Contract - April 2013 - (Page 34)
PhoTo couRTEsy RIchARD PollAck
How Young Practitioners Can Present Themselves As Leaders
by Richard N. Pollack, FAIA, FIIDA
Richard N. Pollack, FAIA, FIIDA, writes a regular column for
Contract on business practices in design and professional
development. This month, he focuses on how emerging
professionals can develop as leaders within their firms and the
One of the marks of success for the architecture firm I founded was a
focus on marketing, business development, and yes, sales. Marketing
and business development are traditionally the words we use when we
mean sales but don’t like to say the term sales. In any case, selling is
what designers do not only when trying to secure new project work for
the firm or presenting design ideas to a client, but also when young
practitioners are working to advance themselves within a firm.
First, a bit of perspective based on my experience. As a young
practitioner in New York, and then San Francisco, I joined the AIA and
Institute of Business Designers (IBD, now IIDA) and was attending their
local meetings. I did that primarily to be in a milieu to meet other
designers and to learn about components of the profession that were
not part of my daily project work. After each association meeting, I
would write a summary of the presentations and notable professionals
in attendance and distribute it within the firm. Because the firm I was
working for granted me the time to attend, and sometimes paid for a
portion or all of my membership, I felt that I should share the
information. I continued to do that throughout my career.
I didn’t do this—get involved or inform my colleagues about the
events—with the intent of ingratiating myself with managers and
principals to get raises or better jobs. I simply thought it was
appropriate to do, and in hindsight it certainly helped my professional
advancement. The firm’s leadership recognized my efforts, and they
were subsequently more willing to give me added responsibilities and
compensation. In fact, I was selling and promoting myself in a
non-pushy, non-aggressive style within the firm without necessarily
requiring a personal upside. Looking back now, it’s clear that this was
the onset of my progression into management and then leadership.
Learning from colleagues, completing good design work, and
improving one’s professional efforts are certainly vital to future success,
but one also needs to be visible to leadership: that’s selling yourself.
This means finding appropriate and comfortable approaches that will
lead to your progression in the firm. Here are several strategies and
tactics to help young practitioners bypass my decades of unplanned
growth within firms.
1. Becoming active in professional associations
Becoming active in AIA, IIDA, ASID, or related organizations of interest
allows you to be visible to leadership, and the sharing of information
about the profession will be of benefit to your firm and colleagues. An
important component of this, though, is to not only join but to be active
in the organization.
2. Volunteer in community organizations
Two organizations—Architecture for Humanity and Habitat for
Humanity—for example, are nonprofits that benefit many communities.
As you get involved, be sure to recruit colleagues at your firm to
participate. You could get your firm to potentially sponsor an event, or
at least support you and your colleagues’ minimal office time
involvement. Share photos or videos from the event at an office
function or on the firm’s social media platforms.
3. Put in extra effort
Even with IIDA’s Student Mentoring or AIA’s Intern Development
Program, a young practitioner may not be exposed to various aspects
of professional practice needed for advancement. Ask your managers
or senior colleagues to mentor in areas of interest that are not part of
your project work. Admitting a lack of knowledge and asking for
mentoring is part of professional growth, and you can then develop a
new or improved skill and then promote that development.
4. Propose and organize professional extra-curricular activities
Too many firms do not have regularly scheduled design crits or
discussions. If this describes your firm, propose the idea to your firm’s
leadership, and perhaps take the lead to develop a business plan for
such activities. This, again, demonstrates your leadership to the firm.
You can easily see how efforts beyond your day-to-day tasks will
make firm management and leadership more aware of your
contributions, which will help you sell yourself up the responsibility and
compensation ladder. Good luck!
Richard Pollack is the cEo of san Francisco–based Pollack
consulting, which supports firm growth and success through
improved business development, winning presentation techniques,
recruitment of top talent, business coaching, and ownership
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - April 2013
Contract - April 2013
Columnist: How Young Practitioners Can Present Themselves As Leaders
Product Focus: Rugs the Right Way
Product Focus: Sitting Pretty
Product Focus: Basking in the Sun
Product Briefs: Hospitality
Designers Select: Hospitality
Contract - April 2013