Originally published by Entrepreneur Architect, Associate Professor at Louisiana Tech Kevin J Singh gives his 21-point rundown of how to have a successful and happy life as an architect. The list gives some pointers that will certainly help young students and graduates, but may well be useful to some of the not-so-young practitioners who need to refocus on what's important.
The following is a compilation of my professional practice lecture on the last day of class. Instead of recapping the course or giving a final exam, I share with my students a presentation titled Advice as You Finish School and Start to Practice. I present a series of statements followed up with a brief explanation.
1. Get Started on Your Career Path
- You can start earning IDP hours right after high school graduation.
- If you haven’t already, sign up for IDP and get started on the path to licensure!
2. Don't Get Caught Up in "Old Guard" Firms
- The youth are the future.
- Firms need to embrace the ideas, energy and enthusiasm of young people.
- Be observant as to what the Millennials in the office are doing.
- Make sure emerging professionals are valued in the firms you are interviewing with for full-time employment.
3. Networking = The Key to Advancement
- Get to know everyone in the Architecture community and allied fields (all ages and experience levels).
- Don’t underestimate the value of AIA membership and networking opportunities.
4. Don't Get Upset by Clients that Think They Know Everything About Architecture
- Be patient.
- Educate and show multiple options (divergent thought processes) to open up thinking.
- Be a professional.
- Remember that you were educated as an ARCHITECT (not him/her).
5. Don't Burn Bridges
- The Architectural world is way too small.
- Your actions and decisions will be remembered.
6. Look Out for #1
- It is your career and yours alone.
- Make sure you are getting the appropriate experience (IDP), opportunities and compensation.
- If you aren’t, MOVE ON!!!
7. Voice Your Opinions
- The best ideas are never incorporated into projects unless they are heard, presented, and defended.
- Many processes in firms and details on projects can be improved if you simply point out a better solution to decision makers.
- An improvement is always appreciated by principals and clients.
8. You Must Design Your Career and Position
- All of us are Unique = Unique jobs/positions
- Continually reflect on your experiences to determine what you really want to do.
- Make career decisions to attain this position.
9. Differentiate Yourself
- Develop your unique skills and abilities.
- Demonstrate how they make you a better employee and contributor.
- Potentially utilize these skills to go out on your own.
10. Don't Confuse an Internship with Full-Time Employment
- An internship introduces you to how a firm and projects work.
- Full-time employment mandates responsibility for your work and productivity (deadlines).
- Full-time employment = STRESS!!!
11. Technology Will Lead the Way
- You must stay at the forefront of technology.
- Volunteer to learn new software and lead firm implementation.
- Learn BIM and become proficient while in school.
12. Sustainability is Your Calling and Opportunity
- If you endeavor to learn a lot about sustainability while in school, you will be able to share your knowledge with current practitioners and become peers.
- Take the sustainability lead within your firm.
- Become a LEED Green Associate while in school.
13. You Need to be a Champion of Sustainably Built Environments
- You must educate EVERYONE about sustainability.
- Future clients will be the result.
14. Build Community
- Only 2% can afford the services of an Architect.
- What are you doing to help the other 98%?
- Get involved in your community.
15. Save the Profession
- Architects aren’t compensated fairly because the general public doesn’t value (or know) what we do.
- Teach-Share-Show-Demonstrate to others how we improve the world.
16. Education Doesn't End in School
- You must continually learn to stay at the forefront of materials, systems and technology.
- Don’t let the world pass you by.
- Help teach the next generation.
- A two-way street (look up, look back).
- You will learn something in the process, and be reminded why you joined this profession.
18. Never Get Grumpy
- Continually be inspired by the next generation and harness their optimism and energy.
- Be a positive and optimistic employee.
19. Fix Something
- The world is full of problems.
- Choose one or two things, and fix them.
20. Complete the Task
- You set out to become an Architect… so take the A.R.E. and become one.
- Keep your eyes on the prize!!!
21. Final Thought
- The easiest building to design is a box, but Architects don’t design boxes.
- Architecture is about serving others through the design of the built environment. Make sure your work is the best it can be through its service to others and contribution to a more sustainably built world.
I hope this list provides you with an opportunity to think back to your time finishing school and embarking on your career. If you could go back and give advice to your younger self, what would you say? What advice would you give to the next generation of architects? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Kevin Singh is an Associate Professor of Architecture in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech University and has served as Director of the Community Design Activism Center (CDAC) since joining the faculty in 2006. He currently teaches courses in community design, 4th year studios and professional practice.
Kevin is a graduate of Ball State University (B.Arch.) and Auburn University (MBC). He has served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Community Design (ACD) since 2012, and is currently serving on the Executive Board as Treasurer. He was recently named a 40 Under 40 honoree by Building Design + Construction magazine.