A Story I Thought I’d Never Tell
What to do when you lose your job. To be honest, I never thought I’d write an article on this topic.
I never thought I’d write about this but I just lost my job.
I just lost my job and the #ArchiTalks challenge this month was to write on the topic of “A Day In The Life.” My days are suddenly very different so it seemed to be an interesting fit.
Have you been following along with #ArchiTalks?
Here’s the format: every month someone (usually Bob Borson of Life of an Architect) throws out a topic and a dozen or more of us in the architectural profession wax poetic (more or less) on the subject. You can find a complete list of everyone participating in this month’s #ArchiTalks challenge at the end of this article.
Did you miss last month’s articles? My contribution was “Architects can Improve their Marketing by Incorporating Storytelling.”
I guess the reason that I never thought I’d write about what to do when you lose your job is because I’m a bit of an anomaly in our profession. I graduated from college in the early ‘90’s; in the midst of a recession.
Fast forward a little over 20 years and now we’re coming out of our second great recession in as many decades. Anyone in our profession that’s my age or older is painfully aware of that history.
Somehow over the course of all those years I never once lost my job. Through all the layoffs, and mergers and firms folding under the pressure of our failing economy many of our colleagues were out of work for some period of time. But I wasn’t … until now.
Have you ever been really sick; so sick that something happens in your ears to throw your equilibrium off? That’s what happened to me; my whole world started spinning.
Let me back up a week or two.
A couple Wednesdays earlier I, along with a couple colleagues attended the AIA Indiana / AIA Kentucky Convention. Over the course of three days we won an award for one of our projects, I gave a presentation on Architectural Storytelling and I worked … a lot.
We’ve all been there. We go to a convention or conference and spend as much time working as we do taking part in the convention. I even left the convention early to go back to the office to work some more. In fact, I drove 2 hours back to the office and worked until 10 o’clock on a Friday night because early the next morning I was supposed to board a plane with my family for a nice fall-break vacation.
It was a nice vacation; blue skies, blue water, white sand. Ahhhh …
The following Monday, like every other Monday morning I was in the office by 6:30 to wade through the 800 or so emails that landed in my Inbox while I was away. At 9:00 I was on a conference call with a Client and our firm’s Principal. We reviewed progress, covered a few design changes, agreed on the next round of deliverables and scheduled the next conference call. That’s a pretty typical Monday morning. Then I left the office for a couple site visits and a couple more meetings with contractors.
At 1:30 I was informed that my “position had been eliminated.”
Laid-off, fired, downsized, rightsized, I don’t care what you call it; the end result is the same … you are unemployed.
Suddenly, the day I returned from a nice vacation, the week after winning an award and speaking at our annual convention, I was just another guy wondering what you were supposed to do when you lose your job in Architecture.
My whole world was spinning.
What Are You Supposed To Do?
So what are you supposed to do when you lose your job? I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer that question but I’ve looked at my recently attained status as an opportunity to test and prove what I talk about all the time at Architect of the Internet … First ask ‘Why,’ formulate a plan, find a target, make online and offline connections and so on. It’s put up or shut up time; time to ‘prove it.’
For me, the ‘Why’ was rather obvious.
I hatched a plan that was designed partially to engage my network of friends and colleagues and partially to preserve my own sanity. The plan was pretty simple; have one cup of coffee with one person every day. Sounds easy enough right?
Honestly it is easy. In fact, I’m grateful to all the friends and colleagues that have graciously indulged me in my quest. I’ve had coffee with more than 35 people so far.
I’ve talked to people I see almost every day and I’ve shared a cup with people I’d never met. I even sat down with someone I worked with 17 years ago but hadn’t seen since. That turned out to be one of the most interesting and influential conversations.
I’ve left myself at the mercy of other’s schedules and preferences. After all, they’re busier than I am right?
Before I realized it, on one day in particular I had scheduled 5 meetings. On that day I re-defined the known bounds and effects of caffeine tremors. Someone asked me why I didn’t just switch to decaf.
If you’d like to follow along, search the #CoffeeADay on Instagram or Twitter for my ‘1 + 1 = HUSTLE’ images.
“What can I get started for you today Jeff?”
“I’d like my usual 2 shot espresso macchiato. Please make it dry. Oh, and can you make that decaf?” Really?!
But I digress. This is supposed to be a day in the life so here goes:
4:00 AM Get up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and check email.
Yes, 4 AM. I do this every day. I did it when I was working and I’m doing it now when I’m not. For me, it’s important to maintain my structure. It helps me continue to be productive.
5:00 AM Check Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
I do this every day too. After all, I write and speak about Social Media Marketing uniquely for Architects. I couldn’t possibly start my day without communicating through all my Social channels.
6:20 AM Take my son to school for Academic Bowl practice.
Why do kids start school so early these days? If you’re not familiar with it, think of Academic Bowl as team Jeopardy. These kids are REALLY smart!
7:00 AM Vote
Yes, it’s THAT day and it’s your civic duty. Go vote.
8:00 AM Met Vanessa, my neighbor and Owner of a local PR firm for coffee at Starbucks.
I don’t know Vanessa all that well but we run in overlapping circles. She has a lot of connections in the tourism and development worlds. She’s also really good at connecting dots in ways that aren’t necessarily obvious to everyone else.
