Embracing the Freedom of a Multi-Faceted Architecture Career


Freedom is something we all strive for.

The kind of freedom we need and want is often a product of our environment. While one person may be searching for financial freedom, another might be looking for creative freedom. Others still throughout the world search for freedom from religious persecution and cultural intolerance.

What is Career Freedom?

But what does it mean to have freedom in your professional architecture career?

To me, building career freedom means that you have the opportunity to make the professional choices you want for yourself.

Career freedom is something I think we can each obtain within the profession of architecture.

Career Freedom is a Choice

Freedom inherently comes down to choice. Choice is a gift given to those who have broken down the barriers that prevent them from making a choice in the first place.

If you are destined to live a specific kind of life because of the circumstances given to you, choice is obtained by building yourself up to a place where all options become available to you.

Out of the gate, some of us have talents, while others have statuses that can help us get to a place of freedom. The trick is figuring out what each of us can do to obtain the assets we’re missing so that we can have more options to choose from.

My circumstances are unique to me, but that doesn’t mean that someone else without my experiences can’t close the gap on my career or that I can’t on someone who has the career I wish for.

Let’s talk about a few of the core values that can bring you closer to the career freedom you’re searching for.

Core Values of Career Freedom

From my own experience, I’ve found that career freedom comes from four primary traits within each of us that we can foster over time.

  1. Know Yourself

  2. Become an Expert

  3. Show Up

  4. Adapt to Change

Know Yourself

This is the first of the values that can help to establish your career freedom. It’s also likely the most difficult awareness for a majority of creatives to attain.

I remember thinking in High School, College, and even after College that I knew who I was. I was an Architect. I was an Architect captivated by the power of design, and quite simply, I was going to change the world through design.

Now, I know that sounds a bit outlandish, but it’s also not accurate to who I am today, 11 years out from graduating with my Bachelors Degree in Architecture.

The trick to knowing yourself is understanding that each of us inherently is the same from a given point on in our lives. I’m still technically the same person as I was in College, but experience has taught me some hard lessons. I’ve grown and evolved over time. My values, interests, and focus have meandered to other things.

That’s okay. We don’t have to be the exact version of the person we dream up when were a little kid or even a young adult.

We have to constantly check back with who we are today to build the future for the person we want to be tomorrow.

Knowing who we are and what we want is the only way we can set goals that align with the freedom we’re trying to reach.

Become an Expert

The next core value to pursue to become an expert in the profession.

You might be thinking, ‘Well, Mike, how does one actually do that?” Great question!

Unfortunately, there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of answer. That’s because you don’t just have to become a great Architect to achieve the freedom you’re searching for.

You could become a generalist practitioner who is well-versed in many different components of the profession, or you could specialize in a very niche area of the profession where few others venture.

That said, ‘Becoming an Expert,’ builds upon the first value, ‘Know Yourself.’ You should learn what makes you happy. What makes you want to jump up and out of bed each day?

Ultimately, the only way to know what we enjoy and who we are is by trying as many different things as we can. You don’t know, what you don’t know. The same goes for what you love. You can’t know what you’ll love until you’ve learned more about it.

I know a lot of very successful Architects who would much rather run their business than draw a single line on paper. I know many Architects who thrive on writing specifications and performing code reviews (Personally, not me, but I get it).

If you want to obtain freedom from your career, you need to master it. Master a skill or become the person in your office who everyone is compelled to ask questions of. Develop a fascination for construction technology or the newest software out there.

Truly do what you love. Learn all aspects of it, even if some things aren’t as interesting to you or as exciting or as sexy. Because in the end, you’re going to benefit from knowing all of the facets of this thing that you love doing. And if you’re doing that thing, the success might come. It might not come financially, but you’re gonna love what you do.
— Tony Hawk  (Skateboarding Legend, Videogame Hero)

Become the expert in something and you’ll not only learn more about what you love and what you don’t, but you’ll get better at a whole bunch of other skills along the way that will make you invaluable to your office.

Show Up

The next core value to foster is to ‘Show Up.’

Showing up isn’t necessarily about just existing or being on time. Showing up means building a framework of consistency in your daily life and investing in those around you.

I’ve found that the greatest way to create lasting change in my life is to do so methodically and slowly. That’s the kind consistency that will build you up over time until one day you wake up and realize how much you actually accomplished.

I used to think of my life as a series of ‘NOW’ moments when all I needed to do was focus and put my head down on a task or a goal until it was completely finished and then move onto the next. The cycle persisted until ultimately I burned myself out and had to re-evaluate everything.

Instead, I now pace myself because my ‘NOW’ moments have transformed themselves into methodical habits that I continue to check back in on, evaluate, tweak, and then keep moving.

Life is a journey in the sense that we’re all sort of moving in a forward momentum. If we understand that some tasks such as learning a new skill are part of a larger process in our lives rather than an immediate NEED, we’ll be more likely to both retain the skill and push ourselves farther over time.

The second part to ‘Showing Up’ is being present and sharing your knowledge with those around you. By sharing what you know and building professional relationships, you can begin to learn even more from the profession at large.

The Evolving Architect Blog is a great example of this. 

I’ve met hundreds of people just by writing down my thoughts about the profession. I try to teach everything I know so that the profession continues to thrive. In turn, I hopefully become a better Architect for it by learning how to communicate my ideas in ways that break me out of my natural comfort zone.

Career freedom comes from ‘Showing Up’ because showing up engages you actively in the world and builds your skills consistently over time.

Adapt to Change

The final core value on the path to career freedom is the ability to ‘Adapt to Change.’

We gain freedom from our careers as Architects by being able to read what may happen culturally, sociologically, ecologically, financially, and creatively in the world.

We’re not fortune-tellers, but many of us have worked through tough times. Those of us who remember such times can tell you that the thing that keeps you going is your ability to move with the changing tides.

I can’t tell you when the next recession will be in our global economy, but I can certainly tell you that there will be one. Systems like those naturally bounce back and forth between positive and negative gains.

What’s interesting is how diverse of a background an Architect is given with their experience in the profession. There are very successful Architects out there who have begun tech startups, developed physical products, become artists. 

It may have begun in Architecture, but it doesn’t have to end there.

Now, before you start yelling at your screen, ‘But, Mike, don’t tell everyone to leave the profession and run for the hills!’

This isn’t an article about THAT kind of freedom.

I simply mean to say that Architecture is inherently a creative endeavor that blends tangible technology with something more intangible. As Architects, we are the sculptors of space itself.

We gain freedom by doing what we’re best at - adapting to each new scenario. 

We embrace the flux and the chaos.

We try to tame it.

No matter how hard you try, no design situation will ever be quite the same as the last. If you apply the same logic to your own career, you’ll find that you are more than capable of rolling with the punches and pushing forward no matter what is thrown at you.

If you follow the first three core values in combination with your ability to adapt, you’ll become nearly unstoppable.

Final Thoughts

These core values have helped me to embrace a multi-faceted career in architecture. My career has been messy, quirky, clear, interesting, and fun. I’ve opened myself up to the possibilities in front of me and tasted as many flavors of the profession as I could.

Sometimes the best choice is to learn more about yourself and begin to search for what makes you happy. You’ll inevitably learn two things: 1. What you don’t like, and more importantly, 2. What you do.

I’m by no means done searching for what makes me happy in my career, but I certainly have obtained more freedom in the journey along the way.

Freedom is choice. 

Will you choose to embrace the freedom in your own career?

Did you enjoy this post? What’s one way you’ve created professional freedom in your own career? Let me know in the comments below!