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Dream job turned nightmare. Should I quit?

Alf55

I’m a recent graduate with a BS in Architecture and I have been working for a very reuputiable firm of 35ish people for close to two years doing extremely large and high end commercial, mutli-family residential, and banks. 

I interned with this firm my senior year and transitioned into full time post grad. The experience was amazing because of the firms size, I’m never stuck doing just one thing. 

However it’s almost too much experience. Lately I have been put on project after project which requires a big push in a short amount of time and I’m constantly putting in 60-70 hour weeks. I just finished a 21 hour shit...my longest yet. 

Frankly I’m burnt out and I feel very defeated in my current role. I’m wondering if I should find a different job, different profession, or try and work it out? your wisdom would be much appreciated. 

Besides a lack of work-life balance there seems to be a ton of management issues since everyone is constantly busy and pushing for their own deadlines. This makes it challenging to receive proper mentoring and I end up feeling like more of a burden. 

 Not to mention everything going out of the office must be approved by our founder and main principal who is an extreme perfectionist and sometimes has us make changes right up until pencils down. One time I had to completely redesign a large portion of a building just one hour before our client meeting. 

Thoughts? prayers? Help! I’m so young and my passion for architecture is rapidly dying.  

 
Dec 5, 18 9:54 pm
shellarchitect

couple thoughts for you.....

  • have you talked to anyone about this in your office?
  • I assume you are being paid for this time? I shouldn't have to ask
  • I assume that you will be applying to grad schools soon?  If not you should start planning to do so.  The career path of the never licensed is very different than the licensed.
  • Your experience is very atypical.  I've never met someone who actually works the hours that you claim here with any regularity at all.  If you don't like it and have already spoken to the management, find another job.  Life to too short to work that much
Dec 10, 18 12:56 pm
randomised

Too lazy to retype, from Google's webcache, some solid responses ctrl+c, ctrl+v'd:

Alf55 HISTORY · CONTACT

I’m a recent graduate with a BS in Architecture and I have been working for a very reuputiable firm of 35ish people for close to two years doing extremely large and high end commercial, mutli-family residential, and banks. 

I interned with this firm my senior year and transitioned into full time post grad. The experience was amazing because of the firms size, I’m never stuck doing just one thing. 

However it’s almost too much experience. Lately I have been put on project after project which requires a big push in a short amount of time and I’m constantly putting in 60-70 hour weeks. I just finished a 21 hour shit...my longest yet. 

Frankly I’m burnt out and I feel very defeated in my current role. I’m wondering if I should find a different job, different profession, or try and work it out? your wisdom would be much appreciated. 

Besides a lack of work-life balance there seems to be a ton of management issues since everyone is constantly busy and pushing for their own deadlines. This makes it challenging to receive proper mentoring and I end up feeling like more of a burden. 

 Not to mention everything going out of the office must be approved by our founder and main principal who is an extreme perfectionist and sometimes has us make changes right up until pencils down. One time I had to completely redesign a large portion of a building just one hour before our client meeting. 

Thoughts? prayers? Help! I’m so young and my passion for architecture is rapidly dying.  

 
DEC 5, 18 2:31 PM
senjohnblutarsky HISTORY · CONTACT
If you're not being compensated for overtime, you need to either cut back on the over time, or leave.  And I don't mean compensated as an hourly employee.  If you are a salaried employee, the salary should be increased to reflect the required overtime.  If not, make changes. 

I don't work overtime unless I have to.  I'm an hourly employee.  So, I'm missing out some some money, but I like my time.   

DEC 5, 18 2:44 PM
Alf55
Yea I agree a revaluation of my compensation is necessary to reflect overtime hours. My contract does specifically say only 40 per week at this rate etc.... however it seems to be an unspoken rule that the 40 hours listed on your contract is more of a starting point than a max. When I mentioned to
a coworker how many hours I have been working and my frequency their response was “welcome to full time salary life.” Sigh....thanks for the advice!

archi_dude HISTORY · CONTACT
in my experience the less overtime and better work life balance the more boring soul crushing the work is I.E. spec roll out T.I.’s. Architecture is a pretty terrible career in general.

DEC 5, 18 2:44 PM
Alf55
I totally get that and I am no stranger to hard work. I like that my job can be so dynamic and fast paced, but I think a better work-life balance is nessecary for me. Thanks for the feedback!

