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The coach: Stuck in a rut

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The AJ’s new career coach, Matthew Turner hears from two victims of the New Year blues

  • Last year I promised myself I would change jobs by the end of 2014. I had forgotten that I had ‘gone public’ until I was reminded by an old college friend when I saw her over Christmas. I was shocked that a year had passed and nothing had happened. I am angry with myself, as I hate feeling I am wasting my time in this office when I should have moved on. I feel as though my career options within architecture may be reducing.

THE COACH Resolutions are very useful – I think having a moment in the year when you reflect on where you have got to, and where you are going, is something we all need. Otherwise time tends to drift, and it can become easy to put things off.

However, resolutions should not be there as a rod for your back, but as a means to motivate and structure yourself. You give me the sense that you are overly concentrating on how you have failed to achieve your aim within what is only an arbitrary time limit. So move on, and think more about putting your change into action.

If you are feeling too comfortable in your current job or daunted by the task of moving, it can help to remember that most things require small steps. So start by updating your CV, researching target practices, and talking to people about opportunities. These are things you could be doing within a week, and this way you can be progressing to making a move without making rash decisions.

Maybe the timing is right just now. I don’t know what kind of work or level you are at, but I do know from people who work in recruitment that the beginning of the year is a peak time for movement in the job market, and so can be a good moment to start a job hunt as openings come up from the jobs others are quitting.

Of course, before all of this, I would suggest you reflect on whether your job is still not fulfilling you. Perhaps it is worth first checking whether you can’t make more of current opportunities. What you get out of architecture can depend so much on the type of project you are working on, and that could well have changed over the year.

  • I have worked in my office for the last 18 months, and I feel they are taking me for granted. I worked flat out on a large project doing the door and window packages, which was a huge task. When that came to an end, I really wanted something else, but got placed on another project doing more or less the same all over again. I would love to do other stages of a project, but that never comes my way. I really resent it because I am hard working and good at what I do, but feel this is penalising me.

THE COACH It may sound obvious, but if you really want to get out of your niche, it is best to speak up to the boss about what opportunities there might be. If you are good at what you currently do, your boss is unlikely to pick up by osmosis that you have a desire for change. After all, you are the person to manage your career – this isn’t your boss’s responsibility.

Architecture is a very varied field, with many different ways to be an architect. However, one person’s pigeonhole is another’s specialism. Sometimes your role may be character based, like being the client facing architect. Other times it is merely because you were in a certain place at a certain time. But fate isn’t everything; you need to proactively manoeuvre yourself into situations you want.

Of course you need to be aware that your workload is not necessarily in the boss’s gift. The office may well want to provide a wide range of experience for everyone, but not have the available projects to allow for that. So make clear your interests, indicate how hard you will work to learn if you are given the opportunity, and then monitor what the boss is doing to help you.

However, if you feel you are really typecast, and believe the office is constraining and progressively frustrating you, then consider moving. A new role in a new office can allow for a certain degree of reinvention.

Again you need to make this happen proactively. Be mindful, though, that a new practice may take you for your specific track record. So while many employers cherish the enthusiasm and hard work of new blood, they may be more risk averse than your long-term employer when it comes to offering different opportunities.

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com





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