How to “Engage” Emerging Professionals 101

Recently, you may have heard about the AIA Repositioning effort.  One of its initiatives is to improve “engaging emerging professionals.” First and foremost, if you do not know what an emerging professional is, welcome to the club. According to the AIA, emerging professionals (EPs) are students, interns and the recently licensed architects in the first decade of practice.  To most architects, this equates to anyone they consider a potential employee. That said one of the biggest flaws with this mentality is that architects approach engagement with EPs as they would a job interview.  This is a missed opportunity to create a dialogue with someone an architect should consider their collaborative colleague albeit that that he or she is also their employee.

As such here are the do’s and don’ts on how architects should engage emerging professionals:

  • Do not ask about licensure unless the EP mentions it first. Some professionals do not intend on getting licensed and that is perfectly okay! Licensure is important to those on the path to becoming an architect but not everyone needs to be an architect to enjoy architecture. Do ask if they are enjoying what they are doing.
  • When talking to students, do not ask them how their studio project is going. You might as well be asking them how they are doing and then expecting a lengthy explanation of what ails them. What architects should ask is “what are you learning from this semester”.
  • Don’t ask the EP if they know Revit. That is equivalent to an EP asking an architect if they are still hand drafting! We exist in a time in the field where every 3-5 years major changes are made to either how someone is licensed or interns, what tools are used to design buildings, and what economic condition one enters into the field. Instead try asking them if they are getting the most from the tools they are using or from their work experience.
  • Don’t assume an EP knows about every event offered by the AIA just because they are on social media and connected to the Internet. The communication path sometimes skips telling EPs about important details regarding events or the process involved. Members of the AIA who have attended multiple events numerous times know what to do and what to expect; they might forget about this first time attending. Do invite EPs to events in person and offer to escort them and introduce them to others. Even offering to meet them and drive them to the event can reduce some nerves.
  • If an architect is looking at an EP as a potential employee or if they are just interested in what they are saying, don’t ask the EP to send you their resume, instead ask them to BRING you their resume and meet them at your office. Remember that inviting an EP to the office, even if it’s not for the purpose of employment, allows EPs to experience another atmosphere without leaving their current position.
  • The worst thing an architect can do is treat an EP like a child. Just because the term “emerging” is used does not mean that EPs have not already found their voice or already developed the knowledge of an architect. Mentorship is not parenthood! Do instill knowledge, help EPs when they ask, but never scold them for the paths they choose. They are adults, not children.

Of course, this process is a two way street. Emerging Professionals should always treat any professional with the same respect that they wish to receive and should follow through with any commitment that they extend. Furthermore, emerging professionals should also make the effort and engage licensed architects.

Emerging professionals should not be the focus of the AIA Repositioning. Rather, they just need to be included in these efforts and valued like any other member.

Jason Peist, Assoc. AIA
Regional Associate Director | New Jersey Region

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[email protected] | @AIANJRAD

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