 
Peter Normand HISTORY · CONTACT
Sounds like a lot of offices I have known.  The advice for you is to first try to set up some boundaries such as not working after 7:00 ever. then I would allocate some time before jumping into something to think about it. Think about how it should look in the drawings, think about the best way to draw or model it.  If you have a perfectionist boss one thing you should do is check in more often with them to verify you are on the right track, your boss probably does not like asking for changes and if you are working crazy hours making last minuet changes you are probably burning up your project budget.

Try this: When you get a task to draw a detail quickly sketch it out take it over to the perfectionist boss and ask for advice or their opinion, not if this is correct or wrong, take in that advice they give and do the detail take it back again see if you were way off or not. Design is not always a clean linear process, it is almost always a good idea to verify or check in with the direction you are taking  with the boss or other experienced team members so that you do not invest too much time designing a mistake that has to be corrected later on.

Hope this helps

Hang in there

Peter N

DEC 5, 18 2:49 PM
Alf55
Thank you for taking the time to give me some feedback Peter, I really appreciate it! This has been helpful and thinking about the work flow of th
e project rather than diving right away is a best practice I must adopt.

thatsthat HISTORY
Its important that while you're in your earliest years that you find someone who can teach you how to navigate the process.  There's a lot to learn, and its hard to learn if you have no one who cares to take the time to teach you.  I would look for a new position, and look for opportunities to be on a team that works on a project from SD - CD at minimum.  Ideally, you'd also get to work CA for your projects too.

Try to talk to someone higher up in the food chain about your experience.  It could be that no one above is aware that you're being shifted around, have so much on your plate, and working such long hours.  If you have this discussion with them, and they don't make any changes, then you'll know this is the wrong place for you.  Also, others here are right; you should never work for free.

DEC 5, 18 2:54 PM
Alf55
Thanks for the advice!! I agree, I should never work for free. Luckily I have a close relationship with a couple mid-senior level people who are easy to talk to and give great advice. 

Alf55
I see how an opportunity doing just SD and CD work would be benifical in the future however I currently do that at my current job as well as CA even a lot of early conceptual work. Currently I already have a project being built that I lead through concept to now CA. I like that I get to work on so many different phases. I’m afraid I would get bored doing just SD and CD work. 

thisisnotmyname HISTORY · CONTACT
At this point in your career, you may do well to change jobs and spend some time in another firm or two.   Your current firm certainly appears to have some time management issues that I doubt you can really do much about.

DEC 5, 18 3:02 PM
Alf55
Probably not much I can do in that regard. Just a very defeating feeling to think you were set for a little bit after graduation only to realize it’s not 
working out. Thanks for commenting!

mightyaa HISTORY · CONTACT
Before just leaving, just talk to your boss.  70 work weeks, 21 hour shifts... he should reasonably anticipate you will burn out.   

Assuming it is a design oriented firm... It also helps that he's been your age; remind him that a robust social life and experiences outside the office are sort of critical skillsets in understanding society, trends, future projections, etc. so you can better design constructs that address what people (and clients) want.  Basically, how can you design a hotel, bar, or office if all you are experiencing first hand is the inside of your cubicle?  Online photos just won't affect you the same as actually visiting a place and experiencing how these places breathe, sound and feel or how people interact within these places.  You sort of need to experience it to really understand and link design ideas together in your head properly.  That can't happen when your life is get up, work, eat, sleep and creates a zombie instead of brightly glimmering architect full of ideas, passion and energy.  Ask him to help you find a balance....  

DEC 5, 18 3:05 PM
Alf55
Yes I totally agree! My bosses are reasonable people and I believe a review/discussion is in order. My life outside of the office is equally important! thank you for taking the time to give me some feedback! 

Volunteer HISTORY · CONTACT
You cannot continually work 50-60 hour workweeks without having a performance decline which will make you less effective than a well-rested you putting in 40 hours. Work hard and then play hard to recharge. The fact that you cannot discuss this with your boss indicates something is wrong in your office. Christmas is coming up. Perfect time for the boss to hand out bonuses and apologize for the workload and promise the problem will get corrected. Not gonna happen? Leave.

DEC 5, 18 3:20 PM
Alf55
Yea my productivity has definitely slowed as time progresses with these long hours. It is becoming harder and harder to grasp new concepts or stay interested. I was advised by a coworker to wait till/if bonuses come out before I make a final decision. Thanks for providing me with some feedback!

thisisnotmyname
I hope that your management understands how much you have been working and makes you whole financially with a good bonus. If they don't, you need to bring it up with them immediately and seek a solution.

