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The coach: Do I have to be a dogsbody to succeed in architecture?

Sad architect crop
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AJ careers expert Matthew Turner advises an ambitious architect, frustrated that their bosses give them such dull work

I really want to do well in my office, but I fear they think of me as a dogsbody. My bosses pass me really dull work, like combining endless schedules. I never get to go to any client meetings. I am not sure whether I want to remain in architecture, or whether this is what you have to do to succeed. 

Matthew Turner the AJ coach

When you start out in a career you need to be a bit flexible; to be prepared to put up, and put in some graft. Our years of education can breed delusions that we will step into an exciting design role from day one, or play a crucial part in something grand like debating the nature of materials or constantly applying our design skills. Of course there are those who have mercurial rises thanks to tenacity and good timing, but for many, the first few years of architectural practice should be seen as an apprenticeship.

Of course, you didn’t train to only handle spreadsheets. But managing things and processes is the reality of architectural work, and one of the most effective ways of allowing opportunities to come your way is to be the easiest one to approach, the keenest, and the one who doesn’t provide problems for a boss, but solutions.

Constantly assess the relationship between what you are putting in and what you are getting out

Even if your office is exploiting you, you can put that down as your learning. I am saying this is perhaps just part of the package that you get working in this practice, and you have the freedom to move on if you like.  

So I would monitor the situation for a bit. No one wants to be a mug, so constantly assess the relationship between what you are putting in and what you are getting out. If you are coping with the ‘boring’ work, then you can make it clear you want to be more involved in wider range of experience, such as client meetings. But make sure you show some modesty. I certainly can think of a couple of times in my early architectural career when I was a little impatient, and and moved on a little too fast.

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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