How Many Mistakes is an Architectural Intern allowed to Make?

You’re always put under a lot of pressure when you’re working in an environment which expects you to get things right all the time. Impossible in any case, it’s more so when you’ve only just graduated. Which was pretty much my case.

Being an Architectural Intern; every time I was given a project, I was very briefly talked through the details of the task. There were times in which I wished I had a tape recorder. It really was that hard.

When I didn’t fully comprehend the task, I’d ask questions. It was in the cases in which I didn’t that I was making mistakes. And I know that some of us don’t like to ask too many questions, because that would make them look incompetent or not fit for the task. But there really is no other way. Understanding the task is key, and if you don’t know what’s required from you in the first place … there’s no way you’ll deliver the task in an effective manner.

But the question that kept recurring in my mind was, how many mistakes am I allowed to make? Before … I’m expected not to … Well, it really depends on the kind of mistakes you’re making. The kind of mistakes I made were what results from inexperience in the field, or sometimes a misconception in the project variables. Needless to say, I made a lot of mistakes. But it never struck me as a problem till one day my Mentor looked across me in exasperation and said: “I want you to understand this right so you don’t make any mistakes.” I told him right away :”You know, the more mistakes I make the better I’ll become.” And he said “But I can’t see that. I can’t see the progress”.

That’s when I stopped for a second. It’s okay to make mistakes, even while it happens too often. As long as you know you’re not going to make the same mistake twice. I wondered if I had. And if I didn’t what prompted him to say something like that.

That was a turning point for me. I promised myself to try my best every time. The next day I bought a book about construction documentation online. It was a project I was working on at the time, and I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing. I went about and looked through the firms library. Grasping all the details I would’ve missed out. And I’m not going to say that I nailed things from that day on … but I showed persistence and a desire to do better. Which is essentially what any firm would want to see in Fresh Grads.

There is no limit to how many Mistakes you can make. Even experienced professionals make mistakes every now and then. But the real problem is when you haven’t documented your mistakes. When you’re not learning. That’s when you’re in trouble.

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