It’s easy for interns to get into a professional rut – by that I mean, being stuck doing the same thing day after day, week after week, year after year without gaining any new experiences or professional advancement. Over time the repetitive work becomes mundane, you become restless, bored and perhaps professionally frustrated and in the end it’s your overall professional career that takes the hit. I’ve seen this happen to colleagues of mine at every firm I have worked for – once an intern gets pigeonholed into a specific piece of a project for a significant amount of time it’s hard for them to expand beyond that point.
Though I believe it’s important to learn architecture from start to finish, end to end, and that there are specific components to architecture that take more time to learn than others, I don’t believe it’s doing anyone a favor by pigeonholing our young professionals and limiting their career growth. In my opinion, having 3+ years of construction drawing experience and no pre-design experience isn’t a well-balanced internship.
The reality, however, is that most of you in this situation are allowing yourself to be pigeonholed. Rather than taking a stand for your careers you are allowing others to make professional decisions for you. I say that in no disrespect to the supervisors or managers in the offices, but it’s not up to them to give you the career that you want. It is up to you to take a stand for the career you deserve.
So, if you find yourself in a pigeonhole today I encourage you to start asking yourself questions…Are you happy with the work you are doing? Are you learning something new about architecture in your current position? Are you being mentored? Is the work you’re doing today going to help advance your career? Where do you see your career in five years and what should you be doing today that will help you get there? What changes need to be made in order for you to gain the experiences you want/need?
Once you have answered those questions, and have a clear idea of what type of architectural career you want to have, my advice to you is to speak up – yell, stomp your feet and throw a four-year-old temper tantrum if you have to. Of course I’m only joking about throwing a temper tantrum, acting professional is very important in this situation. My point is that sometimes it’s going to take more than a casual conversation to be heard. As an intern it’s so important to gain a well-rounded experience and take the opportunities that will allow you to succeed in your career. Be patient but also don’t be afraid to ask for the things that will help you succeed in the future. If the person you are asking doesn’t listen then find someone who will. You’re career, your success, and your future all lie in your hands. Stop standing around waiting for someone to hand you your dreams, get up out of your cubical and figure out how you are going to have the career you’ve always dreamed of.