One of the biggest concerns for prospective students heading into architecture school is what will happen when they come out. Most are worried about finding jobs, getting started in a meaningful way, and paying off the student debt they just accumulated. But what if the best way to start a job is not to get it, but to make it?
William Deresiewicz of the New York Times recently dubbed those currently in college — the Millennials — as The Entrepreneurial Generation. He writes, "Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration — music, food, good works, what have you — is expressed in those terms. Call it Generation Sell." He argues this is not done for its own money-making purpose and it's not driven by ego, but rather is a way to develop "social entrepreneurship — companies that try to make money responsibly, then give it all away."
Less a new trend than an old tradition, many architecture majors say they want to some day hang out their own shingle as a sole practitioner architect or in partnership. And though fewer of these hopefuls may succeed now than in the past because times are different, many may find themselves starting businesses that expand the narrower definition of "architect."
What makes this generation ripe for success is that it defines success differently, with lower expectations for profit and higher ones for personal satisfaction. Millennials are more flexible and open in how they imagine their enterprises. So rather than striving to burst out as an international star doing only high-end architecture with a large support staff, they're more likely to see where they can fit into demand through more a traditional architectural, urban, graphic, or digital work or to find others who complement their abilities to join with them. They may begin non-profits or be happy to stay at a smaller scale, balancing architecture practice with teaching, writing, or other work that provides supplemental income. They see the social purpose in their talents and aim to do good work, support important projects, and get paid a living wage. Their goals are grounded less in idealism and more in optimism.
Architecture education emphasizes creativity, focus, socialization, project management, and a certain amount of risk taking, qualities that also prime a good entrepreneur.