Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy (really early) New Year!

I'm heading out of town today for New Year's skiing trip, so I'll toast the occasion now. I hope all of you have a great and safe New Year's Eve and Day. Thanks to everyone again for visiting and commenting on the blog, and I'll see you all (virtually, that is) in 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

End of the Year wrap-up/discussion, Part 2

I talked recently about habits and skills that are useful to have in both architecture school and architecture work. It got me thinking about things I've learned in the past almost-ten years since I got out of grad school and started working. Granted, this whole blog is me talking about stuff I've learned and suggestions to pass on to those starting out in architecture, but some of the topics I've discussed this year have really synthesized with my own personal experiences, especially lately. Humorist Garrison Keillor once said, "Intelligence is like four-wheel drive; it just gets you stuck in more remote places." The concept behind Keillor's observation holds true, in a sense, in architectural training. The more I learn and the better I get at my job, the more complicated my personal and professional concerns and issues become.

I've worked with some managers this year who, naturally, have been architects much longer than I have. They have seen things, solved problems, and worked on projects that I have not. I learn a great deal from them on a regular basis. One thing that I have learned this year is that in some ways, I'm just as good at what I do as they are, regardless of how many years we've been licensed. For example, one manager insists on seeing the emails I send out to the project team before I send them. Previously, when I was an intern, I could understand this; he wanted to make sure that I had all the information correct, and he wanted to check that I wasn't being rude or unprofessional. Now that I've been licensed for almost four years, he'll reply to my email with either no changes or with stylistic changes--rearranging dependent clauses in a sentence or changing a few words. All the facts are correct, the information and intent are clear, and the tone is polite and professional...but he just had to put his mark on it.

You may find yourself working for people like this. Perhaps the manager has an even worse degree of this sort of behavior--changes his/her mind frequently, refuses to accept (or fights accepting) new information that can improve a process or project, or they aren't around when you need them and then get mad when you have to wing something or ask another architect in the office. This sort of behavior will drive anyone to self-medicate because it violates the basic principle of respect. How do you expect me to do my job when you're looking over my shoulder like I'm fresh out of college? How am I supposed to know what you want me to do if you're inaccessible when I have a question? How am I supposed to take initiative if my every suggestion on ways to save money and tie are met with an immediate "that won't work"?

My suggestion is first to put down the bottle of codeine (you too, Li'l Wayne) and take a deep breath. Then, remember this:

It is not your job to make your boss happy.

I realize that sounds a bit strange coming from me. After all, I'm sure I've used some form of "make your boss happy" somewhere else on this blog, either implicitly or explicitly. Let me clarify the statement: It is your job to do your job, not please and cater to the whims of another or to ingratiate yourself and be a yes-man (or yes-woman) as if your boss is a petulant five-year-old with semi-automatic weapons. You answer, as it were, to a higher authority: you are accountable to the project, and therefore to the firm. When you make decisions and take actions that are in the service of the job or the project, you are doing your best and operating in the best interest of the project through whatever conduit you have been given (doing product research, checking a plan for code violations, drawing details, etc.).

Your boss (or bosses) may have certain ways that s/he wants things done, and following those procedures keeps conflict to a minimum and helps you learn the ins and outs of a complex profession. However, try not to let the learning process (and the feeling of oh-crap-please-don't-lay-me-off-not-in-this-economy) bully you into not making suggestions, solving problems, and working for the best outcome on your projects. If you must ever answer for your actions, you can do so with conviction and a clean conscience and without ego, spite, or malice, knowing that you have done so in the service of your job and your employer.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas (and Happy Belated Hanukkah)!

I hope all of you are reading this anytime but on Christmas Day itself (unless you're really needing a break from all the relatives). Go! Go have fun and take a break and enjoy some time off during the season. Throw some snowballs at someone if you live in the northeast, and go, um, throw sand at someone if you live in the southwest...or something. I'm taking a little break myself, so have a great holiday season and I'll catch you next week!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

End of the Year wrap-up/discussion, Part 1

Though any time is a good time for reflection, few times seem as appropriate as the end of the year to do a little self-survey and to take stock of who, what, and where you are now. Perhaps it's the shortening days, but even energetic little me gets a bit quiet and thoughtful. I've been talking a lot lately with a friend of mine from grad school who is now an architecture school professor. His stories of his students makes us both compare the present crop of future architects with our class almost ten years ago, when we ourselves were the future of the profession. He tells me of their triumphs and missteps, and it makes me recall my own missteps and triumphs.

