I started my first architectural internship in the summer of 2006. Things were good in 2006 – projects were coming in the door, company sponsored events were all the rage, end of the year bonuses were handed out like Oprah’s “Favorite Things” give-a-ways, and the topic of being “laid off” was yet to become a common dinner table discussion. It was a good time to be in architecture. It was an even better time to begin a career in architecture – or so we all thought. Fast-forward 24 months and everything that once was, was no longer. The worked dried up and everywhere we looked people were being laid off. In order to survive what would later be known as the Great Recession, firms had no choice but to downsize. The profession went from thriving to barely surviving.
In the past 5 years we, as a profession, have struggled to get our feet back on the ground, patch the cracked foundation below, and set ourselves up for success in this “new normal”. Like anything that has been broken, picking up the pieces and putting them back together is always a struggle, it takes time, and more often then not, the pieces don’t fit exactly like they once did. Studies have shown that our economy is getting better – the job-market reports continue to show encouraging numbers, the Stock Market keeps going up, and houses are selling.
While all this is true, one can’t argue against the numbers, I believe our profession has yet to find it’s feet firmly planted on the ground. I find that most of us still live in fear, fear of losing our jobs. The unfortunate news of colleagues recently losing their jobs is just another reminder that we are not invisible and it could happen to us at any moment. The constant anxiety that our profession feels makes me wonder if we will ever get back to a “comfort zone” where we can let our hair down, so to speak.
5 years later, today’s new normal leaves most of us without pay increases or end of the year bonuses, working harder with fewer resources, and firms still struggling to keep the doors open and employees employed. While the rest of the country is benefiting from the continued economic growth, I have yet to see our profession really go back to the old way, pre-Great Recession.
Will ever really go back to the way it once was?
Architecture is a stressful profession – architects have always been over worked and under paid but architecture, when things are good, can be really good! Architect’s don’t use the phrase “Work hard and play hard” for no reason. There is no doubt that we are all working hard these days but I find that there is little play to balance out that work. This lack of balance can leave us all tired, stressed and ultimately burnt out. While there may not be the monetary funds to reinstate pay increases or bonuses, there should be a way for us to lighten the mood and make architecture fun again. We need to find a way to let go of the stress, celebrate our successes, and ultimately have a positive outlook on a less than uncertain future.