Too Many Choices | Life Direction


On the surface I seem to be pretty successful.

I graduated from a top architecture school on the east coast in 2010, winning one of the Dean's awards for my thesis project. Despite the terrible economy I was one of the first in my class to get hired at a firm. I worked at a small, less interesting firm that specialized in government contracts. The hours were good and let me work on a project that ultimately went to the Venice Architecture Biennale. I learned a lot about how an office is run, but was ready to move on after 2 years.

I then went to work at a higher profile office for two academic architects. The office environment was torturous and too stressful, way too chaotic and disorganized and the bosses were unassertive and abusive. That being said we completed some very interesting work and  it's nice to have their name on my resume.

After 9 months with them I found out I won a Fulbright grant and I am now in Eastern Europe developing an exhibition on hospital architecture and will be doing a little student teaching/desk critiques at the local architecture university.

However, if you've read this far, here's what I'm thinking:

1) Money: I'm trying to use my time to figure out what my next step will be. I know I want to be making more money and am wondering if Architecture is even a good way to do that. I'm in a serious relationship and don't want to come home every night at 11:00 anymore, and I want to see some financial benefits from all the hard work.

2) Details: I'm also not that detail oriented and go crazy when I have to re-lineweight drawings. So often I think that architects are too self-conscious and anal retentive. I like to see things finished and am not interested in tweaking lineweights.

3) Leadership: I want to be in a leadership position. I like organizing people, and I like planning projects. I resent that architecture is such a hierarchical field, and wonder if anyone has had experiences working in offices that are organized, but more laid back and less authoritarian.

4) Entrepreneurship   I've always been entrepreneurial and was at my happiest when I was in school doing small design projects and renovations. I still do a little freelance work from time to time and wonder about starting my own firm or small business.

5) Academia: My father was an academic, and he resented the low pay and general arrogance of most academics. That rubbed off on me. He went on to be an administrator and taught on the side. In some ways I think I might be talented at academia, but does it pay well? I wouldn't mind not having to work on CD sets all day, but what is it generally like to work as an academic?

6) Switching Careers: Am I crazy to want to move into banking or finance? Does anyone know someone who's switched or is working in banking or finance that didn't get a degree and started when they were in their mid-20's? I'm reading about it and want to learn more. I'm really turned off by the low salaries that Architects get, and I dont' think I'm going to get the satisfaction that some people seem to get by seeing a building go up.


Any responses, thoughts, interjections are encouraged. Be kind, be brutal, it's not going to worry me if you're an asshole, I just won't bother listening to you.

Oct 11, 13 1:20 pm

1) You want civilized hours with good pay.  Architecture is uncivilized hours (if you are at a prestigious type of firm) with lousy pay.  'Nuff said.

2)  If you are going to practice, you'd better have a better attitude about details, 'cause details are the things that can get you sued.

3)  You dislike hierarchy but want to outrank the people around you, and work in an office that is organized without being authoritarian.  Pretty fine lines you're drawing.

4)  See first three responses above.

5)  Academia pays lousy--probably going to get worse as schools face increasing pushback from students regarding tuition rates, etc.

6)  Banking/finance pays better but can make architecture look like a civil service job hours-wise.  If you hate details, do you think you are going to enjoy learning and focusing on the arcana of financial analysis and accounting rules?  And if you think architecture is authoritarian and hierarchical, try banking!  You'll also need some kind of graduate degree to get into finance.

Hate to sound harsh.  You are asking the right questions, but only you can really answer them for yourself.  Any career change involves multiple trade-offs.

Oct 11, 13 3:03 pm

Geezer makes some keen observations about your perfectly-reasonable-yet-unfortunately- contradictory feelings.  You're clear on what you like and don't like, which is a good start.  (I noted multiple mentions of resentment, which is the key to a miserable life.)  

The next step is to dial back some of your expectations from the unrealistic setting to realistic.  This in no way requires rolling over and giving up an ambitious career and life.  But it does mean prioritizing the things most important to you and striving there, then letting the others do what they're gonna do...

"Trade-off" is a most important concept as you (alongside the rest of us) move forward.

Oct 11, 13 4:24 pm
Any job will require that you get your brain straight about the grunt work. Does not matter if you are the boss of the financial services firm or the intern fry flipper, if you can't do the grunt work, you don't belong there.
Oct 11, 13 4:26 pm
Any job will require that you get your brain straight about the grunt work. Does not matter if you are the boss of the financial services firm or the intern fry flipper, if you can't do the grunt work, you don't belong there.
Oct 11, 13 4:29 pm

Maybe try working for a larger more commercial office. You can earn a decent salary and work less hours then in small academic type offices. Also these offices tend to repeat the same details on most of their projects therefore you don't have worry about that too much. 

