In my executive recruiting firm, we are witnessing the beginning of a seismic shift in the kinds of talent that architecture and designs firms are targeting for key positions.

Today there is a growing demand for “non-traditional” skills and experiences. Firms are looking for talented people who know how to collaborate with others, rapidly learn new things and adapt, and who not only display the ability to think outside the box, but who can turn those thoughts into a physical reality. Some firms are even actively recruiting candidates who have experiences that lie outside of the architecture and design industry.

Though this shift is stemming from a variety of factors, most of it can be traced to a combination of changing work attitudes and values among younger employees, evolving client expectations, and emerging technologies.

Architecture and design professionals simply can not afford to ignore all of this movement. Those who get too comfortable at their current position may find that their skills and experiences have become out-dated and irrelevant and that their career options are significantly limited.

The Curse of Career Apathy

In many firms, especially the big, well-known ones, architects are hired and then find themselves in an environment that encourages them to lose touch with the very qualities their profession truly calls for. Skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, and artistic expression get put on the shelf as these once promising candidates begin to conform to their surroundings and find their own comfort zones to fall into.

Some become overly-reliant on technology; others drown in the administrative side of their jobs; still others lament the disconnect from their co-workers as well as the clients and environments they are trying to serve.

All this disillusionment often gets transformed into an apathy towards career advancement and personal development that has claimed the career lives of many a talented candidate.

It’s not a good place to be in.

The solution of course is that candidates need to put on a new pair of glasses and change their focus. They need to move away from trying to follow the typical career path, assuming that their job and position will just improve over time, because more likely than not, it won’t.

Instead, today’s architecture and design candidates need to attend to their personal development and get in touch with their unique strengths, skills, and experiences.

As I’ve mentioned here before, we are seeing that the most successful candidates are those who are taking their career development and advancement in their own hands. This means they are actively seeking the opportunities and experiences (both inside their current firm and outside of it) that will ultimately move their careers forward.

While this may seem a bit risky to some, the greater risk is turning a blind eye to the real changes that are taking place, failing to adapt to them, and then waking up to find that your skills and experiences are no longer relevant.