Monday, January 11, 2010

The Fall Out

Let's get straight to it: for architects, 2009 sucked. In some ways, I was lucky enough to escape the worst of it - I quit my job before a round of lay-offs let half my firm go. And, while others toiled away at finding a job, I at least kept myself busy for 90% of the past year.

However, even though my hands were busy, it's been unsettling, Why? Well, while the cuts and scrapes told me I was working, my tax returns most definitely don't. And now that the projects that brought me home are complete, I face the ever daunting task of landing a job.

At the start of this new year, I'd like to be optimistic. But, I tell ya, it isn't easy. One, prospects are, as the Archpaper article points out, not great. Two, finding myself in limbo isn't exactly what I imagined at this point in my life. Kinda easy to feel the opposite of optimistic with the baggage of last year still on my shoulders.

To be honest, my last year was pretty awesome. If I overlook the whole part of living with the parents again, or the minor detail of feeling like a little kid needing an allowance, my past year is probably be close to a life I'd want to live. I had my own schedule, I managed work where I had a lot of creative control and, more importantly, quality control. I worked regular hours. I had time to travel. I accomplished things. I lost weight.

The past year also taught me a lot: I like working with my hands, I prefer a worksite to an office, I am pretty quick on my feet. It also showed me how much I still need to learn, and eventually, master: When do I need a permit, what codes need to be met and, in particular, how to meet them and cost estimating are just a few.

The black cloud that hangs over me, despite the relative content I feel for many aspects of my current state, has a bit to do with both personal expectations and professional aspirations. For one, I never thought I'd be a closing in on the big 3_0 without a secure professional path.

The dreams of an associate track at some high-design firm died pretty much after my first round of job hunting. I'm not an idiot; I'm pragmatic enough to learn from that experience and recognize that the portfolio I have isn't one that those firms want. I personally believe in my talent, and moreover, my work ethic and intellectual abilities. But I'm not flashy nor big on self-aggrandizing statements. I'll prove myself if given the opportunity, not with my words, my look, my ego. But you need those things to cut your way to the top.

The dreams of an academic life died pretty much during graduate school, when I got continually knocked for being too practical, too immersed in the problems of the real world. And I won't deny it, nor wish to relinquish it. I understand that, for those wishing to invent the next new thing, playing to the constraints of the here and now doesn't make sense. But I'm not that person, and for me, the most interesting things about architecture involve addressing those constraints. Thinking around them is, in my humble opinion, more provocative then ignoring them for your own rules.

So where does that leave me? The aspirations I had in college have been laid to rest. I am, like so many of my friends and colleagues, looking for something after discovering what we were told to expect isn't what is, or what we want. That's disheartening. A blow, really, given the years now invested. Easy to put off optimism, isn't it?

So the fall out may be more than just economic; right now, I, like many I know, face the hard question of whether to stay or go? Do we suffer through for the hope of a better fate when things turn, or imagine, given our past experiences, a new life outside of what we know now. This fall out has caused the profession to shed numerous members; whether that is a permament statistic remains to be seen. Whether I am will be one of them is something I have to give some serious thought.

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Blogger Graeme said...

"To be honest, my last year was pretty awesome"

Nicely said. Just try to make this year like last year!

10:24 PM  

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