No matter where you are located in the world, you may find yourself weathering an economic recession at some point. A recession can undoubtedly be a scary time and the ugly truth is the affected region may, or may not recover. Ultimately, relocating for your career might be your only option, but it doesn’t have to be your first option.
I bring this up because the city that I call home is currently in the midst of quite a severe economic downturn. Our primary industry, oil and gas, has been hit hard. Of course as these things go when your primary industry is hit, slowly but surely every other industry begins to suffer as well.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have graduated when I did, just slightly before things started to get bad. For that reason, I was able to find work right away. I know that students graduating now from architecture may not have that same luxury. In fact, I know as the recession continues employment may become very uncertain for everyone.
Alright, now enough with all of the doom and gloom. Sure, times are hard, but there are a lot of ways we can create opportunities for ourselves. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on that with you here today:
Let me start by saying: I have seen people that have been hired during this recession. There is hope! There may not be as much action as one would typically like, but there is still action. So the first step is believing that and pushing forward with the intent of starting your career. The worst thing you can do is give up mentally. If you have already decided that you won’t be able to find work, that will likely impact all aspects of your job hunt: from creating your portfolio, to the energy you exude in your interview.
A recession is a test in perseverance and endurance. Something that I tell myself and that I hope will help you too is: if things don’t go as planned, take in all that can be learned and press forward. These are times to build character, to become inspired, and to innovate.
It could take a while before you land your ideal position. You may need to pursue other options in the meantime. If you are able to find something related to architecture, look at that as an opportunity to gain unique experience. Don’t lose sight of the fact that every opportunity will enrich you as a professional in some way. Also remember that architecture has a very broad scope. You can find a link between architecture and so many other fields… business, real estate and development, planning or policy making, art, graphic or fashion design, web design or coding, engineering, construction, social programs like those tackling the issue of homelessness, or scientific research surrounding building science or human existence within ecosystems…
To delve deeper into innovation, no matter what your day job is, you should still exercise your creativity on a daily basis. Use your spare time to submit work to architectural competitions. Not only will competitions act to exercise your architectural skills, but you can include the submissions in your portfolio, and you might even win some extra cash. On top of competitions, use your graphic design and software skills to get involved with online business, or even take things a step further and experiment with various aspects of entrepreneurship. Don’t take your degree in architecture for granted, there are countless ways it can be used outside of a firm.
I have emphasized before just how important networking is. This advice couldn’t me more true than during a recession. If you haven’t been building your network until this point, it’s time to hit the ground running. Research what events might be happening around your area, like design awards or public lectures. Also, keep in touch with your friends from school. Some may find work or hear of leads that they might be able to pass on to you, and vice versa. When it comes down to it, in tough times like these you are going to have to reach out to your contacts. Now is not the time to be timid, have some confidence and get out there. Opportunities are not likely to just fall in to your lap, you have to make them happen.
We have established that complete relocation may not be an option for you immediately, however you could consider doing a short term work or volunteering program in another location. If that is something that interests you, then do some research and make it happen. It could mean picking up a couple of jobs for a few months, so that you can afford to travel and participate in groups such as Habitat for Humanity, or Architects without Borders.
There you have just a few ways you can create opportunities for yourself during a recession. Though we all have our sights set on working in a firm, you may just have to get innovative in the interim. What other strategies can you think of for creating opportunities for yourself when economic times are tough?