How This Architect Started Working Less and Earning More: Stephanie’s Story

How This Architect Started Working Less and Earning More: Stephanie's Story

The pressure in Stephanie’s professional life was mounting in her role as an associate architect at a firm in Providence, RI. In her 32-hour position, she needed to join a lot of client calls and the work was unpredictable, leading to a lot of stress.

She needed to transition into a different role, and wanted to bring in a higher salary for her family, but was afraid that she would need to work longer hours to earn more money.

Stephanie also thought that in general, architects aren’t paid particularly well. 

“In our firm, I think all of the salaries were capped, and it’s hard for me to know exactly what the partners were making and what they were bringing in besides their salary,” she says. “I think their salaries were kind of artificially low, but then they brought in a lot more on top of that. So I just felt like there were other people who are 10 years ahead of me, and they’re not making that much more than I was. So maybe that’s the best I can do where I am right now.”

The most important thing was regaining better work-life balance.

“That was really important because as a mother, you want a little extra time, but I also have a ton of doctor’s appointments that not a lot of people have. So I have to fit that into my schedule somehow and working ‘not quite full time’ is how I can do that. I also wanted to have time to go to the gym or have time to cook or something. It’s kind of like creating space for myself.” 

Her hours at her firm – 80% of full-time, or 32 hours a week – gave her some breathing room, but since she was also earning 80% of a full-time salary, she wasn’t making enough money.

“I felt like I could find something that pays better,” she says.

Prioritizing work-life balance

Maya’s coaching helped Stephanie pinpoint her most important priorities so she could move into her job hunt.

Stephanie says, “I was pretty steadfast in saying, ‘I’m not interested in traveling. I don’t want to commute to Boston.’ I wasn’t looking for other architecture positions in other firms. I was looking for research positions or architecture firms that have research components. I didn’t want to transfer to a similar job somewhere else. I was looking for job positions that I felt could meet those quality of life goals.”

Instead of shooting for a leadership role in a top 50 architecture firm, Stephanie figured out that she could seek out a position that fit with what she wanted her life to look like. 

“During the program, I learned how to highlight the things in my career that I was most excited about….it helped me open the career search to positions that could offer a better quality of life.”

Throughout the program, Stephanie also got support from other women who were struggling with many of the same issues in their careers. 

“Some of us continued to meet afterwards, either weekly or monthly. And that was really interesting, to hear that we were basically all going through the same thing, like either in our mind, or actually like in the office, even though we were in different states, different points of our career, different titles or positions. It was so strange how we had mirrored experiences.”

Shaking off a scarcity mindset

Stephanie started her job hunt, and got introduced to a recruiter after she’d already had several interviews. She was open to the idea of switching jobs, but because of Maya’s coaching and what she learned in the program, Stephanie was very firm about what she needed in a new role at a different company.

Maya’s program also freed her from having a scarcity mindset. During job interviews, adopting an attitude of abundance gave her an enormous amount of bargaining power, which dramatically shifted the dynamic of her negotiations. 

One recruiter who was interviewing her for a specific position told Stephanie she would need to work exclusively in the office in order to land the job. Stephanie stated that wouldn’t work for her.

“I have an 18-month-old, we’re in the middle of COVID, and I’m a cancer survivor. I don’t really want to be in the office a ton.”

“I felt like Maya’s program just gave me a lot of confidence in being able to negotiate and stick to what I believed in. And not having a scarcity mindset. I felt like I was in a job where I liked it and could work from home all the time. I could make it work with my lifestyle, but I wasn’t getting paid enough. But I can stick it out for a little bit until I find what I really want.”

Even though it wasn’t what her eventual employer first offered, she also negotiated for two days in the office and two days at home (for a 4-day-a-week role), as well as an additional week of paid time off. 

Earning more while lowering stress levels

Now Stephanie is working at a small design build company in Providence, Rhode Island that handles small residential additions and renovations. She is in charge of a division that includes a few junior designers, an interior finishes selections coordinator, and a cost estimator.

She works 32 hours a week – half in the office, and half at home – and is now making 50% more money than she made in her previous job. 

“It’s a lot more money. And I felt like it would just be a less stressful position. There are no public presentations, no last-minute, big client calls. Everything is really planned out. It’s pretty predictable. It just feels like a lot less pressure.” 

“I feel like I was in a hole, where I knew people were making a lot better money, but I didn’t realize it was attainable for me.”

Now Stephanie knows that when you get clear on what you want, it is possible to earn more money without having to work longer hours, take on more responsibilities, or raise your stress levels.

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    Hi I'm Maya

    Mia Scharphie , career coach, headshot

    I’m a career coach and strategist with a secret power (I mean, past career) as a designer. I love road trips, graphic novels and helping people like you design the career you love on your own terms.