Monday, January 16, 2012

On the other side of burnout

I posted at the end of 2010 about burnout, which was rampant during the recession and I'm sure is still happening in many workplaces, regardless of their field (architecture, construction, dentistry, accounting, what have you).  America is slowly coming out of the recession, but the recovery is happening unevenly.  The firm for which I work, for example, has managed to score some decent-sized projects and has a few in the pipeline (some we're sure about, some we're not), so we've been able to hire some new help in the past year.  (Not all firms in Colorado, where I live, have been so lucky, and some are still struggling.)  Some of the people we hired had been laid off in 2008 and 2009, and some are new people that were laid off from other firms.  Having said that, we're still not hiring by leaps and bounds.  

Some of the hesitation is due to trepidation: we're not sure that these projects are all going to come through and therefore be able to support a bunch of new staff; and if we did hire all those people and come up short, we're going to have to lay people off again, which gives our firm a bad reputation in town and just feels mean.  There's also the ulterior motive of getting back to solvency--the Great Recession was/is a lot bigger than anyone thought, so many firms went through all their savings and have even taken out loans to stay afloat.  As the work comes back, firms are trying to restock the coffers and pay off the loans, which sometimes means keeping staff levels the same and making the existing staff work more.  Sadly, some firms are using the economy as a reason/excuse not to give raises or bonuses even though the firm is clearly very busy and productive.  This reeks of Grade A Bullshit to me, and firms that do this will have to watch their best talent bounce on out the door once the economy recovers a little more (in 3-9 more months).  Good luck with that.

My own burnout has improved since fall of 2010, when I originally posted on the topic.  Because of the lack of staff, I ended up managing the largest project of my life.  I was able to use that experience to negotiate for a better raise along with my promotion.  (I have 11 1/2 years experience, licensed for 5, but i you're an intern with more than three years' experience and you've been doing lots of work above your experience level and pay grade for the past 6-12 months--and you've been doing it well--then I encourage you to negotiate for a raise.)  My promotion also means I finally get help--that is, staff--to help me with getting drawings and research done.  And while I've probably been working about 45 hrs/week this month, I'm working on things I really like and enjoy (though the deadlines have been hellish).  Working on the things I enjoy (and am good at) and having help with my tasks have helped with my burnout, for sure.  

So I'm curious about my Intern 101 readers--how are your energy levels?  How are things going now in 2012?  Let me know in the comments or via email in the sidebar.  And as always, let me know of questions or topics you'd like to see covered here on Intern 101.  


  1. I find that when I take care of the pennies, the dollars take care of themselves. How does this apply to architecture? Read on... :) For me, those pennies are my diet and exercise. When I get into a groove with those, I become extremely energetic with other things in my life - meaning my architecture, and everything else, really. See, am I a M. Arch student at Miami University getting ready to graduate this spring after completing my thesis. In 2004, I started my undergrad at University of Cincinnati studying architecture, and after graduation in 2009, went straight through to Miami. Was it the best idea for my mental well being and passion for architecture? Probably not. But realistically, the chances of getting a job were pretty slim, as that was in the heyday of the recession. So 8 and 1/2 years non stop in architecture school (with the exception of internships through UC's co-op program), and what's my energy level right now, headed into 2012? I am on fire right now. I could chalk it up to an added push towards graduation, possibly finishing my Rocky Mountain thesis, or my new diet and exercise routine, but in the past, it's always been the diet and exercise. However now, maybe it is a combination of the three. My suggestion to any architect facing a burnout right now is find something that challenges you, yet can be accomplished. Find something that compliments work but doesn't interfere with it. Maybe it is a different form of transportation in the morning, maybe its yoga on a roof top after work to decompress. We rely on our jobs for satisfaction too much, I think. So when it is not satisfying, we get burned. Get satisfied from somewhere else and let that satisfaction carry over into all aspects of life - work, family, relationships, goals, anything.

    Something I'd like to see covered, and I am a recent addition to your blog (it's great, btw) so I might have missed some earlier posts, are techniques and issues regarding the IDP programs in offices and how to make sure you're getting hours. Also, also anything on the topic of hiring would be awesome right now for someone like me! But nothing negative please, I'm already getting enough of that from the rejection letters and emails from the many jobs I've applied to! :)


  2. Hey, just wanted to let you know how hyped I am to find this blog. I just started as an intern and I'm trying to be the an incredible one. keep up the great work!