This article by American Architect Michael Riscica offers a healthy dose of advice for the young architect seeking to define his or her purpose or career path.
Originally published on his blog, Young Architect, the piece highlights key factors young people either studying architecture or in their first few years of employment need to consider. From defining who are you and who you want to be, to, valuing your time and enjoying what you do, Mr. Riscica offers some salient points that every future young architect, regardless of geography, would find useful. Read the full, original article here.
WORDS BY MICHAEL RISCICA
Dear Future Young Architects,…First and foremost, I want you to know that I love and support each and every one of you! I get really excited about architecture when I look at what is happening with younger generations.
This is partly what inspired me to start the Young Architect blog. I got bored with all the “Old Architect” blogs. I mean, yeah, all those old guys are really, really nice people. But I just thought the world needed a Young Architect blog. I have a few important things I would like to discuss in my letter to “Future Young Architects.” So let’s get started …
1. Please do some soul-searching before you start working on your architecture license.
I don’t believe a vegan diet is universally healthy for everyone on the planet. Sure, many people thrive on it, but everyone has different habits, beliefs, upbringings, lifestyles and (most importantly) physiologies. A vegan diet may be the very worst diet for some people. But a diet is a personal decision: Who am I to tell anyone what’s right or wrong? I also don’t believe everyone who graduates architecture school needs to become a Licensed Architect.
In full disclosure, I’ll admit that at this point in my life I have accidentally stumbled into the business of architectural licensing, but despite this, I wholeheartedly believe that architecture licensing is not a requirement for “being successful.” The profession has collectively been fostering the belief that there is only one path: Everyone with an architecture degree needs to become a Licensed Architect. If you don’t get your architecture license, you’ve wasted your expensive education, and you’re basically a loser. I couldn’t disagree more.
Please do some soul-searching before you start working on your architecture license. Make sure licensing is the right thing for you. It may or may not be. Architectural licensing is a very personal decision. It’s as personal as the diet or religion you choose to adhere to. I completely support you in whatever decision you arrive at. Both decisions can and will have positive and negative impacts in the long term depending on what your personal life goals are.
Most importantly, stop letting architects from another generation bully you into thinking you must have an architecture license and that expensive AIA membership, because you really don’t need it — IF they’re not aligned with what you want to accomplish in your life. I have zero patience with this “You’re either with us or against us” approach to inspiring Young Architects toward licensing.
2. Please Stop Waiting for Permission
We all went to architecture school so we could learn how to make cool shit happen. Then after school was over, you quietly sat and waited for permission from a company, a boss, a client or some other outside force or circumstance to give you permission to share your unique gifts with the world.
Have you ever realized how self-absorbed everyone is? No one is ever going to pay attention to you, unless you grab their attention. No one is ever going to ask you to put yourself out there and share whatever value you have to offer the world.
I’ll say that again … If you’ve been waiting to be asked to put yourself out there, it’s never going to happen. Everyone is way too busy checking how many Instagram followers they have.
STOP WAITING FOR PERMISSION! JUST DO IT!
3. Please Honor and Respect the Past
Our parents and grandparents’ generations blazed a fantastic trail that will help us take the profession to the next level. There is sooo much value in analyzing them and seeing what we can learn from their careers — good and bad. Sometimes, finding bad examples can be more powerful than finding good ones.
Study them, learn from them, ask them a lot of questions, use them as a resource and thank them for their contributions to the profession. Apply what you’ve learned to help you figure out what you want to do, how to be successful or how to see the mistakes you never want to make.
Either way, always appreciate and acknowledge their hard work. Tell them how thankful you are to have them as a teacher.
4. Please Volunteer Your Time
Society needs your help. Architecture may be a service profession, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to volunteer your time without getting paid. We became architects so we could make a difference and make the world a little bit better. And yes, we’re doing that. But you still need to take your architect hat off for a minute: Turn off the computer and volunteer as a citizen contributing to society.
I don’t care how, but you must volunteer. Service means giving your time, energy and attention to someone who needs it. The “I’m too busy” argument is old and tired. You’re always going to be too busy. There will never be a better time, which is why you need to start right now.
