Your Career: Unlimited

Architect’s book offers advice to fellow practitioners on making work and life happier and more productive

When I made the decision to become an architect, it was rooted in a desire to make people’s lives better. I studied the connection between architecture and culture, as well as psychological effects that environments can induce. I believed in the power of design and wanted to make a difference in the world through my work. I still do.  However, my ability to hold onto these ideals felt like it was in spite of, not because of, my experience in practice.  I noticed my friends and colleagues having similar problems, even giving up on their ideals and succumbing to architecture as a job instead of a vocation. Additionally, I saw a lot of poor leadership, lack of mentorship, and abuse in the work environment. Worst of all, as a profession we seemed more concerned with doing what we thought our clients wanted instead of helping them to innovate and become more than they ever imagined. 

A little over three years ago, I started my blog, The Patron Saint of Architecture, to share my thoughts about how we could do things better in creative professions. My posts center around finding your inspiration and using your creativity to make that inspiration so infectious that clients will want to be a part of what you are doing and you can work at a whole different level. Through my articles, I explored many of what were for me the most thorny issues and came to realize how often we make the wrong choices about where and how we want to work. 

My own career path had led me to drift from supportive work environments to downright toxic ones, even independent consultancy. Being aware and conscious of what I truly want from my career in recent years has led me to being joyfully employed at a firm I love today.  But not everyone gets there.  Our problem as a profession comes less from all of the external factors that we tend to blame, such as industry shifts to a CM model, different economic paradigms, or changing client expectations, and more from our own limiting beliefs.  

I began offering coaching sessions after that first year of blogging, in order to help people find greater clarity and purpose in their careers. But not everyone who could benefit from that is at a point where they feel able to work on their career issues. Because we are creative, we think we can do and be everything and therefore resist seeking guidance and coaching.

So I began work on a book to allow readers to indulge their DIY tendencies, but still ask the hard questions necessary to achieve professional fulfillment. Career Crisis: How to Shake Things Up and Work at Your Highest Level in a Creative Career, is designed to help creative professionals dig deep and reconnect with why they chose this path in the first place. It takes readers from a "why me?" victim mentality, to a "why NOT me?" empowerment mentality where they can fearlessly pursue their dreams.

It's important to realize that a career crisis is not about being in a toxic work environment and not knowing how to get out. It is not about wanting a job and not being able to find one. It's about being out of alignment with your life's purpose (which is why these other things are happening to you). When you realize this, you know that your career crisis is not being caused by external factors but internal ones. That's why the only way to fix it is to work on your own issues.  It is about having clarity around what you really want and being willing to ask for it. How often, when you receive advice do you think, "that would be great but (fill in the blank)…" and shut off the idea before it even has a chance to take root?

We make time for the things we really want in our lives, and make excuses for everything else. That so many excuses are made around career choices shows just how inhibited and fearful of failure we really are. Career Crisis walks readers step by step through what they need to do to get clarity on what they love to do, build a personal mission statement around that, and eliminate the excuses.  

Anything you haven’t yet achieved in your career that you really want requires going outside of your comfort zone. And once you do that and get the clarity, you have to get a game plan. Otherwise, the path to achieving those goals will sidetrack you. Especially long term goals, because it may take several years to build on them by establishing an area of expertise, or get a certification, making it easy to put yourself in a situation where your goals are really just a set of tasks, something you are kind of drifting towards, instead of taking purposeful action. That’s because you really want to stay in that comfort zone, even if you don’t think that you do.

Through a series of meaningful exercises I have developed in my experience career coaching, Career Crisis readers are guided to develop their mission statement into long term, mid-term, and short-term goals, and construct targeted action items to help them break through the lethargy (and excuses) to achieve them.

I am proud to be able to put something that was missing in the creative community out there through this book. Yes, there are times (daily) when we have to suck it up and deal with life’s messy surprises, but we shouldn’t have to deal with permanent or recurring frustrations as any kind of rite of passage. Success is not about luck–it’s about having a clear vision for yourself and building up strengths and expertise that supported that vision that will allow you to do this. Learn how to get out of the all too common competitive way of working characterized by any of the following Seven Deadly Sins of Architecture:

1.  Enduring abuse by clients, co-workers or superiors
2.  Manipulating clients, co-workers or superiors
3.  Over-strategizing every action in an attempt to stay one step ahead
4.  Seeking credit and recognition for accomplishments as an individual not a team
5.  Blaming others (even when deserved) for unfavorable situations or outcomes
6.  Overpromising or overcommitting to projects, organizations or events
7.  Undercutting perceived competition both in and out of the office

Many firms think that this is how to do business, and it permeates the culture of the workplace, making everyone less innovative and more fearful. As a result, architects think that working harder is the way to move ahead. Instead, it leads to feeling underappreciated, disappointed and disillusioned about your career.

My book frees you from that downward spiral of competition. If you have wondered what would happen if someone was actually your cheerleader and would redirect you when you started up with excuses or inaction, or craved career advice that was actually tailored around architects and what we do, you need to pick up – and actively engage with – a copy. No matter whose career story I hear, it all boils down to that one thing–they didn’t know what they wanted, and as a result of not knowing, they couldn’t ask for the opportunities that would make them happy. If you are ready to look deep within yourself and do some heavy lifting, you can solve your own career crisis.  

Angela Mazzi is an architect and planner certified in evidence based design, educated at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Arizona. Her work as a medical planner at GBBN Architects is focused on enhancing wellness and quality of life through the built environment. She writes about issues faced by creatives in her blog, The Patron Saint of Architecture and is a contributor to Urban Times, an online magazine focused on forward thinking. Visit the blog to get information on career coaching, or stay updated on upcoming webinars. Angela’s latest projects include publishing her book, Career Crisis, and its companion webinar series. She is in the midst of publishing this year’s “novena,” a series of nine posts focused around the cultural memes that are limiting our lives. Like The Patron Saint of Architecture on Facebook for daily updates and dialogue on issues related to how we design our projects and our careers, and always stay inspired!

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