This piece was written by Pamela Anderson-Brulé, FAIA, President and Co-Founder of Anderson Brulé Architects, and originally published on WIASCV.org.
I believe that career and promotion planning must be an equal responsibility for an employee and employer. There must be a proactive and positive development plan to grow and expand an individual’s skills and responsibilities, and that growth must include market appropriate salary increases.
Many architects, and especially women, treat this very important process with a passive, wait and see, “I hope they notice my value”, “I am sure I am not worthy” methodology.
If you do not recognize your value, neither will your employer. If you do not have self-confidence, you will not garner confidence from them. If you do not bother to do appropriate market-based research on your skills, responsibilities and salary ranges within our industry, and yet complain that you are not equally paid, then you are not fighting for the very equity that women are working so hard to achieve.
Your Role and Responsibility
Understanding your skills and responsibilities is a proactive, highly engaged, rigorous process that you must jump into with both feet. This is not about being aggressive or demanding — this is about designing your long-term career plan in a creative, organized, goal and time-based way.
Write down your career plan. Review it regularly (or at least quarterly). This requires interactive and proactive communication. You must acknowledge that you are in a state of learning and not just a state of doing. Ask yourself:
1. ARE MY DAILY TASKS AND ACTIVITIES COLLECTIVELY TAKING ME TO THE NEXT STEP IN MY CAREER PLAN?
You should not design your career plan in a bubble of predetermined expectations. Your career plan needs to support and align to your firm’s long-term strategic plan. Remember, you are employed to provide value to your firm.
Understand that your relationship with your firm is a business proposition. The value, skills and role that you play, need to bring deliberate and increased value to the firm and to you. This would suggest that you need to understand your firm’s long-term strategic plan. Ask yourself:
2. WHAT IS THE FIRM TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH OVER THE NEXT THREE YEARS?
3. WHERE ARE THE GAPS IN ACHIEVING THESE GOALS?
4. WHERE CAN I FIT INTO SUPPORTING, GUIDING, OR LEADING EFFORTS THAT SPECIFICALLY ADVANCE THE FIRM’S VISION, MISSION, OR STRATEGIC GOALS?
We are all very involved in our lives and work, and we have limited time. How we spend our time in building a career plan that specifically supports both firm and employee, is very important. Ask yourself:
5. CAN I CREATE A LIFE PLAN AND A CAREER PLAN THAT WORK TOGETHER?
6. IS THERE A WAY TO ALIGN PERSONAL GOALS WITH FIRM GOALS?
For instance, can volunteer work help you learn leadership skills or engage you with a network that might support future work for your firm?
Rather than designing your personal time to conflict with your work, create synergy between your worlds. Ask yourself:
7. COULD I BECOME A DEDICATED SUPPORTER OF MY CHILD’S EDUCATION AND SCHOOL, WHILE BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER PARENTS OR THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION?
8. COULD I UNDERSTAND THE SCHOOL’S NEEDS FOR FUTURE FACILITIES, JOIN A COMMITTEE AND LEARN TO LEAD A TEAM?
9. COULD I INTRODUCE MY FIRM TO THE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS AND BECOME THE ARCHITECT FOR THEIR PROJECT?
10. IS THERE A WAY TO WEAVE MY LIFE, INTERESTS, AND PASSIONS TOGETHER IN AN ECO-SYSTEM OF SYNERGISTIC ACTIVITIES THAT FEED GROWTH AND POSITIVE OUTCOMES TO EVERYTHING WITHIN MY WORLD?
To a great extent, if you conscientiously and proactively seek these opportunities, the answer can be yes.
Your Employer’s Role
Now, let us focus on what you can and should expect of your firm. Set reasonable expectations for your employer and the firm leaders in relationship to supporting your career, promotion plan and progress.
You need to make sure that your firm has created a value-based proposition for all their employees. If they are not vocalizing their vision, mission, and long-term goals, it will be very difficult to create alignment. In some firms, strategic goals are discussed only with a small leadership group and you may not have immediate knowledge.
The best thing to do in this case is ask. Invite a firm principal to lunch or a short meeting. Express your desire to understand the firm’s business objective better so that you can more clearly align your career plan to their objectives. Ask where they see gaps in their ability to achieve their goals. It may be…
- THEY HAVE AN ISSUE OF NEEDING MORE EMPLOYEES AT A CERTAIN LEVEL – THE FIRM MAY NEED MORE JOB CAPTAINS. HOW CAN YOU USE YOUR NETWORK TO HELP FIND AN EXCELLENT CANDIDATE?
- THEY MAY NEED TO BUILD A STRONGER PROGRAM IN SUSTAINABILITY – COULD YOU LEAD A FIRM INITIATIVE TO IDENTIFY STAFF SKILLS AND INTERESTS, AND CREATE A PLAN OF ACTION?
- THEY ARE CONCERNED WITH A FUTURE MARKET POSITION OR TO UNDERSTAND AN INDUSTRY TREND – COULD YOU DO RESEARCH AND PROVIDE INSIGHT?
If your firm leaders do not have a long-term strategic plan, or are not willing to have a meeting with you to discuss it, then you need to ask yourself, “How can I align my career plan with an organization that either does not have one or is unwilling to share it with their employees?”
In other words, you should suggest you will help lead their strategic planning effort (or run)!
Research and Plan
It is my strong belief that prior to accepting employment with any firm, you should seek an understanding of that firm’s strategic direction.
Learn how your prospective employer communicates and articulates their strategic direction, how the firm’s development is aligned with staff development, and what steps and processes they take to support each employee’s development and advancement.
Ask your potential employer:
- WHAT ARE THE PROCESSES AND STEPS THEY USE TO DETERMINE SALARY AND PROMOTION?
- WHAT ACCESS DO THEY HAVE TO SUPPORT LICENSURE, EDUCATION AND LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT?
- HOW DO THEY WORK WITH THEIR EMPLOYEES TO PROMOTE AND SUPPORT CAREER PLANNING?
It is best to start your career plan with the knowledge that you are in a firm that will be your partner in your success!