Oct 11, 13 4:53 pm

Any responses, thoughts, interjections are encouraged. Be kind, be brutal, it's not going to worry me if you're an asshole, I just won't bother listening to you.

If that dean's list and Fulbright were real you wouldn't be riddled with petty insecurities, especially since you *supposedly* have the world by the short and curlies. Or are you just waiting for everything to be handed to you on a golden platter?

There's got to be free psychoanalysis on the web somewhere. LOL Keep searching. 

ARCHINECT: Yet another in a long line of reasons to have a minimum ten post requirement before idiots like this can create a new topic.

Oct 11, 13 6:18 pm

........idiots like this can create a new topic

Aren't you being a little harsh on the Beaver, Ward?

Oct 11, 13 7:52 pm

LOL, Geezer, nice one.  Now prepare to get an earful from Eddie Haskell...

Oct 11, 13 8:01 pm
Miles I tend to lean towards your postings, but we are obviously dealing with means and sense of entitlement here in this case...maybe we could half-bow
Oct 11, 13 8:29 pm

Or grovel. Architects are usually pretty good at that.

Oct 11, 13 9:35 pm
Does this go towards my 10 post minimum?
Oct 11, 13 11:26 pm


Oct 11, 13 11:27 pm

or be an asshole.  architects are especially good at that.  in most forums, having your topic you want to post is what usually compels people into getting a username in the first place.  Give it a rest buddy.  You've done this on pretty much every new post and its annoying.

Oct 11, 13 11:27 pm

lol.  first time on the internets backbay?

Oct 11, 13 11:41 pm

to the OP:  you and every other recent graduate/new intern is thinking the same thing because your whole life has been a progression where you move up the academic ranks, and now you feel like you need to be somewhere next.  talk to anyone that knows about changes in psychology relating to people your age and you'll get an earful.   the complaints you have about what others here have called "grunt work" is called "actual work", and will only get worse if you go into something like finance-- much worse.  its like all the boring parts of what you're doing now minus all the fun parts like sketching and designing.  banking/finance is also MUCH more hierarchical.  the school you go to counts for a lot more than it does in architecture, and stupid things like graduate degrees and certificates will automatically push you above or below people, regardless of how good you are, and you'll spend forever climbing the ladder.  also, you're not going to find any laid back offices that aren't authoritarian unless you make your own office.  this is the real world now and you don't get medals for everything you do.  instead you get to work really hard and not get recognized for it most of the time.

Oct 11, 13 11:42 pm

I second archinet's suggestion to try a larger, more corporate firm.  They frequently don't allow overtime hours, and they have so many specialists (masonry, rain screen, curtain wall, etc) in-house that there is always someone to help work out the details, along with reusing some, too.

But you do also need to understand that architecture is simply not a high-paying profession, and that in this economy and time of middle-class squeezing the pay is only going to get slimmer along with every other profession.  Unless you are an entrepreneur you are likely to make financial gains very slowly.

Oct 12, 13 7:13 am

Maybe I can inspire you. I worked in architecture for 8 years, kidding myself that I enjoyed it. Being laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me because I didn't have to leave architecture, it was no where to be found. I had always wanted to be self-employed and am interested in business and finance too. My husband (a psychologist, therapist and teacher) and I started a business helping kids with academic disabilities. I brought my art and visualization skills, project management and marketing experience to the business as well as underwent intensive training as a teacher and therapist. 4 years later, we couldn't be happier, we have a few employees that do amazing work for us. We had a baby and while he manages the office, I assist part-time in research and development (and I still do some of the finances and problem solving.) I am NOT sorry to have left the world of architecture behind. We never had a problem with not being appreciated or not being effective or not getting paid or not being respected, all daily problems in architecture it seemed. The work is super interesting and enlightening because we are in academics, it is also healing. Working with disabled kids has given me the softest, kindest heart and much-needed optimism.

So I ask you, who can you partner with to do what?

Oct 12, 13 7:31 am

^  Nice to hear a story with a happy ending.

Oct 12, 13 10:01 am

We had a baby and while he manages the office

The baby manages the office? Way to go! Getting children to do anything these days is a major accomplishment. What's the pay for office manager?

backbay - a 10 post minimum before posting a new topic would encourage more productive engagement of new members as they would be more likely to search & participate in the various forums (where they would probably find info pertinent to their interest). This would address the kind of repetitive behavior that resulted in the optional segregation of the Academia forum.

It would also reduce the number of "design my house for free" and "LOOK AT ME!" topics (like this one) as well as those posted by people who are too lazy or stupid to use Google and the occasional spammer. The only thing lost would be the sometimes amusing "what style is my house" topic, but that is usually just a variant of "design my house for free".

Also most forums have "stickies" or threads that always stay on top that have guidelines for participation or are popular topics. "What style is my ..." and such could easily be one of these.