While school and work for architects is very different, there are qualities and habits that benefit you in both settings, and there are lessons learned that improve your work or your creativity regardless of what major you eventually follow or job you take. A few things I learned in college/architecture school that have helped me to this day:
  • Time management. We architects love to brag about how much time we've spent in studio while we're still in school, and sometimes we continue to brag about how much time we've spent at work once we're employed. But I realized back in college that Studio wasn't the only class I was taking; the point of school is to get an education, not just to build pretty models. And once you're out in the work world, life is for living, not just for making pages and pages of flashing details and figuring out juuuuust the right angle for your building's entrance canopy. Get some sleep, go for a run, and have some fun, then come back to work and make the most out of the 8-9 hours a day that you spend there. Get your work done (and do it right) so that you don't have to spend your entire weekend futzing around with the entry canopy.
  • Good, clear communication skills. Good writing skills allowed me to do well on papers and essays, which got me good grades in school. Today, my now-excellent writing skills allow me to write good, clear emails and letters used to explain something, convey requirements for a deadline, or convince others of the rightness for a course of action. Good verbal communication involves many of the same skills, the biggest of which is remembering not to use archispeak and instead to explain things and ask questions that are easily understood by non-architects. Also, learning how to frame requests in the service of the Studio project/job/construction project goes a lot farther than "just do it my way cuz it looks the best."
  • A sense of humor. Nothing loosens up a group of people or a tense project team like a good laugh, and being able to laugh with your team can provide the camaraderie that you used to have with your fellow Studio/classmates. Laughter bonds people, and that's really helpful when you're trying to keep everyone energized, focused, and civil with each other.
So what about you? What did you learn in architecture school/college that has really contributed to your success in the work world? Share in the comments, or feel free to email me in the sidebar.

There will be more next week on this topic, but do let me know if you have a topic you'd like to see discussed here, or if you have a question for Intern 101. Thanks!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Literate Architect, Part 2 of 2

Recently, I discussed here a few words that get used incorrectly in common spoken and written forms, according to my teacher and professor relatives. It could be argued that architects don’t really need to be that fantastic of spellers, writers, or linguists—after all, we’re being paid to design buildings, not write research papers, right? Well…

Architects get a lot of schooling and training to do what they do, and then they turn around and charge people upwards of $100/hour to design buildings that work for the clients now and in the future and pass building codes and accessibility codes and will stand up and not leak water and will be warm in the winter and cool in the summer and so on…shouldn’t the person who does all these things be coherent and literate as well? It’s not actually that much to ask that a person with five to six years of college be able to use the word “their” correctly and form a clear, concise email explaining to the owner why they need more money to continue working on their project. Cheezburgr language only gets you somewhere if you’re actually a cat.

So the first rule of good writing and spelling is to remember that Spell Check is not your friend, just an acquaintance. One of my English professor relatives has commented to me that she frequently starts letters with “Dear family and friends,” but her fast-typing hands will put down “Dear family and fiends” instead. Both “friends” and “fiends” are words in the English language, but they mean very different things as a salutation in a letter. Because this kind of mistake is easy to make, having someone glance over important emails and letters before they go out is important. That same English professor relative of mine calls this the “looking for your keys” phenomenon. At some point, you’ve likely turned the living room upside down looking for your keys for twenty minutes with no luck, only to have someone walk into the room and immediately lay hands on them where they hid in plain view. So having someone look at a written document you’ve been staring at for a while is handy, as they’ll catch obvious mistakes that are staring you in the face.

The “family/fiends” accident brings up a discussion of nuance in language. The words you choose to say and especially to write in the workplace have an effect and convey particular meanings, so select those words with care. The intent is always to be polite but direct, civil and clear. Let’s use an example of emailing all of your consultants that you need their specs on Thursday to put into the spec book for CDs. The obvious thing is to email everyone with a simple line: “Send me your spec sections on Thursday. Thanks.” Fair enough, but think about what you’ve left out.
What format did you want the specs in (Word, WordPerfect, Works, PDF)? Oh, Word? Okay, so now it’s “Send me your spec sections in Word on Thursday.”

Oh, but specs have a header and footer on them, and what should they say? Now it’s “Send me your spec sections in Word format on Thursday with the headers and footers we sent you last week, using Friday’s date as date of issuance.”

