Meaningful Work

Mosenthal_Chang, DenverThe 2013 AIA National Convention has come and gone.  Summer seems to have bloomed into its full expression, inspiring allergies, a sense of freedom, and a listless reminder to take action while the days are longer than the nights.

Despite the time, space, and temperature increase that stand between me and the Convention, I’ve found that this year’s themes regarding humanitarianism and the broad definition of the architect’s “role” in society continue to resonate with me in both my daily practice as well as the broader conversations I’ve shared with colleagues
and industry-related professionals.   In other words, like many things, the Convention’s keynote speakers and programming did a great job in challenging me to continue to ask myself “Am I doing enough?”  And
then my internal dialogue response/next question—“I’m doing a lot right now… But what do I need to focus on to make sure that what I’m doing is personally and professionally meaningful?”

The truth is that the answer to this question is probably different for all of us, and likely changes on a daily or weekly  basis.  As Emerging Professionals, we are at an exciting but tricky time in our career.  The decisions we make early on in our field regarding which organizations to join, which firm and type of work we want to do, and
what path we take to licensure and various certifications and areas ofexpertise often place us on different career tracks within the umbrella of the same profession.  While change is always possible and continued education/skill diversification a must, I have to believe that if we are thoughtful about the choices we make early in our career, the more fulfilling and potentially interesting the outcomes will be as things evolve.

My lingering take-away from the Convention is that whether or not we are doing “enough” on a daily basis to be Citizen Architects, in looking forward, we might consider what might be our best opportunities to contribute to the profession in a way that we find personally impactful.

In yet another recent article regarding us crazy, confident Millennials, the following information was gleaned from a study that surveyed “managers” (aka more senior workers from the Baby Boomer /Gen X generation) as well as
Millennials on similar topics.  The findings illustrated that while the managers believed that “Millennials are primarily focused on money, Millennials report themselves as more focused on meaning.  Meaningful work was identified by 30% of Millennials as the most important factor defining career success.”  (Boston College, Executive Briefing Series)

I would wage a bet that amongst young Emerging Professional Architects, that number is even higher, as most people in our profession can’t really claim they’re in it for the money.

As we forge forward as a new generation of architects just scratching the surface of a profession that is a life long
pursuit and learning experience, I challenge the reader to consider how we might consider pursuing meaningful architectural practices that are both fulfilling,but balance this with a collective pursuit of “meaningful” goals as an industry.

With architectural groups focused on monitoring and improving policy that impacts architecture and development, such as ArchiPAC, and other groups such as the USGBC and local government groups/officials that are pushing more progressive sustainable design initiatives, I hope that the current optimism and definitions of success hold and become more clearly defined as action items and collective goals with measurable benefits in the years to come.

In the meantime, I’m going to go write my to-do list for the next week…

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