Your next job

If there is anything these past few years have taught us regarding employment situations in the world of Architecture, it is that we now live in a “new normal”. Sure, there are (a few) traditional employment opportunities out there, I even know a folks who enjoy those themselves. But the exciting thing is that there are new and rewarding ways to participate in the world of Architecture. I’m sure I won’t touch on all of them here, I’ll just try to name a few that I’m personally familiar with.

Ok, so this is the traditional way to work in Architecture. You identify a firm your interested in working with, turn in your CV and portfolio, knock ’em dead in your interview, and land the job. I have to be honest, I’ve only been a traditional employee twice: once during grad school in Boston, and for a few years when I first joined our family firm.

-steady paycheck
-less stress (I know that sounds strange, but believe me it is so)
-can identify firms you enjoy and join strong teams already established.

-danger of being “pigeonholed” into work tasks you may not enjoy
-little to no input into direction of the firm
-you’re making someone else tons of money!

Sole Proprietor/Partner:
This is perhaps where we all want to get to. Running your own outfit, in charge of your own destiny. You identify projects that excite you and chase them. You identify individuals that impress you and build your team how you want to. You’re the boss, you’re in charge.

-exciting day to day (at least if you’re entrepreneurial minded)
-you can make a good deal of money if your successful

-you’re in charge, so all fingers point back to you (this can be good or bad)
-high level of stress- you don’t make money, you don’t get paid (everyone else gets paid before you do!)
-you’re responsible for building the team/culture that you want to see

Contract Architect:
This is where I find myself spending about 60% of my time these days. To be honest this has been a very rewarding experience for me. It may, however, be due to the fact that I have carved out enough time to still pursue my own work (see previous section).

-similar to an employee you have the chance to identify firms that excite you and join an established team.
-you can be exposed to a large number of tasks and experience the culture of another firm
-you can balance numerous firms (if you have the time) and glean lessons from each

-it takes effort to be fully welcomed into the team, and not be seen as an “outsider”
-if you don’t impress this may be your last day!

I know there are other forms of employment out there (job sharing, cooperatives, etc.) so please chime in with any other exciting employment forms.

So, how are you making money in architecture these days?

3 thoughts on “Your next job

  1. Thanks, Adam, I think you’re right on. And this is generally true of LOTS of industries, not just Architecture. The only thing I’d add is that with contract work, you still have to be out there generating your NEXT opportunity, because the income will disappear when this job’s over. You still need to be out there actively selling your services.

    I’m glad to be in the second category, myself, but I wouldn’t have been up to that much pressure when I was younger. Now that I’m older and have some money in the bank, it’s easier to take the risk. And much more gratifying.


  2. I would add another area where you can participate in the world of architecture, consultant/contract drafting. It’s not glamorous but it is a good way to stay in touch with a firm that you’ve worked for in the past or to generate some new work. Checking in with contacts in architecture to see if they have too much work, need something drawn up in a hurry, small bits of work like that. Even in lean times, crunch times come up and help is needed.


  3. Great thoughts! Thanks Carl and Dave. I think a common thread is sticking your kneck out and trying something new. What about other ways of defining the architectural field? Work for a developer, a contractor, a non-profit, a theater company, clothing designer, artists…hmmm. Might be time to start having some fun?

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