Better, but were you wanting to get them to the printer’s office on Thursday? And they have to be there by 4pm so he can print them by Friday, so you’ll need all the specs together a couple of hours before that to be safe. So now were at “Send me your spec sections in Word format by 2pm on Thursday with the headers and footers we sent you last week, using Friday’s date as date of issuance.”

Nice! But we’re still missing something. Can you guess what it is?

How about “please”?

It may seem a bit silly to use a word like “please” when you’re just asking people to do the job you’re paying them to do. But two things are at work here: the importance of nuance in language, and the lack of tone of voice in a written format. “Send me your specs” and “please send me your specs” have a slightly different tone, even though they convey the same information. You can call someone and say aloud the first phrase with a kind and friendly (but not fiendish!) tone, but this isn’t spoken language: it’s written.

So now, let’s take our sentence and break it into two sentences to give people a little break while they read: “Please send me your spec sections by 2pm on Thursday. Please use the headers and footers we sent out last week, using Friday’s date as the date of issuance.” Very nice and professional.

The reason that emoticons and abbreviations (LOL, ROTFL, etc.) were invented for the internet is because people needed a way to convey that tone and emotion in an informal written format. People can now write under a picture on a website, “how many clowns did for your dress, Margo?” and pop in the winking face and a “JK” afterwards so Margo knows that they’re kidding. But using humor in a written format that relies on tone of voice and nonverbal communication (gestures, expressions, etc.) is asking for trouble. If one person has a bad day or is already annoyed at getting an email from you may see that joke as a dig at them, or at the very least, you’re just being rude. Save that kind of humor for a phone call instead. (Note: many of my consultants have enjoyed working with me because of my snarky sense of humor, but I have to tone it down in emails. I frequently find myself backspacing and deleting a few lines in each email because I realize that the tone of the joke could be taken as an insult. Instead, I send out the email with just the facts, and then I tell the consultant(s) the joke when I call later. I get better results that way.)

Next time, we’ll dig further into language and how word choice helps or hurts us. In the meantime, if you have a question or comment or topic you’d like to see discussed here, please share it in the comments or email me at the address in the sidebar. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Literate Architect, Part 1 of 2

I’m taking a couple of weeks off from work (nice way to end a busy year), and I’m home visiting family. Many members of my family are teachers and professors, and it’s because of them that I’ve learned the importance of good, clear, correct writing. Good writing includes good grammar and spelling, of course, but it also involves having a solid vocabulary and an understanding of what those words mean. My teacher and professor relatives see spelling errors and incorrect word usage errors on a regular basis, so I thought I’d pass on a few word use and spelling errors that they see on a regular basis, in hopes that you won’t make the same mistakes. Bear in mind that many of these mistakes are not only written but spoken mistakes as well.

Irregardless. Let the record show that this is not even a word. Furthermore, it’s a double negative. “Regardless” means “despite” or “in spite of”, and “ir-“ is a prefix that means not, such as “irregular”. Hence, when you say “irregardless”, what you’re really saying is “regardful.” If you’re going to put out a set of drawings “irregardless” of what the civil engineer is doing, that actually means that you’re putting out that set of drawings with great regard to what the civil engineer has going on.

And whatnot/and stuff/and all that. These are filler words that have little place in clear writing and/or speaking. Be specific, not folksy and casual. Instead of “The civil engineer needs a survey by Thursday so he can do his drawings and whatnot by next Wednesday,” use “The civil engineer needs a survey by Thursday so he can do his drawings by next Wednesday” or “…his drawings and calculations by Wednesday.” According to linguists, a few filler words here and there are acceptable in common speech because we use them to buy us time as we formulate new sentences. A constant stream of filler words in spoken language indicates that we are either talking faster than we think (not a good idea) or that we don’t really know what we’re talking about or don’t have enough information (also not a good idea). Filler words are verboten in writing—you’ve got time to think about and say what you need to say, so filler words aren’t needed unless, again, you’re not thinking about what you write as you write it and reread it.

Homonyms. These are words that are spelled differently and have different meanings but sound the same. Common homonyms in the English language are: your/you’re, hear/here, there/their/they’re, bare/bear, hair/hare, to/too/two, where/wear, stair/stare. The reason I point these out is that Spell Check will not always pick these errors up, yet your sentence suddenly looks odd and makes no sense. Of course, native English speakers can figure out what you mean—even if we don’t know that they’re called “homonyms”, we know what they are. But as native English speakers, there’s no excuse for sending out business emails with the incorrect words used.

