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Rescue a Life in this, Our Time of Need December 12, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, creativity, environment, the economy.
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When’s the last time you did something nice for an architect?

Architects are seen by most as self-reliant. They don’t need anything from anyone, except perhaps a patron or a client now and then.

Self-reliant. Self-confident. Self-controlled…

With their designer duds, dressed in black. And the eyewear… Not exactly a warm and fuzzy image that comes to mind. Perhaps explaining why “Have you hugged an architect today?” mugs and bumper stickers are rarely seen.

So, when asked when the last time is that you did something nice for an architect? Your answer is probably along the lines of…?

I recently put this question to a select few colleagues and contacts, these were some of the responses:

  • An architect? Aren’t there others – the underprivileged, the bereft – that require our tending to first?
  • What? I give so often I’m starting to show symptoms of gifting exhaustion.
  • When is the last time someone gave to me?
  • If I give – then I will have less and I need everything I have for that rainy day.
  • Yes, I know of a job opening and nearby – but I’m not about to tell them. I’m saving it for myself.

As my wife has long observed: architects just aren’t nice to other architects.

It’s primarily an image problem. As victims of rampant stereotyping, we know that what  motivates us is to leave the world a better place than the way we found it. It’s just that we don’t often extend to people what we intend for the environment.

Since you’ve taken the time to read this post take a moment to ask yourself: Are you your colleague’s keeper?

Are you your former student’s keeper?

Your mentee’s keeper?

Are you your LinkedIn contact’s keeper?

If you have benefited in the past by the unseen hand of others, then your answer is indeed, yes.

Do you owe it to someone to help them out in this time of need? No. You don’t.

You owe it to yourself. To give at this time. Even if you don’t readily feel as though you have a lot to give right now.

For giving is a two-way street. What goes around comes around, especially if you live in a part of the world with a favor economy.

Part of the problem, no doubt, is gifting exhaustion, volunteer and philanthropic burn-out. Part of the problem is that with so many in need it’s hard to know who to help first – so we don’t help anyone. We tell ourselves at least that’s fair. I will unilaterally help no one, so no one, so to speak, is at a disadvantage.

But that’s a cop-out. We have deeper reserves than we allow ourselves to believe. Especially architects – resourceful to a fault, walking talking human Swiss Army knives. We can give – of ourselves, our time, our contacts, insights and creativity. It only requires refocusing our attention for a few moments.

And it only takes one.

Think for a moment: Who do you know – in the profession or industry – that’s in a position to help someone else? In this economy. Right now.

Don’t concern yourself with why they should they help someone they don’t know – especially when there are so many they already know that require their attention and assistance. For one reason: Because they know you. And for an abundance of other reasons:

  • Because you have stayed in touch with them over the years.
  • Because you are connected in some way – through school, past history, and organization.
  • Because they want to do good by you.
  • Because they may owe you a favor.
  • Because they have secretly admired you and would extend themselves to help you out if given the opportunity. Because they are looking for an opportunity – any opportunity – to act from their higher selves and by your calling on them are helping them out.
  • Because they have long wanted to help you out – but never found the chance or opportunity, didn’t know in what way, or because you never came across like you needed their help.

Well – that day has arrived. If not for yourself, for someone else you know who is in need. Extend yourself selflessly, perhaps even anonymously.

He that gives should never remember, he that receives should never forget.

Recall those who have helped you out – with a letter, a call – at a magic moment that turned things around for you. This is such a moment. If not now, when?

Every architect knows an architect in need

  • A colleague
  • An out of work architect
  • A former student or colleague
  • An architect online – on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – you suddenly see their status change; their past outweighs their current status

What can I do to help out an architect?

  • Write a recommendation – unprovoked, proactively, as a gift
  • List a nice, kind thing you can do for a fellow architect
  • Have an out of work architect  work at an empty workstation in your office and learn Revit – using tutorials
  • Ask around and identify a part-time position outside the field for an able and willing underemployed colleague
  • When I had my own firm I would secure a position elsewhere with a comparable architecture firm for an employee before letting them go. They had the option of accepting the position elsewhere. At the very least, I’d offer to serve as a recommendation for the candidate – and do a reasonable job talking them up. Without veering from the truth, architects can accomplish as much selling of their former employees and colleagues as they do selling their designs.

Why is this an issue? Why now?

  • The economy, banks not lending, developers unmotivated to move forward with their own cash; too much inventory already out there to absorb
  • We are not kind to, nor supportive of, one another; all too often of late it is every person for themselves
  • It’s as though a sign of professional pride – as in a fraternity, hazing, treat the upcoming class cruelly, because you were treated that way and so on into perpetuity – to treat our fellow architects poorly
  • One last issue why we are experiencing this as a problem is this: some believe that since professors haven’t been keeping up with advances in technology and practice that students upon graduation are unemployable – that they have to rely on practitioners to provide them with the skill sets they didn’t learn in school. No mechanism, as one architect put it recently, to keep our professors “tuned-up”, so to speak, on the emerging trends in our profession and trained to teach these aspects of our profession. As another online commenter stated, graduates are under the impression that their place of employment would teach them what they needed to know
  • There’s the perception by some of the AIA having gone AWOL (some want to rename the AIA the MIA.)

There is a great deal we can do for ourselves – be proactive, network, keep up with colleagues outside the office, contribute to your alma mater so that they will be there for us in our time of need .

We are architects. If we are not for ourselves, who will be?

The Talmud may seem like an unusual place to look for wisdom on this point, but I cannot imagine better words than these two last thoughts to carry within as we support our fellow architects:

Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.

And this,

He who carries out one good deed acquires one advocate in his own behalf.

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