Do I have what it takes to be an Architect? Will I be any good at architecture if I become an architect? Will I make any money as an architect? …
These are probably the three most asked questions I have been getting lately – which if you were me, you would find that somewhat interesting. As the economy has picked up, and the amount of bad press the profession receives has gone down, (or maybe it’s this awesome site - the world may never know), more architects are getting back to work. Whatever the reasons for this change, it would appear that more people are starting to think about becoming an architect
To the question at hand:
This last weekend I received an email from someone who is in their mid-20′s and has realized that they are a medical student who would rather be an architect. They wanted to know if I had any suggestions as to how someone could find out whether they would be any good at the practice of architecture – that before they make this fairly large career course-correction, would they be able to predict if they would experience success? Surprisingly, I get asked this question in some form or fashion all the time and responding to these emails typically requires some finesse. There are some serious implications on the line, I don’t have a functioning crystal ball, and most people’s circumstances appear somewhat unique. As I sat there looking at the blinking cursor on my laptop, trying to figure out how to respond, I decided that the answer to this question isn’t really all that difficult. While I don’t think my situation is all that unique, I definitely have a skill set that lends itself to being an architect, and I seem to have done pretty well for myself. So I spent some time looking back at how I finally got to where I am … what was it that helped me get here?
In my mind, there are three major things that will help determine if you will experience success as an architect:
- You have to be smart
- You have to work hard and demonstrate dedication to the craft
- You have to be a social and likable person
None of these should come as a surprise, these are traits that are appropriate to achieve success in just about any white-collar profession. You don’t need to to be a social and likable person to be the world’s foremost neurosurgeon … but it probably doesn’t hurt. You might also notice that I didn’t say these traits would help predict if you’ll make you a good designer – how could anyone really know something like that ahead of time? For just about everyone, your design skills will not be your road to success in this field [read: The not-so-sexy side to Architecture] but design is the most alluring aspect about this profession. I am significantly better as a designer now then when I was in college. I attribute this growth in skills to the simple fact that I became older. I understand myself much better, I know what’s important to me, I’m better at setting priorities, and I am less likely to baffle myself with a million options and the latest design craze. All of this adds up to consistency which – no surprises here – helps my final product.
The difference between someone doing well and someone doing great as an architect is not their design skills, it’s their ability to make a personal connection with the people who hire them, work through problems by extrapolating similar conditions and codifying that process, and understanding why some solutions work and others don’t. This last one is overlooked all the time by younger designers, maybe not out of negligence but due to their maturity level. Being able to understand why you did something allows you to duplicate your successes without having to replicate your solutions (pretty sure I’ve said that before on the site here … probably, but it’s good enough to warrant some repetition.)
The three characteristics I listed above would obviously work well in other professions … that’s sort of my point. The people who do well in the field of architecture would probably do well in any field that they chose to follow because they have these three traits. I will openly acknowledge that I know many people who had these traits who became victims of the recession – so I am not saying that the people who have not had success did not have these qualities. I am saying that without these traits your road to success is far more difficult.
So if you’re wondering if you will experience success should you choose to become an architect … you probably already know the answer.
ps – if you are interested in seeing the other posts in the “Do you want to be an Architect” series, there are 30 articles in total and you can find them all here