As to the attitude, if you are bitter because I spanked you in a previous post, it's long past time to get over it.

Oct 12, 13 10:48 am


I would get out NOW if those are the feelings that you're having. It is better to get out while you're still young so that you don't become all salty and crusty around the edges like the sardines that commented earlier.

All I can say is that there are many ppl in the industry that feel the same way you do, and also have the same skill sets,or better. Unfortunately there are not many baits waiting in the waters of opportunity for architecture, and if there is it is probably a dud bait. In the end all firms are trying to work the shit out of their staff, bc they all know that the economic rug can get ripped right from underneath them before their very eyes... THEY DONT GIVE A RATS ASS ABOUT YOU, you can only save yourself.

I was not cherished in the academic world like you from what it sounds like, but academia is just that...crap. End the end, 90 percent of firms are looking for long term, keep your god damn mouth shut, and work for nothing losers called "architectural interns" aka, cubicle trollz. And once the economy tanks again, you're back on the street jobless and moneyless wondering what you did wrong. What you did wrong was realize how shitty an industry is, and never acted on it for whatever reason.

It might be bc you felt that you did all this exhaustive schooling and have become too afraid to fully admit that you did not fail, but your expectations have failed you. Perhaps you hold onto architecture because you can't admit defeat, or a loved one would be disgraced with you for throwing in the towel, or it might be the only thing you know and you've become too old to know better. All I can say is SAVE YOUR SELF!

I had been working in the industry since 2006 up until just a couple of months ago. I have never made more than what a fresh kindergarten teacher makes right out of college. At my most previous job I was actually making less than my initial job right out of college in 2006... yeh boi, a whooping $33K a year... with 8 years experience. At my review I asked for a raise. My boss at the time was dumb enough to say "I don't even pay anybody $3000 a month in this office". That was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. I realized that I was insane... literally insane for continuing to think that anything was going to change for me in architecture... it did not matter what state I was in or what firm I was working for, it was all the same.

All I can say is stick to what you're good at, network out the ass with other like minders, use the resource available to you, and architecture yourself out of the architecture industry. That is what I am doing at 30 years of age with feelings that I could have been pursuing a life of something more tangible.

Let go my friend, for you are barely hanging onto nothing...

Oct 12, 13 10:51 am
And detwan calls other people salty and bitter. LOL
Oct 12, 13 11:16 am

i don't think DeTwan calls other people bitter.  you can read through his post history by clicking the 'history' button next to his name.

on a side note, i sometimes call other people bitter, because sometimes other people are bitter.  that does not imply that i am not bitter.

Oct 12, 13 12:02 pm
I am salty and crusty and taste very good too. But detwan is obviously too young to be so bitter. BTW, I do think architecture gets better with age and experience. But Miles is right, there aren't very many attaboys for most of us.
Oct 12, 13 2:04 pm

In some ways I get what you're wondering about. The first couple posts really pointed out some of the fine lines that you're drawing concerning your career and you'll have to sort those out on your own. You've had more success post school than most of us, so many responders will take your concerns as whining.

We've been taught about the ideals of architecture and when you feel passionately about those ideals, it's hard to reconcile them with the realities of a work environment. Ultimately, you'll probably have to try out a few firms to see what fits you best. Sounds like in the future, your own company will be it, but you probably should learn from others in the meantime. Use the negative as a way to structure your future...don't like the last boss, then look for those personality cues when interviewing for another job.

ANY profession will have it's down side. Finance, academics, or whatever. You'll have to start at the bottom no matter what.

As for the money? The hours? I've been working off and on (thanks economy) for 7 years. Most of the time I spend my days trying to find something to do. I get in on time and leave a few minutes after closing. Not because I'm that type of person, but because the companies I've worked for have very little to actually work on. Been that way for 4+ years now. Don't ask how I still have a job because I don't really understand it. But I'll tell you this...I get paid just fine for not doing a whole lot. So I ask, how much money do you really need/want? When people say we don't get paid enough, I also wonder "what is ENOUGH"? Yeah, I get that we have loans and rent/mortgages. But do we all deserve 100K jobs? No. We'll get paid more for our services when people start understanding what they're paying for and why it's worth it. In the past 10 years we've seen giant raises and starting high salaries in many professions, this is not normal and we need to rethink that image. If money is important, and you like to work mostly on your own? Then I would recommend a sales job based on commissions. Every profession has them, even architecture. And they may come with cars or car allowances, paid cell phones and an expense account. All things which can lighten your personal expense load and help you put a little money away.

Architecture IS my second career, and yes, people aren't as critical in other professions as they are in ours which can make a work environment nicer, but you'll start at the bottom where ever you decide to go if you leave.

Oct 14, 13 2:10 pm

perhaps this might shed some light:

Oct 14, 13 4:50 pm

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