9:30 AM Jump in the car and rush off to my next coffee appointment.
10:00 AM Met Ryan, a Communications Consultant for coffee at The Foundry.
Ryan and I have helped each other on a few initiatives over the years. He’s a ‘solopreneur,’ a good sounding board when it comes to the topic of developing a business niche and a virtual librarian of resources for those times when you’re asking yourself ‘what do I want to be when I grow up?’
11:05 AM Jump back in the car and rush off to my next coffee appointment.
11:30 AM Met Nancy, the Director of Community Partnerships at a local CDC for coffee and lunch at Duo’s.
Anybody that holds the title of Director of Community Partnerships is well connected. Nancy and I have served on Boards together and our hearts and minds are usually in similar places. If you need help with anything, anywhere, Nancy is a great resource for figuring out how to get it done.
12:55 PM Jump back in the car and rush off to my next coffee appointment.
1:30 PM Met Paul, the President of a national logistics-related manufacturing company for coffee at Calvin Fletcher’s Coffeehouse.
This is a tough one. Paul is a mile-a-minute kind of guy; the very embodiment of Ricochet Rabbit. I’m not. He’s tough to get ahold of and tough to talk to, but he really knows business. He knows how to start one, how to run one and how to sell your product.
2:40 PM Jump back in the car and rush off to pick my kids up from school.
4:00 PM Write a Facebook post entitled “Fifty-eighth Day of School Report:”
Every day of this school year I’ve written a story about what happened in school as relayed to me by one or both of my kids. Maybe you’ve read them. Some are humorous, some are poignant and I like to think that most are entertaining on some level.
5:30 PM Met Steven, my neighbor and Vice President of Marketing at a local Tech Company for a beer at Jockamo.
I know I said a coffee a day; this was beer but at least I ordered a coffee porter. That counts right? Steven has encouraged me in my writing and speaking for Architect of the Internet from the very beginning. He’s also a great mentor for growing Architect of the Internet into a full-fledged consultancy. Besides, after that much coffee you need the alcohol in the beer to bring your nerves back down to a near-normal state.
7:30 PM Go home and collapse after a hard day’s work.
So there you go; there’s a day in my life.
Is this the typical day for an Architect?
Is this the typical day for anyone?
Maybe; maybe not.
So what do you do when you lose your job in Architecture?
I’m still not sure I’m qualified to answer that question but I at least want to leave you with three takeaways from my Coffee A Day Initiative and my 5 meetings.
I never would have imagined that I would have been as busy (or busier) now than I was when I had a job. I’m writing, making connections, meeting new people, having conversations … and yes, having coffee. Am I getting paid for my work? Not yet. But I will … somehow … soon. Work hard at finding work.
You’re not going to find a job sitting at home in your pajamas. Get out, talk to people meet with people. They’re not going to be wearing a sign that says ‘Now Hiring.’ Even if they’re not an obvious sentinel along the path to a job have a conversation. There’s a lot better chance that that conversation will lead to something before uploading a resume on a job search website will.
Seek Diverse Viewpoints
Are there similarities between Vanessa’s and Ryan’s and Nancy’s and Paul’s and Steven’s positions? Yes. Are their personalities, skillsets, backgrounds, even industries the same? No. Were any of those five conversations like any other? No. Don’t seek out people that will tell you what you want to hear. Seek out people who will tell you what you need to know. You don’t need cheerleaders, you need trusted advisors.
The Rest Of The Story
What’s the rest of the story; where do I go from here? The truth is, I don’t know. Right now I’m fighting off the panic of “how am I going to pay my mortgage” and “how am I going to buy Christmas presents for my kids.” I’m doing more and more consulting under the Architect of the Internet banner while I write the script for the next act of “This Is My Life.”
Before long, I’ll publish the next chapter and let you all know where I’m headed from here. Until then, please stay tuned.
And, if you’d like to grab a cup of coffee let me know.
In the meantime, here’s a list of the other professionals that are stepping up and pushing us forward. Let’s see what’s exciting them:
Bob Borson at Life of an Architect (@bobborson): “A Day in the Life of an Architect”
Matthew Stanfield at FiELD 9 architecture (@FIELD9arch): “A Day in the Life of FiELD 9: architecture”
Marica McKeel at Studio MM (@ArchitectMM): “A Day in the Life of a Small Firm Residential Architect”
Lee Calisti at Think Architect (@leecalisti): “a day in the life … part 2”
Mark R. Lepage at Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect): “A Day in the Life of Mark R. LePage [Podcast]”
Evan Troxel at The Archispeak Podcast and TRXL (@etroxel): “A Day In My Life”
Lora Teagarden at L2 Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC): “A Day in the Life of: An Almost Architect”
Collier Ward at Thousand Story Studio (@collier1960): “A Day in the Life of an Architect”
Cormac Phalen at The Archispeak Podcast (@archispk & @archy_type): “Life in a Day of Panic”
Nicholas Renard at Cote Renard Architecture (@coterenard): “Another Day of Living the Dream”
Andrew Hawkins at Hawkins Architecture, Inc. (@hawkinsarch): “Day in the Life of a Small Firm Owner”
Jeremiah Russell at ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect): “a day in the life of a rogue architect”
Jes Stafford at Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect): “A Day in the Life of MODArchitect”