Navigating a new career postgrad is something that no level of schooling can quite prepare you for. You’re now part of the hustle of a busy architecture office, saddled with new responsibilities and learning how to get into the flow of it all. From juggling a major client project for the first time to becoming a champion of your firm’s culture, knowing how to find balance and present your best self can be challenging. I’ve been there, and since starting at TVS I’ve developed four helpful habits to live by:
Align your goals with your firm’s goals.
Place your effort into working with a company that has goals you’d like to support and that you feel confident will, in return, support you in your goals. Aligning your goals with the company’s goals creates a foundation for future development both personally and within the company. This union can be difficult to find or develop but it’s a good way to ensure you’re set up for professional success. This doesn’t mean things will be easy or that the employees and firm leadership will always agree, however, it creates fertile ground upon which a relationship can be defined and cultivated. For example, if sustainability is one of your core values, it’s worth considering a firm committed to high-performance design. By embedding yourself within an organization aligned with your core values, harmony pervades through yourself, the company, and the work.
Keep it professional even in non-professional contexts.
After spending any length of time with a company, inevitably you’ll find yourself involved in activities that take place outside of the office. Many of these activities begin as in-office meetings that require professional discipline but can frequently end up as recreational activities often involving alcohol. It’s imperative to recognize that you have autonomy and demonstrate awareness of your circumstances and surroundings. Your reputation precedes you wherever you go, and you never get a second chance at a first impression.
All companies have different expectations for what’s considered acceptable. Knowing your company culture and being in alignment with that culture is the best way to ensure a continued long-term relationship. No one will tell you what you can and cannot do, and having a healthy awareness of the guidelines for expected public decorum within your company culture is a good way to manage yourself and your relationship with the company.
Yes is nothing without how.
Many recent graduates are tempted to take on everything in the hopes of finding their bearings within your office. Many people appreciate someone who’s able to step up and help with an urgent task, especially at the last minute. While this can be a good strategy for learning the ropes and potential advancement, it’s not always the best strategy for maintaining work-life balance long term. Saying “yes” to everything can easily lead to being overloaded, negatively impacting your quality of life and eventually leading to burnout.
If you want to say “yes” to something that’s not directly assigned from your supervisor, make sure what you’re already assigned is not being affected. Equally important because there’s a finite number of hours in a work week, before you say “yes”, first ask “how?” Talk through your current workload and show how your schedule is being impacted before taking on a new task. This is for the benefit of both yourself and the other parties involved. By centering the task around a schedule, it becomes easier to see how your time is being spent and how to properly align expectations to the potential task’s deadline. By asking how, you not only vet the assignment but also what it would take to deliver additional requirements. Everyone has a clearer understanding of what is to take place, when and why.
Talk with the people who work at and with your office.
Amid working to advance your personal and career development, it’s important to speak with people involved in your work, even if the relationship is only tangential. This could be anyone from an engineering consultant to a designer in a different studio. Within any firm, there are always opportunities to help create something new for the company, which in the process improves your own personal development. Leadership from different disciplines often see your capabilities being utilized differently from perhaps your direct supervisor. This creates an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary approach to ideas that can lead to places an individual may have not thought to go. The key to this is simply having a conversation over coffee or perhaps eating together –initiating opportunities for connection with someone from another studio or even saying a quick “hello” in passing can go a long way towards building new work relationships. It doesn’t have to start out as a formal thing.
In the end, it’s a process of discovery that allows us to synthesize our abilities and use them in unexpected ways. It doesn’t always work, but when it does work, we unlock potential not only within ourselves but within each other as well.
Ultimately, hitting the right stride in your first job after college is all about being a sponge. Listening well and observing carefully to what’s going on around you will help you adapt to your new work setting and allow you to make the most of your experience with your first firm. I’ll be sharing more about my experience as a new employee with TVS. Until next time…