Nucular. It’s nuclear: pronounced “noo-KLEE-urr.” It doesn’t matter what your political preference is—just pronounce and spell it correctly, please.

Masonary. This is an error particular to my profession. I hear architects and even contractors and masonry reps use this word, but again it doesn’t exist. It’s not even an adjective, like the “masonary arts.” If you want to refer to something involving bricks and CMU and stone, the word is “masonry”, not “masonary.”

Next time, we’ll talk more about language and why nuance in language is important to architects. In the meantime, if you have a question or comment or topic you’d like to see discussed here, please share it in the comments or email me at the address in the sidebar. Thanks!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mandatory vacation and having work to do: side note

Some of you may find yourselves in an office where there aren't enough people to do the work. Perhaps you've survived one or more rounds of layoffs and must now pick up where two or even three people have left off. And now it's the end of the year and there's a lot to do and not a lot of time left, and maybe you even find yourself being forced to use the rest of your vacation...but there's still work left to be done. How can you take vacation when you're working all this overtime?

No matter what you decide to do in this situation, don't let your firm eat your vacation (especially if you're paid hourly), and don't work for free. Ever.

As a profession, we architects already don't charge enough for our services, and because we don't have a lot coming in, we don't have a lot to pass on to you, the people that do the work. When you work for free for your firm and give up your time and vacation to work, you've told your firm how much they can pay you to do the job. It's one thing to pitch in and/or take one for the team once in a while. It's another entirely to be told that you have to take vacation and then not be allowed to take it because of work itself.

Furthermore, it's against the ethical code laid out by the AIA that firms do not have volunteer labor. Interns working on billable work for clients as well as anything that contributes to the profitability of the firm must be paid for that time. When I have high school interns working in our office for high school credit, they are not allowed to work on actual projects. (And frankly, I don't want them to--I'm unwilling to trust complete novices with tasks that could cost me money if some high schooler messes them up.) By working for free on billable work, you put your firm in the position of doing something unethical and possibly illegal.

As always, let your manager know that you're having a problem taking your mandated vacation with your workload and ask them how they want you to handle it (again, if you can't take the time off, can you get it in cash?). If they make it absolutely clear that they want you to give up your owed vacation to do the work, you are completely within your rights to refuse, though it's up to you if you want to do so. I realize that with a few real jerks in charge, you may run the risk of being fired during a crappy job market. However, if there's an urgent job waiting to be done and s/he fires you on the spot for refusing to work for free, who exactly is going to step right in without any training and finish the job you're doing? At the very least, if you are clearly directed to do something unethical, you'll know that this particular workplace is not where you want to be for the long haul--get your resume ready for the moment the economy improves and you can take off like Usain Bolt.

Never, ever, ever work for free, and never vacation for free. Take your vacation, get it in cash, carry it over, whatever.

Note: I'm an architect, not a lawyer, so you may want to do some research on your rights as an employee and on vacation time in your state. And remember, if you'd like to discuss a topic or ask a question here on Intern 101, please let me know in the comments or drop me a line via email in the sidebar. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The strange situation of mandatory vacation

My apologies for the lack of posts lately--I've been up to my ears in deadlines on two projects. Not only is one of the deadlines for CDs, but I have to have things well wrapped up before next week, at which point I will be on mandatory vacation. The firm for which I work informed all of its employees that we all needed to take any unused vacation time by the end of this year, and the vacation time could not be used during an unpaid week between Christmas and New Year's. I had more than eight days' worth of vacation hours to burn, so I'm about to be out of the office for nearly three weeks.

Forced vacation is a strange thing. On the one hand, having time off and getting paid for it is fun. On the other hand, it's hard to take time off when there's still work to do, and frankly who likes to be told when to take vacation? I'll take it when I dang well please! After all, it's mine and I earned it, right? Here's the thing: you're lucky if you have vacation time, but if you do have it, they owe it to you. The first thing to know is that the U.S. in general does not require that employers provide vacation time off for its employees (think about it--how much vacation time did you get when you worked that food service job in high school?), so if you have vacation time, consider yourself lucky. Second, here in my adopted home state of Colorado, if an employer pays its employees vacation time but an employee can't take it, they are still owed it. (This is more of an HR issue--you'll need to research the laws in your own state further.)

