Become a Life Change Architect August 19, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, career, change, collaboration, creativity, employment, reading, survival, the economy.
Tags: careers, jobsearch, life change artist, reinvention, the economy, unemployment
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You can feel it in the air.
Studio Assignment #1: Apply the skills you acquired in becoming an architect to design a way out of this mess.
Finding a job – or keeping your current one – is job #1 for many architects today.
But should it be job #2?
I know 2 talented, well-connected out-of-work architects who found jobs this year.
Only to have their firm file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Maybe our job #1 should be something else?
As in, ourselves.
Assuming we can all take care of our physiological needs –
– though admittedly these days, nothing can be taken for granted.
It may seem that anything other than 100% fixation on the bottom line is foolhardy.
But that’s just not the case.
Until you find that light at the end of the tunnel – however you define it – I am going to suggest you focus on something other than the economy, construction recovery, credit thaw or employment.
And I am going to suggest that you consider becoming something that you already do rather well.
In fact, quite exceptionally – better than most.
Architects right now need empathy and understanding as much as they need work and relief.
Architects need courage and tools to face their situation and this is where a helpful new book comes in.
It offers both.
Heartily endorsed by Daniel Pink, Marshall Goldsmith and Gregg Levoy among others, the book can be read by all ages.
Though one senses the main audience might be what is innocuously referred to as “the third age.”
I posted a while back on the subject of increasingly prevalent thirds - and the third age is one of them.
What I am suggesting is that the answer to our circumstances may just be in retirement – specifically in the literature of self-reinvention.
Third age literature refers to retirement – how to spend our post-work years.
While retirement is not an option for most architects, and very few architects ever plan on retiring at all, perhaps it makes sense to think of our current situation as a third age of sorts.
2. Working pre-great recession
3. Work/Life post-great recession
The book I’m about to introduce you to helps you to plan for your third age – right now.
And by that I mean your post-great recession worklife.
It helps you to see your life as an architect stepping onto an empty lot for the first time – the architect’s equivalent of the blank canvas, blank page or hunk of clay.
The book is based on research into the work processes of artists and over 100 success stories of those who have managed to reinvent themselves under similar circumstances to our own.
Using the very same skills and creativity we use as architects.
While waiting for your next opportunity and for your life to change you can become a life change artist.
Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life, by Fred Mandell, Ph.D., an acclaimed personal transformation catalyst, and Kathleen Jordan, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in personal creativity and business innovation.
As the book makes clear, the authors are equally adept at helping individuals make considerable changes in their organizational settings as well as their individual lives.
Making a Major Life Change
The authors deduced 7 key strengths that the most creative minds of history shared, and that anyone rethinking their future can cultivate to effectively change their life:
- Preparing the brain to undertake creative work
- Seeing the world and one’s life from new perspectives
- Using context to understand the facets of one’s life
- Embracing uncertainty
- Taking risks
- Applying discipline
To architects this list may at first appear overly familiar and simplistic.
But don’t let these strengths fool you.
Once you dig into each you’ll realize that the abilities we take for granted – and use in our everyday lives – are much more powerful than we give them credit for.
Especially when you apply them to the problem of our worklives.
Just take the first strength: Preparation.
The book defines this not as undertaking mental or physical warm-ups but as “deliberately engaging in activities that help break us from our usual patterns of thought and feeling and prepare us for creative insight.”
The book talks a great deal about creativity and art – but it is primarily focused on process, not product, as well as on skills and learning.
With the belief that the very skills we use in creating art – or in our case designing buildings – are those that we need to create a more fulfilling life.
The book argues that making a major life change requires the skills of an artist.
And certainly for the unemployed and underemployed, finding work of any sort but especially satisfying and fulfilling work, calls on our inherent creative ability.
As an architect, you already have a leg-up on the targeted audience of this book in that you have been trained in these seven key skills.
They’re in your blood and soul and you, at times like these, forget.
And don’t even realize it.
You can almost imagine a job interview in the near future where your future employer asks you what you did during the lull – and you explain that you treated your predicament as though it were a design assignment.
What was your secret?
How did you escape from the box you were in?
You treated the process of finding your way into a new life by utilizing the very skills engendered in becoming an architect.
You designed you way out the only way I knew.
If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got. Right?
So why not try something different?
To be sure, the book is not Chicken Soup for the Architect’s Soul.
But right now, despite the summer season, a little soup might just be what is needed to help us assuage and survive the predicament we find ourselves in.
When all life gives you are tomatoes, make gazpacho.
The book is inspiring and with its exercises, tools and creativity assessment in the appendix, it will help you to keep your creativity – and soul and much else – alive and well in these trying times.
Building on What You Already Know
You need help.
You want to help others in need.
