The Job Transition – A Love Story

Not too many years ago, it was fairly common to meet someone that had been at their first job after college for thirty years and never considered leaving. These days, many people will switch jobs about as often as they switch allegiances to their local coffee shop. It very well could be that it stemmed from necessity due to the recent recession, but it is also just as likely that it has become a bit of a generational anomaly. For the sake of argument, we’ll go with the latter.

Recently, I went through a job switch. I left an office where I had been at for over a year to go to another firm here in Denver. When it came down to it, I felt like it was just time for a change of pace, I saw an opportunity, and I went for it. My wife is in the midst of her final two weeks at her current office before moving to a new firm in downtown Denver and is moving on for very similar reasons. In fact, it wouldn’t be a ridiculous stretch of the imagination to estimate that, of those 55 (or so) people that were in our graduating class from the University of Arizona in 2012, those that are still with their first post-graduate architectural job are in the vast minority.

It seems that, even though the sample size is small, this is fairly normal. Within this spirit of transition normality, the whole process can be broken down into three distinct time periods of emotions that everyone goes through:

  1. The Awkward Breakup Period – Quitting is never easy. Being fired is worse (or so I am told). Having that conversation and then walking back out to your desk without having a horrible outburst of emotions is nearly impossible. But, getting through it quickly and professionally is the best way to go about it and the sooner you can face it, the better it is for all parties.
  2. The Lame Duck Period – So you have given your two week’s notice, now what? Wrap up any projects you were working on and/or transition them to other people? Now what should you do for the next six days you are supposed to be here? Answer: try to make yourself as busy and useful as possible. Keeping a good face with the firm you’re leaving is essential. In our industry, everyone knows everyone and you never know which bridges you may need to cross again. On that note, some people will be very warm with you, want you to succeed, and will be sad to see you go. Others will be upset with you and feel like you left them out to dry. Others may be happy to see you go. Regardless, you don’t want to make any situations worse, so put on a good face, show up, do the work, and be on your way.
  3. The First Day of School – The nerves and anticipation will show up anywhere from a few days before your first day to a few minutes before you walk through the front door. Regardless, they will be there in some fashion. Everyone faces this sort of situation in different ways. The most important thing to take from this nervousness though is that your new office wants you there; otherwise they would not have hired you. They are also going out on a limb for you so it is beyond crucial to show that you are a hard worker and willing to pull more than your fair share of weight. Once you get through the first day, it only gets easier.

This all being said, I’m sure we have all heard from different people that leaving a firm after only a year, especially if that is your first office after graduating, is seen as “disloyal” and something that is frowned upon. While I can understand this point of view, it seems to me that exposing yourself to a variety of professional environments and creative processes will only strengthen our base as emerging professionals.

Job transitions are inevitable. Whether they come about freely or are forced upon us, they are bound to happen. They should not be feared, but rather seen as an opportunity. The more perspectives and methodologies that we can be exposed to, the better we will be able to conduct ourselves and adapt to situations as professionals. With every office that we pass through, we take that knowledge with us to the next place. One of the most important aspects that an office can provide to a young professional is the opportunity for growth. It is important to not only have the opportunity for growth within the confines of that office, but also growing as a professional in general and as a contributor to the built environment. During a job transition, we must also embrace the opportunity for self reflection and acknowledge what we could have done personally to have made our previous jobs better and what we hope to gain from our new positions. As long as we constantly strive for the kind of expanded knowledge and professional development that brought us here in the first place, we will help to create a strong and well rounded next generation of architects.

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