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Leaving Practice? Advice Requested

Apr 1 '13 9 Last Comment
workitecht
Apr 1, 13 12:20 am

I decided some time ago that I was unhappy with my current role in conventional practice. I have been working hard for the past few months to find another path. Now that I've succeeded, I'm having doubts about leaving practice at this point in my career. I apologize for the length...

Where I am: Just turned 26. Completed my M.Arch degree; 3 years full-time experience in architectural firms, and  18 months in part-time internships and related fields. I am about 70% done with IDP.

 

Where I want to go: Right now, I just want to earn enough money to pay my bills and put a little savings aside. Perhaps 10-15 years from now, I would like to be a registered Architect, working as a facilities/space director of a cultural institution or university, a design director/owner's rep. for developer or corporation, or really any management position related to the building industry where I have the opportunity to influence and shape the built environment; and, to maintain a small (perhaps VERY small) design practice on the side. 

My current job: I am currently employed with a large corporate firm. They do very large projects, new construction, in several different market sectors. I have learned a lot in the year I have worked with them, but it has been an extremely stressful year with 60+ hour weeks almost constantly, poor project management, and about 75% of time spent on straight Revit production. 45  minutes each way commuting every day. They say they are very happy with my work, and said I would be receiving a raise, but I'm not sure how much yet. They reimburse employees for any ARE exams that are passed. Basic benefits, no 401k matching. Sometimes I actually really enjoy what I do there, and I do like most of the people I work with pretty well.

Why I want to leave: I have student loans, and despite living frugally, I can barely pay my bills now. I"m not putting aside any savings, I'm on a reduced payment plan for loans. I can't afford to work for free...but I work a lot of extra, unpaid hours. I know this is pretty common in our profession - but I feel like at a certain point for intelligent, capable, hardworking people to continue to tolerate that type of work like for no perceived benefit, when there are other options, makes us suckers. But maybe I'm wrong and there aren't really other options. This is really a deeper topic for further discussion...

The new job: with a government agency (recruiter at first). Planning, designing, and managing very very minor space improvements/renovations for their existing facilities, and assisting more senior employees with larger renovations and long-term space planning. I will be able to earn IDP, primarily in construction administration,contract negotiation, construction observation, and general project management. I am waiting to get the official offer for the new job, but I expect the pay to be higher than my current job, the hours will be much better, and it will cut down my commute (time and cost) by 75%. Benefits will be better; but, exams will not be reimbursed, at least while I am employed with the recruiter.

The new job will meet my immediate needs of a more sane life and better financial situation; but I'm worried it will stunt my development as an architect and designer. I won't be working on large-scale, all-encompassing projects, and I still have a lot to learn in that arena, obviously. I have worked very hard to become VERY adept with Revit the past three years, and this new job won't use those skills at all.

I'm not sure what to do, and I"m expecting the official offer very soon... Any advice, particularly from managers/principals from a hiring perspective, would be greatly appreciated!

 

geezertect
Apr 1, 13 9:54 am

How will moving from Revit production to construction administration, negotiation and general management stunt your growth as an architect?  You can still remain on track for the license, I assume.

Bigger question is how secure this new job is versus your current one.  You don't want to wind up unemployed.  That's real stress!

workitecht
Apr 1, 13 10:40 am

I guess I thought it might be stunt because I will move from working on almost all aspects of large, newly constructed urban high rise, to minor renovations (casework, equipment, interiror partitions) for a few intsitutional buildings.

geezertect
Apr 1, 13 11:07 am

IF you are picking up exposure to other equally important aspects of practice, it may be a worthwhile tradeoff.  The relief from stress is also a factor.  Don't get ulcers for this profession--it aint worth it.

s=r*(theta)
Apr 1, 13 11:38 am

imho,

i wud stay w/ the current job position

pros

3yr. work history, diverse projects (size, type, etc.), room for advancement, benefit package including ARE reimbursement,

decent people to work with, reinforcing current cad technology, close to finishing IDP,

you already have a job many people would kill for (so to speak)., you are only 2years a way from hitting that 5yr mark most companies want you to be at before they are willing to actually start to pay you a decent salary.

Cons

you will make more money and possibly have less stress at a government job but a government job is like eating steak w/ no steak sauce every night. Yes its great the 1st few weeks but after that its like aw man steak again!, you will be basically a pencil pusher.

i wouldn't worry about losing revit skills as much as letting my creative skills go dormant, which is the case in government work.

Xenakis
Apr 1, 13 11:50 am

At least you have 70% IDP completion for 3 years thats great - I have 4 years exp and 0 IDP 

60 hours/week Revit production - damn you got a good gig - I use to have a job like yours - I wish I still did.

you will make more money and possibly have less stress at a government job but a government job is like eating steak w/ no steak sauce every night. Yes its great the 1st few weeks but after that its like aw man steak again!, you will be basically a pencil pusher.

after 15 years of this begins a slow death first the brain, then the body, then it's off to assisted living and then they will just "bag n tag ya"

Anob
Apr 1, 13 12:19 pm

That sounds depressing Xenakis but its definitely true.

workitecht,

I definitely know how you're a feeling. We're in the same boat but the difference is that you're almost done with your IDP. Your future plan is a very smart plan especially in this new economy. But, it will only work if you stay at your current job. The reason for this is that you can network with other professional related to your job. This will help you get leads when you get your license. I think it will be tougher to network if you are with the government.

If you just want to make a lot of money now go with the government. But if you want to be a entre-employee and take the risk of having different  income each year then stay with your current employee.

P.S. my boss works has a Senior of Construction and Design position and has a design practice. We have multiple projects a year. Just imagine how much he's taking home each year $$$$. And he started the way we both started.

workitecht
Apr 1, 13 12:32 pm

Thanks for the advice. I don't want to work for the government in the capacity of this new job for 15 years. I want to work there for another 18 months to 2 years while I complete my license...meanwhile having more time, more money, less stress, and less commute...and then return to traditional practice as a registered architect, with 5 years experience, two of which are project management on the client side...and do that for another 10 years or so before trying to strike out towards my ultimate goals... 60 hours per week of Revit is not so bad compared to being unemployed I guess...but its not designing, developing details, project or office management; and its not that great if you only get paid for 30 hours per week at the rate many other people my age in related fields are earning. I was never that personlained about the long hours in studio and expensive for materials in

workitecht
Apr 1, 13 12:38 pm

Oops. Prematurely posted...please disregard the last comment I made.

Gregory WalkerGregory Walker
Apr 1, 13 12:54 pm

workitecht - i think, in part, you've answered your question: if your long term career goal is to be  "a registered Architect, working as a facilities/space director of a cultural institution or university, a design director/owner's rep. for developer or corporation, or really any management position related to the building industry where I have the opportunity to influence and shape the built environment", then, it sounds like this is something more aligned with that end-goal than pushing out drawings 60 hours a week. now, i'm not sure if 'this job' is the right one, but you won't get the opportunity to manage projects in a conventional practice very quickly, especially large projects. so, this kind of move seems to make sense, although i'd encourage you to look for jobs in the fields you're describing quickly. the fed's are a wholly different animal than anything else you've described...

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