Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I don’t usually post about what’s personally happening to me, but I feel like mentioning it might be worthwhile, as I imagine I can’t be the only one. If you’ve managed to stay employed through the recession, you might be feeling this way yourself. You come into work and sit down at your desk, and suddenly all the energy drains from your body. You can’t even pick up a pen, and you can’t bring yourself to answer the urgent emails filling your inbox or to complete the rather simple redlines sitting on your desk. All you want to do is surf the internet or go home and do laundry. It’s a different feeling from spring fever or holiday restlessness; it’s a feeling that is a sudden draining of energy and focus at best, and at worst it’s what one of my colleagues once described as “the day is ruined the moment you turn the key in the ignition to drive to work.”
After months—if not years—of trying to do more with less and watching your coworkers get laid off in waves and struggling to keep your job and do the jobs of those who were let go and accomplishing all of this with a brave face, it’s no surprise that you’d be feeling burnout by now. Or perhaps the work has come back with a vengeance, and you’re working like hell with a paycheck that reflects your 2008 skills while doing a 2011 job (yours and someone else’s because no one’s hired extra help just yet, just in case there’s a double dip recession). Myself, I’ve just spent the past few months working at a breakneck pace, leaping from deadline to deadline after nearly wearing myself out with projects plus preparing and giving a presentation at the national AIA convention. I spend my days frenetically jumping from phone call to department layout to email to QC of a set of drawings to—oh, wait, have I eaten lunch yet? And of course, because the economy has been so bad for so long, it seems like sacrilege to complain. But the weariness, the anger, the anxiety are all there, and the passion for what we do—for what I do—is gone. I come home from work, bone tired and drained, and I can barely even flip through a catalog or magazine, let alone put together coherent thoughts for a well-meaning blog providing so-called professional advice.
Burnout is a weird feeling for me, because I’m one of the most motivated people I know. Burnout is what other people deal with, what people who don’t really like architecture feel, I think to myself. But I’m finding that even the most committed amongst us, the most devoted to this art and craft and profession and obsession that we call architecture, even we the truly dedicated feel some annoyance with this field and wish for a break to do anything, anything other than this. I don’t yet have any answers for working through my burnout, but I do know that the only way out is through. I also know that I have to find a way to get some breaks in before Christmas, and I have to make sure that those breaks don’t get used up by holiday shopping or filling out greeting cards or the like. My goal is to post on Intern 101 at least once a week. Any questions, observations, comments, gripes, etc. are welcome, as they help me get ideas for post topics. In the meantime, I do hope that all of you got to enjoy your holiday and are finding better days coming at your firms (or in acquiring a job), and I beg your patience in the coming month or so while I work through this exhaustion.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Secondly, although we're not architects yet, we appreciate the ability, and freedom, of making our own designs. We are hoping to continue doing competitions in some manner when we do land jobs. Any thoughts on this sort of competition moonlighting? (Really, it doesn't feel like cheating-the-employer type of moonlighting yet, although that might change when we do win something!)
Monday, November 22, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
I was curious as to how significant the grad school I attend is....Like if I get into say Harvard (which would be fantastic), is it worth it to attend there considering the loans i might have to take out. Will I be getting a significantly better paying job if I graduate from Harvard than say the University of Florida (i graduated from there and if i go there it would probably be free) or University of Texas, University of Pennsylvania...(other schools i'm applying to are Wash U, UVA, M.I.T.).....
Myself, I graduated from the University of Florida in 2000, and my starting pay out of grad school with no experience was $14.50/hr. You might expect kind of around that much out of graduate school in 2012, but maybe perhaps more like $15-$17/hr starting pay. My husband graduated from Kansas State University with a 5-year B.Arch in 1998, and his starting pay was less than my starting pay. The M.Arch is still being paid slightly more than the 4-year degree or the B.Arch, even though it's really just an extra year of school. But ultimately, you're being paid for experience, not the school.
That being said, going to Harvard, Cooper Union, SCI-ARC, and the like are a good move if you're really interested in teaching at some point (like during or after you get licensed). If teaching architecture (especially teaching design) is your ultimate professional goal, then Harvard and its cohorts will be more worth the loans.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Are there PDFs of the drawings (CDs, as-builts, whatever) for the Winburn Building? I’d like to upload them to our FTP site to send the cost estimator for the Crestridge Building.