 
Black Orchid HISTORY · CONTACT
thatsthat has some good comments. I would say most of us have been there at least one time in our life. It is a demanding practice that requires a decent amount of work. With that being said, I know a lot of smaller firms do not offer OT and suffer through the pains of elongating the process and driving employees past hours. It may help for you to look at your office and find yourself a "champion", that is, someone who can help you navigate through the tropes of practice and help you grow as a designer. It is important you develop your voice and stance to grow into. Don't be afraid to take jabs and lightly point out inefficiencies in the process or management to help them understand how to better treat their employees.  

DEC 5, 18 4:54 PM
chm@ HISTORY · CONTACT
I have had an identical experience to yours. 

First job was at a starchitect. Long, fast paced hours, management was poor because they didn't have time or training to manage properly, turnover was high. The quality of work was very high and I am proud I worked there, but could not see myself staying for too long.

I switched to a large commercial firm where I have work life balance, and better pay, but the work is rather dry. Also, the quality/competency of the people here is of a different level that annoys me. In other terms, I have higher standards and feel trapped. On the plus side, given my skill, once I proved myself I was given more responsibility, whereas in the starchitect firm there was strict hierarchy and everything went through strict quality control which was sometimes a time consuming and arduous process.

My advice for you if you decide to switch firms, is to go to a place that has a good balance of commercial and design led identity. Avoid the extremes.

Also, definitely don't quit the profession. 

I would start sending out CVs to good places and at the same time try to buy yourself some time by negotiating changes to your working life. Perhaps the pressure you are facing is project specific? Maybe you need to stay away from fast-paced front end work for a while? Maybe part-time is an option?

I would communicate this to the management with diplomacy and see if anything changes in the next months. At the same time keep sending out CVs.

DEC 5, 18 5:43 PM
Thayer-D HISTORY · CONTACT
Get out.  Sounds like a scam place where they get free work from the interns and call it a work ethic.  It's only worth it if you are genuinely learning, and even then not for too long.  But first, do all the other sensible things recommended here.

DEC 5, 18 7:34 PM
Rusty! HISTORY · CONTACT
There are a lot of firms currently struggling to properly staff their projects. 

You will not have a guarantee of any kind that next place will be any better. Unless you have a friend working there already it will be a complete crapshoot. This is as busy as this industry gets.

On the opposite end of the "Architect Experience" you are wiggling your thumbs with lack of work while hoping that when 3rd round of layoffs comes next Friday, you are somehow magically spared again. 

Try working faster? My impression of millennials so far is that some are true standouts, and a bunch are unfocused chronic faceplanters. 

DEC 5, 18 8:00 PM
poop876
Exactly! I've been looking for people to hire for a long time and I'm not the only one. Being this busy does not happen often and we've all see how fucked up it is when we are not. Together with my entire office we've been working every weekend this entire year trying keep up.

Alf55
Try working faster? Ouch. I’m not the only one on my team pulling these hours. Infact I am never alone when I do. True I am entering the profession at a great time where there is lots of work. However I’m still human and need balance even when times are good. I can’t control the market, my age, or experience level. Wouldn’t be in my current role if I was not producing good work. 

Alf55
Thanks for the feedback and perspective. 

randomised HISTORY · CONTACT
This isn't something you can fix at this job, the problem seems to be at the core of the office, in your experience at least.

DEC 6, 18 5:08 AM
geezertect HISTORY · CONTACT
Despite the current appearance of a labor "shortage", architecture is a badly overcrowded profession in the long run.  You will see this oversupply in technicolor when the next inevitable recession comes.  If you don't want to live like this, you need to find a better niche within the building industry, or else strongly consider leaving it entirely.

DEC 6, 18 8:29 AM
Shaw HISTORY
Begin looking for another job - it won't get better. Try another area of interest - planning? historic preservation? development? government?

Maybe another firm? Usually good firms have low turnovers and the cars have left the office parking lot around 5-ish. Resist the urge to try to prove yourself by being a faithful devotee to the project-mill system and a low quality of life. Open your own practice and do residential or what is allowed without a license, or pursue your licensure and do what you desire. When you get older and stay longer in the project-mill, your health will suffer, and you will see that big egg on the scoreboard for giving your life away to such a waste of your own physical, mental, and emotional power and abilities. Anyone here has better advice than this, take it. I'm glad I got out of the project-mill/sweatshop when I did, and am happy with no regrets - though I do wish I could have gotten out even earlier.   

