It seems I can’t have a conversation these days without someone invoking the ever-popular saying, “the only constant is change.” As a young professional with friends in a wide cross-section of demanding fields, the truth behind this statement is highly apparent in their various professional lives. All this change has made me wonder whether or not there are exceptions to the new professional rule, and whether or not change has in fact become the “safer” option than digging in and embracing the abstract notion of something “long-term.”
When accepting a job offer in today’s market, research has reflected that most millennials will only stay for about 3-5 years before seeking his/her next big opportunity, move, or adventure. Unlike our parents that might have sat at the same desk in the same chair for the entirety of their careers, millennials’ only modus operandi is to keep seeking, adapting, and subsequently, changing on what seems to be a daily basis. While I accept the fundamental importance of change in all aspects of life as a tool for growth, exploration, and increased perspective, prior to making a large transition in our lives, I believe millennials should challenge themselves to ask the question as to whether or not the change he/she so readily embraces is productive…or simply change for change’s sake.
Millennials’ only modus operandi is to keep seeking, adapting, and subsequently, changing on what seems to be a daily basis. As a victim of wanderlust and an active seeker of new perspectives and experiences, I’ve made many moves that have yielded growth and insight I might not have had had I stayed in a comfortable job or familiar place. With that said, I am now experiencing what seems to be a far greater challenge than moving to China for a summer or packing up my Jeep and moving across the country for an exciting (but vague!) opportunity. What I am now facing is the challenge of becoming rooted and invested in a singular environment and context.
While any architectural office maintains a high dosage of flux in the form of constantly changing projects, clients, and programs, when we start a job in an architecture firm, we are also investing in a specific culture and design approach. As I’ve witnessed people leave one design job for another, I’d like to pose a strange challenge to my contemporaries:
What if rather than changing jobs or companies, you tried to change the system or culture within your existing work environment? I believe millennials should challenge themselves to ask the question as to whether or not the change he/she so readily embraces is productive…or simply change for change’s sake. What if rather than accepting that “new” is “better,” challenge yourself to look at your current processes, projects, and parameters and find a way to eloquently break or change the rules? The opportunity I relate to this challenge would be the chance to recognize that while drastic change might yield exponential growth (in terms of a salary increase, new responsibilities, or simply a new perspective or locale,) investing in your current environment might serve as an accelerator for important aspects of his/her young professional career. For example, by allowing his/herself to feel some sense of “ownership” within a consistent professional environment, he/she might quickly identify new potentials for leadership opportunities, meaningful relationships with life-long mentors, as well as an important chance to become an active voice and member of your local communities (which can eventually spur greater change- whether it be on the civic or national level.)
In a country without a monarchy and a government that changes every four years, we have been taught to view life as something cyclical but ever-changing. America has no Queen Elizabeth to reassure us that despite drastic global change, tea will still be served at 2 on the same plate in the same drawing room. In America, we have always sought change, opportunity, and grass that is neon green. I appreciate this spirit, and the idea that change can be used as vehicle for improvement, evolution, and eventually, transformation. But I also wonder if we need to embrace that change may sometimes be most effective when it is subtle and intentional.
How do we identify opportunities to yield change through a thoughtful investment of time and commitment? In other words, as our generation of millennials “grows up” a little bit, and decides to potentially (just maybe?!) settle down a bit, how do we identify opportunities to yield change through a thoughtful investment of time and commitment? To expand on this point, how do we learn to modify the systems within which we operate when a necessary transition becomes evident, or is it essential for he/she to create/invent a new system in its entirety (including our context and environment?)
I don’t have any answers yet, but welcome any discussion.