Its no fun being out of work right now. It stinks. But one thing it’s not is unfamiliar.
This time last year people were falling over each other to employ candidates in the construction industry, and developers like Godfrey Spanner were wondering where they would find the construction workers to build their next big project.
Even Radio 4’s Today programme is getting on the bandwagon asking an architect who has been made redundant how it feels. We all know how it feels – that really isn’t any help.
I’ve been challenged by R. Siriwardena to blog about the recession and it has got me thinking. There is another way to look at this – with the benefit of a few years of history to give perspective. Here’s why:
We’ve been here before.
Early last year we played a game in the office via email. It was called “What did you do in the Recession”. We circulated an email asking people to come up with the most outlandish thing they did whilst unable to get a job in architecture. The results, if a little flippant back then, were interesting.
During the Recession (circa 1992), I…
“Poured pints in ye olde bell and steelyard by night and mixed paint at Great Mills during the day……….happy days.”
“Just to make you all feel old I was at senior school in my third year in 1992.”
“Paper rounds count!”
“Ran the first year design studio at Liverpool Uni school of architecture and tried not to feel left out”
“Sorry …Indonesia not in a recession era at that time… I still enjoy my campus life. Never ever dream about moving to UK“
“I was made redundant & spent a whole year doing lots of different things until another architectural job came along, those included, fruit picking (& tractor driving!!!) on a farm, helping my dad doing topographical surveys, traffic surveying ie counting cars & lorries & interviewing drivers, leaflet distribution for an aerial photography company, driving an old geezer( Mr Hope, bless him) around Suffolk for £20 a day, dog sitting, drafting & archiving for my friend who’s a garden designer, cleaning second hand red bricks for resale & finally becoming a gardener for a large house in Suffolk – & after 15 years I’m still there at weekends!!!”
“…very boring: I was still in school, with 2 years to go to finish off with a-levels, suffering while doing intense latin afternoon classes as I wanted to study medicine later…..eventually changed my mind as you all know.“
“I’m not gonna bore u with everything I did that year, but that was the year I was getting ready 2 marry my first wife!!!! Shame she never really appreciated wot she had….”
“I think I was working weekends at The Three Shells cafe in ‘Saarfend-on-Sea’ for about £1.50 an hour. (I was only 14!)”
“The three shells??? Noooo wwaaaayyyy!!!”
“You slept, yeh? Some things don’t change.”
The first thing is that we forget how young our colleagues are! Some of the people I work with were unaware of the entire industry at the time. Others weren’t in the industry anyway.
But if you’re in your 40’s, 50’s and 60’s you probably remember what things were like between 1989 and 1994. We learned useful things then, like humility, perseverance and how to survive on the dole. I think we could surprise ourselves with stories about how we survived, what we did and where we ended up.
So I’d like to hear your stories, for those who are facing an uncertain future for the first time.
- Did you work in construction or a related industry during a recession?
- What happened – how did it feel to you?
- How did you manage the unexpected?
- What worked… and what didn’t?
- Where did you ‘end up?’ What did you lose, and gain?
- What practical advice and encouragement can you offer now?
By sharing these experiences with a view to helping others, we can pick out ideas which may prepare us for what is ahead. Lets hear them.