And you help yourself by helping others.
Becoming a Life Change Artist: 7 Creative Skills to Reinvent Yourself at Any Stage of Life will help you to help others – the young, the elderly, neighbors, friends, emerging and senior talent, those out of work, those looking to make a change in their own lives – discover these qualities for themselves.
Because you already have these skills, strengths and insights: in droves.
You just needed someone – or something – to remind you.
With this book you can consider yourself reminded.
Are You a Koala or Raccoon? July 4, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, career, employment, environment, identity, pragmatism, survival, the economy.
Tags: careers, employment, generalists, hedgehog and fox, hiring, specialists, well-rounded, wide and deep skills
To see that this is true we only need to look at Vitruvius’s bucket list for the training of architects:
to be creative, apt in the acquisition of knowledge, a good writer, a skillful draftsman, versed in geometry and optics, expert at figures, acquainted with history, informed on the principles of natural and moral philosophy, somewhat of a musician, not ignorant of the law and of physics, nor of the motions, laws, and relations to each other, of the heavenly bodies
Despite never becoming somewhat of a musician, many practitioners understandably have remained generalists their entire careers.
Some to great success.
That is, until now.
For while statistics aren’t readily available it is conceivable that the majority of architects who find themselves out of work, or underemployed, today are the generalist sort.
That the better gamble would have – years earlier – been to become experts at something.
But that thinking – while comforting to tell oneself – would be off-the-mark.
By suddenly specializing, generalists do themselves a disservice, are untrue to their calling and sell themselves short.
More than anyone employers need to realize this.
For while there are certainly merits and detriments to each:
Is the current trend to fill holes predominantly with specialists short-sighted?
Using a biological analogy, a generalist species is able to thrive in a wide variety of environmental conditions and can make use of a variety of different resources while specialist species can only thrive in a narrow range of environmental conditions with a limited diet.
In more utilitarian terms, specialists know where to hit the nail to get rid of the creak in the floor board.
While generalists can recommend eleven types of flooring that don’t creak in the first place.
Generalists see the big picture.
Specialists have great depth of experience in one specific area.
Generalists conceive the big ideas and concepts that energize teams and carry construction projects through their arduous 3-5 year lifespan.
Specialists focus all of their effort and skill development on one specialty.
Generalists keep things interesting – they’re often whom colleagues and clients relate with best.
Specialists have an easier time selling their services once they find their market and can charge more.
Generalists are the glue that holds teams together.
In the body politic, specialists are the workhorse liver and spleen.
Generalists? The heart and sinew.
Specialists know the work inside and out.
Generalists – with broad peripheral knowledge and the ability to provide clients with alternatives if one solution doesn’t fit – are the heart and soul of the operation.
For that really is the crux of the matter:
When specialists die who attends their funeral?
When generalists die they’re standing 10 deep, nary a dry eye in the room.
Specialists may be safer in the short term but generalists are a whole lot more fun.
Is your specialty being a generalist? Are generalists the new specialists?
Architects have so much to learn that being a jack-of-all-trades isn’t really a conceivable route to take.
Even generalists are more specialized than they give themselves credit for.
One look at the jobs postings – what there are of them – and its dishearteningly clear: only specialists are in demand.
Employers now require recruits and candidates that are exact matches for the holes they need to fill.
Down to the detail – looking for people with single attributes.
In the wish list of job requirements “well-rounded” is not among them.
Forget round altogether. We’re living in square peg, square hole times.
Not fire starters but firemen – relievers – to put out fires.
Wanted: Closers, not openers. Fastballs, not knuckleballs.
And there’s no room for ambiguity, no growing into the position. You’re either it – or you’re not.
It may be well and good that the architect’s core competency is a hard-earned and all-too-rare comfort with ambiguity.
Make no mistake. We are living in clearly unambiguous times.
This talent – often referred to as agility and flexibility – to keep as many balls in the air for as long as possible isn’t needed right now, thank you.
For there are far fewer balls to maneuver and the few that there are seem to hang in the air longer.
Task masters are in. Multitaskers need not apply.
Going back to that biological analogy, most organisms of course do not fit neatly into either the specialist or generalist camp. Some species are highly specialized, others less so, while some can tolerate many different environments.
In other words, it’s probably healthiest for architects to think of the specialist–generalist issue as a continuum, from highly specialized experts on one end to broadly generalist practitioners on the other.
Instead, ask yourself: Are you a Koala or Raccoon?
In our current work environment it is perhaps best to think of oneself like the wily raccoon – which are able to adapt to all sorts of environments, even urban ones.
But then again, adaptability – like the generalist today – is underrated.
Perhaps it’s best to be a little of both?
But you’d have to be a generalist to see it that way.
Image credit: Lynne Lancaster