Let's pause here for a moment to consider why a company would force you to take vacation. The first reason, especially at major holiday times like right now, is that there's not a lot to do in the office (and in design and construction in general), and they'd rather not try to scrap around to find you something to do. It's just easier on everyone if you take vacation. The second reason for mandatory vacation is that vacation time shows up on a company's balance sheet as a debt or a loss. If a firm goes into the next year (like 2010) with some of its employees not having used all their vacation time, that shows up as a debt that's still owed by the company. If the company needs to apply for a loan or a line of credit in order to keep functioning for a while (until clients pay them, until new work comes in, etc.), then the company's balance sheet needs to show as little debt as possible so that the creditors will loan them some cashola. No one wants to loan money to someone who has a bunch of debt already, right? The third reason is kinda creepy: if someone is laid off and they have unused vacation time accrued, the company owes them cash for that time. If you use it all up and then get laid off, no one owes you any extra cash then. And let's face it: if a company is laying you off, chances are they don't have a lot of money lying around to pay you the extra vacation time either.

If you have your resume, cover letter, and an abbreviated portfolio in good order, and you've saved up a little cash for your just-in-case fund, then the reason for the forced vacation ultimately doesn't matter. In today's economy, chances are it's the second reason that our company is forcing you to take time off. But let's go back to them owing you the time. If you've had deadline after deadline on billable work, and you're not going to be able to be off when they want you to be off, what's an intern to do? Present your case to your boss and ask him/her what to do. They may send you on to a higher-up manager or to HR. If you can't carry the hours over but can't take the time either, ask if you can have your owed vacation time as a cash sum, like a bonus check. It'll still be subject to taxes and retirement plans, but at least you'll be compensated and the books will be clear.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Different mentors for different reasons

Most recently, we talked about the mentor/mentee relationship between firms and interns. Before we delve further into this, an explanation is necessary regarding the official types of mentorship per IDP. There's the IDP supervisor and there's the mentor. These two roles are delineated more clearly in the IDP Guidelines found at NCARB's IDP website, but here's the short version. Your IDP supervisor is someone you work for and who provides you with daily tasks and monitors your professional progress. Meanwhile, your mentor is an advisor, sounding board, coach, reality check, etc. While your mentor must be licensed, s/he doesn't have to work with you and doesn't even have to be in the same state as you (though I imagine it would be more helpful if they were kinda close by).

It's the mentor part that we'll discuss here for now. While the IDP Guidelines indicate that you should decide on frequency of meetings and length of relationship and so on with your mentor, I'm not entirely convinced that that's necessary. Maybe it's the Gen Xer in me that bristles at this, but it feels awfully formal and stuffy to me. One can have a formal mentorship relationship if one wants, but an intern can get just as good of a mentorship experience just by talking to licensed professionals, asking them questions and advice, asking them to lunch or coffee occasionally and bouncing ideas off of them, and generally engaging in a mentor/mentee relationship without ever sitting down formally and agreeing on x, y, and z.

First off, having only one mentor, formal or not, means that you're only getting one person's point of view on the profession, and architecture is too expansive of a profession to only get one person's input. Having more than one mentor means you're benefiting from a larger pool of experience. For example, if you're wondering whether you should leave your present firm and take a chance elsewhere, I wouldn't be the person to ask, as I've only worked at one firm my entire life. However, if you're wondering how to deal with a cranky engineer or passive-aggressive coworker, I'm your gal (when I'm not designing buildings or working on Intern 101, I teach communication classes at an adult ed center). If you had a mentor that you worked with and then another that you don't work with, you can get two points of view on that passive-aggressive coworker's behavior, one or both of which may be valid.

