Finding meaningful work is about asking complex questions rather than coming up with easy answers.
I spent years denying my millennial status. Even as I type this, it feels like an apology. Maybe this is because the only words that seemed to be associated with my generation for a long time were negative—“spoiled”, “entitled”, “lazy”, “co-dependent”, “naïve”—and my spoiled, naïve self couldn’t take the criticism. Maybe it’s because the generational cut-off technically started in 1982, so the first millennials were appearing while I was in utero.
For years, Austin has been known as the "Live Music Capital of the World." Willie Nelson statues adorn the streets, over 2,000 bands perform at the annual SXSW Music Festival, and local musicians serenade you while you’re in downward dog. While this motto absolutely represents the Texas capital, some of us are working to establish a second global identity: one that symbolizes entrepreneurship, purpose, and creativity.
I remember the experience of applying for jobs after graduating from college. It was the summer of 2002 and I had just relocated from Minneapolis to Washington, D.C. I had earned a B.A. in International Relations and while I could wax poetic about Critical Constructivist Theory, none of my college classes taught me to write a clear and concise resume, the importance of networking, or prepared me for a conducting a job search. I relied on the advice and proofreading abilities of my parents and older sibling. Within three months of sending out resumes and leaving messages for employers, I was called in to interview for an entry-level position with an international non-profit organization. My father’s networking, on my behalf, paid-off: his colleague had a friend in a senior level position at the organization. I was hired (and was so relieved).
One day, in her English class at East River Academy, a school for incarcerated youth on Riker's Island, Jordyn Lexton had her students read Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem (A Dream Deferred)." After the group discussion, one student asked if he could be an architect someday. She told him yes. Another student shouted, "Hell no! No disrespect, Miss, but you’re selling dreams."
Like many who read GOOD, I’ve been fascinated by the explosion of design projects that explicitly work toward positive social impact. I saw this rise of so-called "social impact design" firsthand as development manager at Public Architecture, where I built programs, wrote grants, and contributed to books highlighting this work. But now that I'm back in school working toward a masters of architecture, I've realized that there are precious few opportunities to actually build a career around social impact design.