


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