Who are the Emerging Professionals?

During this year’s AIA Colorado Practice and Design Conference a group of AIA Colorado’s Emerging Professionals gave a presentation titled Do You Know Your Emerging Professionals. Fellow blog writers Nathan Gulash, Meg Kullerd Hohnholt, and Adam Hillhouse, along with myself, presented to a group of Colorado’s top firm leaders and tried to answer the question, “Who are the Emerging Professionals?” While trying to condense a 50-minute Power Point presentation into 500 words is an obstacle that I would ultimately fail at, I’d rather take the time to start a conversation about who are the emerging professionals, a conversation that will that we will continue to have on this blog and hopefully in our community, firms, and throughout the organization.

The AIA defines the emerging professionals as students, Associates, and Young Architects who are licensed 10 years or less. While this definition defines this group in professional terms, I believe it is more important to look at the group in generational characteristics. Today’s emerging professionals represent both Generation X – born between the mid 1960’s thru 1981 – and the Millennial generation – born between 1982 thru the late 1990’s. If you do the math, that’s a 20-year age range wrapped up into one group of professionals…it’s no wonder no one knows who the emerging professionals are!

There are a number of characteristics of this group that are important to identify, characteristics that help answer the question of “Who are the Emerging Professionals?” Personally, I think one of the most important characteristics of the emerging professionals is their knowledge of technology. This generation is known to many as the “Digital Babies”. Growing up with ever changing technology has allowed the emerging professionals to surpass many of their employers’ knowledge in technology and have made them a vital part of today’s professional world. Some may see the EP’s desire, want and need to be “always connected” as a distraction that keeps these young professionals from focusing from 8– 5, the truth is it’s their knowledge and commitment to today’s technology that has kept our profession moving forward. If you disagree, ask yourself who is managing your firm’s Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and Pinterest pages – if you don’t know what any of those are feel free to ask the emerging professional sitting next to you, I’m sure they’ll be happy to pull up your company’s Facebook page on their iPhone.

Other characteristics of the emerging professionals include a high level of commitment to the future of their career, the profession, and their firms. They are also incredibly ambitious, often think outside the box, and are highly motivated to succeed. This younger generation is full of self-esteem and drive. This list could go on and on but I’ll save that for another blog post. The point is that it’s so important for us, as a profession, to fully understand who the emerging professionals are. This talented and dedicated group of individuals is the future of this profession – by 2025 the emerging professionals group will be 75% of the workforce. If we want our profession to succeed, we must find a way to foster this group of young professionals, encourage them to be leaders and teach them how to be good architects.

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