Other than the formality of the mentorship thing, here's what else disturbs me about this process: according to the IDP Guidelines, the IDP supervisor is the one who certifies if all the info and experience you report on your experience report is correct, but the mentor is the one who signs your IDP reports. This makes no sense to me. The IDP supervisor should be the one who signs it because s/he knows what you've acquired experience in and what you've actually accomplished at work. The mentor's role is that of professional counselor; his/her input should enhance your experience, not be the final t-crosser and i-dotter. And because of the fluid nature of this profession, it's quite likely that your IDP supervisor will at times have to act as your mentor and give you suggestions on how to deal with some situation or suggest what you should work on next in your career, and your mentor will have to act as your supervisor and give you input on the best way to tackle a project. I know that the proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is overused, but it rather fits here: it takes a village to properly mentor an intern. It takes one or more IDP supervisors and mentors and lots of people in general, being available to answer questions and push an intern to get things done and be resourceful and provide feedback and support and sometimes just to listen. So while the IDP Guidelines have one way of setting up the internship development structure, I suggest that you feel free to experiment a bit with the mentorship part and find relationships that work best for you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How serious is your firm about mentoring? How serious are you?

A recent post about the state of the architectural profession prompted some good comments on how serious our profession is about mentoring its interns. The comments echoed the frustration of the lack of good direction for interns between the end of school and the end of the ARE and the lack of commitment from firms regarding intern mentorship. Even though NCARB and the AIA created IDP back in the 1970s to provide a structure for ensuring that interns learned what they needed in order to become well-rounded and qualified architects, not all firms and managers seemed to have absorbed the real point of it.

For example, I gained most of my Construction Administration hours while working for a manager who had terrible record-keeping skills and poor communication skills. It wasn't until I was into my fourth year as an intern that I truly learned how to put together a set of documents and learn how to run a project, and it wasn't until I was taking the ARE that I really learned how to do CA (hint: if your CDs are well done, CA is way easier). Internship requires quality and quantity of contact with good professionals in order to succeed. So while I met the amount of required hours for CA in IDP while working for my previous manager (quantity), I didn't necessarily get the kind of education and mentorship regarding my job that I needed.

Some firms out there do get it. They understand that mentoring and creating good interns is beneficial to their firm and indeed their profession. They understand that taking time with interns to show them the best way to do something and spending time regularly reviewing their work and just checking in with the intern makes a better employee that ultimately needs little supervision, just as taking the time to take care of your car regularly means it runs much better and more trouble-free for a long time, or taking the time to get regular exercise and eat healthy allows your body to have the occasional big meal and dessert without gaining weight and allows you to bounce back from illness more easily. Investing in interns makes for a healthy firm and profession. The firms that understand this will, by and large, remain with that firm longer and do good work, while the firms that believe "beating will continue until morale improves" will ultimately suffer.

Regardless of how committed your firm is to mentorship and aiding and guiding you along in your job and career, you have to meet them halfway. Just as employees are no longer as committed to companies as they used to be, neither are companies as committed to employees; hence, your best ally and spokesperson at your job--wherever that may be--is you. You will have to advocate, at least from time to time, for yourself and your career. It is not your firm's job to make you an awesome architect; you have to show some initiative and drive, critical thinking skills, and an ability to retain what you learn in order to be successful. Surprisingly, just getting your B.Arch or M.Arch does not show commitment to a firm. Remember, you can get that final diploma with a range of GPAs. To a certain extent, firms help those who help themselves, so you're going to have to show a firm that you're interested in learning as much as you can.

This means that you'll have to let people know that you need IDP credits in x, y, or z and is there an opportunity to get those hours anytime soon? One of the commentators on the aforementioned post described a situation in which s/he was accused by his/her firm of being more interested in getting IDP credits than in his/her productivity. I would find this situation to be amusing if it weren't for the fact that s/he was eventually fired. What, dare I ask, could be more productive than another licensed architect, or at least an intern with plenty of good experience in every aspect of architecture? Again, the firms that see the benefit need no explanation. However, the firms that don't get it (like the commentator's former firm) need to have it explained. When you make a request for this sort of thing, frame it in the service of the job. How does it help the project, the team, or the firm if you do this/research that/put together whatever? Perhaps you need to get some CA hours, and there is a pile of shop drawings and submittals on an architect's desk that need to be done. Offer to go through them and make the easy markups first and then offer to review them with the architect (or with another architect) once you're done. You can frame this by offering to take it off the architect's to-do list and allow them to do more pressing and high-level matters, like prepare for and go to a few meetings and then edit some specs. A phrase I found to be really useful while I was an intern (and even now) is "I know how busy you are; what can I take off your plate to help you out?"

On Thursday, we'll talk about different ways to mentor as well as the difference between an IDP supervisor and a mentor. In the meantime, if you have a question or would like to see a topic discussed here at Intern 101, feel free to post it in the comments or send me an email from the sidebar. Thanks!