Excellent! Where’s the best place in the project files drive to find those? I see [project number] and [different project number] under the [Winburn Building's Client Name] folder...would you recommend sending the PDFs in [long file path name and number] to my cost estimator for Crestridge? I want to give him something that’s as complete as we can get it for Winburn, and that looks like what I want but it also says “Initial Pricing Package” on the front sheet…?
[project number] is what you should use
[project name and short path to the correct folder]
Try these… might be better
- Take your time. Email does make it easy to dash off a quick note to someone, but really take a moment to reread what you've read, or even read it aloud (a trick I learned from some of my English-major friends in grad school). This is good practice even with the smallest emails. Perhaps you want to send a layout of some outdoor mechanical equipment to your engineer, and you need him to confirm if the layout will work. You could just say, "Eddie, here's my pass at the mechanical yard. Will this work for you?" However, a little more thought makes this a much more useful email and can help them think through your request: "Eddie, here's my pass at a layout for the mechanical yard equipment. Do we have all the clearances correct around the equipment, and will these locations work for now as well as the Phase 2 buildout?" Also, composing your email with a little time allows you to prevent from sending out something with sentence fragments (where you began to type something, then changed your mind but forgot to erase the first half of the abandoned sentence).
- SpellCheck is your acquaintance, not your friend. There are plenty of words that pass SpellCheck because they really are words, but they're not the right word for your email. One of my English-major pals tends to accidentally start many emails with "Dear family and fiends..." Fortunately, he checks the email again (see tip #1 above) and catches it before it goes out. While most typos and grammatic snafus aren't that big of a deal (e.g., "form" instead of "from"), it does make it look like you're not paying attention.
- Ditch the slang and (most of) the jokes and funny references. Email is an medium in which it's easy to misinterpret what was typed, because many of us do dash off an email quickly in the same voice and words that we might say aloud. Since that written form is missing our tone of voice and inflection, a joke might come off as a snidey slap in the face. Also, you're working with people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, ages, generations, cultures, etc. Slang doesn't always translate even amongst people who speak the same language. I think about a fellow grad student who was born in Spain and moved to the U.S. when he was ten. His parents hired a tutor to teach him English, so while my friend spoke impeccable European Spanish, his English was so perfect that he actually had slightly adopted the Brooklyn-inflected accent of his tutor. The only thing that would give him away as a naturalized citizen instead of native-born is that he didn't understand a lot of American childhood cultural references and older slang sayings, like "the early bird catches the worm".
- Always use a good, clear subject for the email. A good habit to develop with project-related emails is to first type the name of the project and then the primary topic or topics of the email. In my case above, I might use this as my email subject: "Crestridge Building -- Mechanical Yard Layout." If my email had a variety of topics involving mechanical stuff, I might write "Crestridge Building -- Mechanical Issues." (Notice I did not say "stuff"; I didn't go to grad school and pass the ARE to write emails with the word "stuff" in them like I was starring in Dude Where's My Car?.) A good clear subject line not only allows someone to quickly know what information you're looking for or problem you're trying to resolve, it also can help them (and you) search for the email later in their inbox.
- Make sure the point of your email is clear. Even if you have to write a bunch of introductory information, or perhaps you have to clearly spell out the three or four problems going on in a project, you want to be able to make the intent of the email clear. What do you want this email to do after the recipient(s) has/have read it? Do you want someone to make a decision? Do you want someone to get you a drawing? And if there are multiple recipients, is it clear which of them should be making the decision, getting you the drawing, etc.? One of my favorite sentence structures for being clear is this: "I want/need/would like __________ by __________ because __________." And that "because" is not an apology. but rather a courteous explanation of what's going on that requires that we do-this-by-this-time.
- And finally, when you get an email asking for something, either give the person what they need or ask for more information. It was pretty clear what I wanted in the email at the beginning of this post, and had my colleague given me the file path at that point instead of waiting for the third email, we could have been done. If my colleague was really busy and couldn't help me, at that moment, he could have emailed back that he was on a deadline and would get me a link later that morning, or he was on a deadline and I should ask So-and-So for more prompt help, or he could have said "here's the project number, and I'm pretty sure I have a folder in there called _____ that should have what you need." Taking your time with emails refers to reading them as well as writing them. What is this person looking for? What are they needing? Instead of just firing back a "here you go" when you're not sure, ask. It might even be helpful to call the person and talk through their request, then use a reply email to recap the discussion and give them what they have asked for (or explain why you can't do that at that time).
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
There's some adult language in here, but it's hilarious. The truth of the architectural profession lies somewhere between these two points of view. I had to post it, though, because it actually made me laugh out loud.