Your time and attention is more valuable than your money. Volunteering doesn’t mean throwing money at a problem. And it doesn’t mean donating time to build some silly, glossy art exhibit inside your local AIA office — that no one will ever see. Volunteering means giving time to a person or a cause that genuinely needs your focused attention.
5. Please Be Yourself … And find situations that allow you to be yourself!
NOTHING is unhealthier than putting on uncomfortable clothes you don’t enjoy wearing, showing up at a job you don’t like and working with people who don’t acknowledge or appreciate you. Day after day, year after year.
Every day you do this, it is the equivalent of feeding your soul a McDonald’s and cheap generic diet soda! It’s not easy finding an employment situation that is aligned with who you are and how you want to be an architect.
Be realistic with yourself. Do you want to work 50 to 60 hours a week pushing projects and your career? Or do you want to work a maximum of 40 hours a week so you can spend time raising a healthy family? There is no right or wrong answer. Both are definitely noble pursuits. You need to find a firm that is aligned with who you are, how you want to work, spend your time and live your life.
There are a million different types of firms and jobs. It’s often significantly easier to find a new architecture firm that understands what you’re looking for, rather than change the existing culture of an office. It’s a lot like dating, you just have to figure out what you want first.
6. Please Don’t Contribute Negativity Without Taking Positive Action
The profession of architecture gets thrown under the bus all the time. There is no shortage of bad news or problems in architecture. It doesn’t help that Architects are trained and given college degrees in sniffing out problems or recognizing how things could be always better.
The profession of architecture isn’t fair. It’s not only a big gender or diversity issue, it’s an issue for everyone. Architecture leaves people behind who can’t compete and adapt to change. The profession is supposed to reward hard work and those who can execute. The same time it often treats those same people unfairly.
The truth is: Every single person who has found success with architecture has been burned by this profession at one time or another. People get lied to, not paid and sued. At the same time, the successful ones have taken those setbacks and used them as opportunities for inspiration to keep moving forward. This profession isn’t easy and is highly competitive.
There is way too much complaining about the profession. If architecture has burned you and you can’t use that to take positive action, then maybe you should find another profession. No one wants to be around a person who is complaining all of the time.
Try to connect with the positivity in the profession and people doing great things and making changes within architecture. While we’re not perfect as a profession, only focusing on how terrible it is, without pairing it to positive action, isn’t helping us move forward.
The very last thing I’ll say about negativity is that every industry has its own problems. Nurses, lawyers, doctors, astronauts, golfers, scientists, firefighters, politicians, real estate agents and definitely teachers all have their fair shares of issues in their own industries. I recently listened to a physician tell me about all the trauma she went through in medical school. The grass isn’t greener. The Architects and the AIA aren’t special.
7. Please Don’t Get Fat or Old
Did you know: Spending one hour each day exercising your body will have a significantly larger impact on your success as an architect than if you spent it sitting in front of that AutoCAD/Revit machine for another hour? You need to get your blood moving, eat REAL food and breathe every day. If your belly isn’t moving, you’re not breathing.
One hour a day isn’t a big commitment for your health and well-being. Unfortunately, your architecture career will do everything it can to try to prevent or rob you from taking this time. Your #1 job is to defend this time and take care of yourself first. Your life, career and everyone you take care of all depend on how well you can take care of yourself. I sound pretty dramatic, but this is the truth.
Getting old is really more of a mindset. You can be in your early 20s and still “be old” and — dare I say it — boring.
8. Please Quit Screwing Around!
If architecture didn’t give me permission to screw around, I would have ended this relationship many years ago. I don’t care what your Boss or Professor tells you … Design, project management and making money is mentally exhausting work. We’re humans, not architecture machines. So I’m going to screw around a little.
Screwing around is an important part of my creative process. If I didn’t screw around, I wouldn’t learn anything. By taking my mind off the problem to fool around, it helps me focus when it’s time to be serious. This is why I get more work done then everyone else. It’s because I laugh more, while everyone else is serious.
I wholeheartedly give you permission to screw around if it’s going to help you work hard, be focused and do better work.