DEC 6, 18 10:55 AM
Xenakis HISTORY · CONTACT
geezertect is right, if your aren't one of the best people, you will get culled, many pernamently.

DEC 6, 18 11:52 AM
geezertect
Even if you are one of the best, this profession is a long, insecure grind for very little return. If you passion is "already dying" as you say, that's a signal to reboot.

OneLostArchitect
Agreed. 

Alf55
Yea maybe so. *sigh*

Quentin HISTORY · CONTACT
In the 3 firms I've been in, I've never had to work OT constantly. Actually rarely am I working OT. The market is great right now and it's easy to find a new job. Constant OT sounds like a problem with management. If you talk to them and they don't offer any solutions I would leave (while probably getting a salary incrase). It's the millennial way.

 Work life balance > firm prestige 

DEC 6, 18 3:28 PM
randomised
Constant unpaid overtime is indeed bad management but also bad setting of boundaries by the employee.

accesskb HISTORY · CONTACT
Go find work at a different firm.  I've worked at about half a dozen firms and they're all managed well and ensure work load manageable and don't expect you to do overtime most days.  Sure we all have crunch days but that's usually the week of deadline and we never work overnight.  We don't do overtime 90% of the time. 

DEC 7, 18 7:08 AM
@work HISTORY · CONTACT
I thought that I had my/ working towards my dream job.  I posted something similar to what you have.  I was working crazy, crazy, crazy hours. Late nights and weekends all @work.  I'm not one to walk away from a challenge or be described as "lazy" but it's not worth it.  Leaving early/having a cut off time does not work.  I got called into a conference room an lambasted about my dedication to the place and how it was a higher calling from those "other firms".  My parents worked at fortune 500 companies that I had interned at when I was in school - they had a hard time understanding my situation.  They told me to go to HR and discuss it, all I found out by doing that was that they were suppressing claims and would rather put youngins through the buzz saw than give him up since he was an awards machine.  I basically was handed a clock and told that they could make calls for me with the understanding that it would smooth things over.

After the tough decision, I moved across the country and work at a smaller firm after interviewing with some high profile places since I didn't think that I was ready for another crazy situation.  The hours are great and the people are caring.  It's not at the level that I would like design and responsibility-wise and some days I catch myself daydreaming.  But I have plenty of time off to study for the AREs or work on side projects.  Eventually, I'll probably try to get back in the game or try to break into the teaching game.  Working on exciting/difficult projects are what makes me hyped about this profession.  If not that, I should have just worked at the F500 company that I worked for, the pay/benefits were exponentially better than any job that I've had in architecture and I didn't have to deal with many crazies there. 

Moral of the story: get yourself into a culturally good firm and you'll have the extra time to dedicate to self-improvement be it getting licensed, working on personal projects/competitions to set yourself up for future advancement, or just enjoying living life.  Good luck!      

DEC 7, 18 8:55 AM
Thayer-D
Dead on. Find your own outlet and cultivate it on your own time... or reconsider architecture.  Remember, you can also make opportunities improving more prosaic work if you listen closely to those your building for.  I was also "lambasted about my dedication to the place" long ago, but in front of the whole office. The guy turned out to be a first class bully, but being young...  As a rule, I'd say get away from abusive people, offices, or situations. They cause bitterness which makes it all the harder. Good luck.

thatsthat
@work, great story.  I was in a similar situation, quickly got out.  I am now spending time enjoying my hobbies in lieu of stressing myself out over problems that are above my pay grade.  It's so worth it.

sameolddoctor HISTORY · CONTACT
Your bosses may seem "nice to talk to", but make no mistake, they know exactly that you are putting in these unsustainable hours and killing yourself. This is how they make money, by turning a blind eye. This is inexcusable and should not be taken lightly.

You may want to evaluate if this is a one time deal (with a particular project) or if it is an epidemic. If it is the latter, you need to bail. Also talk to peers in different studios.

DEC 7, 18 5:09 PM


Dec 10, 18 1:10 pm
shellarchitect

Ooooooo ooooooo ooooooo

Dec 10, 18 8:36 pm

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