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.