“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That fated question, asked much more frequently than I’d like, greets my ears when speaking to almost any and every adult. I suppose I should get used to it by now, I’ve been asked that same question since I was a Kindergartner, then again in high school when applying to college, and now – two years into my degree…and you would think I would have a well-crafted answer by now. Well – it’s a work in progress.
I found myself posing this question to the twenty-six middle school students visiting the SHP Leading Design office, who were hoping to tackle this conundrum for themselves as young participants in the Junior Achievement program at their school. These bright-eyed, eager students have an inkling of what they’d like to pursue for their career path – some aspire to be engineers or architects, others, artists or musicians, while others hope to be firefighters or astronauts. Yet, what most eighth graders don’t consider when planning their futures is the environment in which they wish to work. Surely, if you want to be a marine biologist – you don’t want to spend much time on land or else you would have chosen to be a mailman. Or if you want to be a doctor, you better like walking through hallways with a facial mask on and talk to patients with contagious diseases. There’s that environmental consideration, but what about the work-life culture? Yes, that type of environment. For the eighth graders that visited our offices, this was their first time getting a taste of “office life,” but also of a unique work-life culture that revolves around our mission to “joyfully enrich the lives of others through service and design.”
The concept of work-life culture may not immediately come to the mind of every thirteen year-old dreaming up their ideal career. Heck, I doubt most twenty-three or fifty-three year-olds take into serious consideration their ideal work-life culture. However, I have realized just how important this is during my first co-op rotation at SHP. After talking with my friends at different companies around the city and state, I found that their perspective of their position positively correlates with the work-life culture at each of their companies. That’s common sense, right? It only seems logical that you would be more productive, happy, and ultimately, successful if you enjoy where you work and with whom you spend your every Monday through Friday, 8-5. Yes, it is seemingly simple, but by no means does that type of atmosphere evolve overnight.
What those eighth-graders and even, we, as working adults have to remember is the importance of teamwork. SHP’s teamwork is the glue of our unique work-life culture and collaboration between departments that enables us to constantly identify new opportunities and improve the design process. The fun we have at SHP, from office lunches to our spring softball league, translates into our work and understanding of our clients, which is still very much a team effort.
So as I consider my own career path and the career paths of twenty-six eighth graders who spent their day at SHP, I realize that maybe the question isn’t necessarily what will you do, but rather, how will you go about doing it? The impact that SHP makes as a design firm is focused on the latter, which I believe makes all the difference.