Having spent a large fraction of our lives in school, it can be hard to imagine what qualities will be the most sought-after when transitioning into your professional career. Though the academic world builds key skills in innovation and presentation, the professional world is a much more complex entity with many more elements that come into play. So, how do you know what abilities are most sought after in new hires? This was the most popular question asked at this year’s University of Calgary EVDS Networking Event. As a result, it is the first question I would like to tackle in this Networking Event Series.
If you had to guess, what do you think are the most important qualities in new hires? Would you think that it is your ability to produce highly detailed building plans and sections? How about photorealistic renderings? Maybe you consistently develop the most innovative architectural ideas? These are all great skills to have, but it is the consensus of myself and my colleagues that these skills may not make or break your chances of getting hired.
You may be surprised to learn that the decision to hire is often made on a number of important personality traits. At least from the perspective of our firm, we look to hire someone with a certain level of charisma, intelligence, and team spirit. Of course your architectural skill comes to play, but keep in mind that the majority of graduates looking for work will also have those same skills. What is it about who you are that sets you apart?
Why is personality so important in architecture?
To begin with, on a fundamental level joining a firm means you are joining a team. The health of the office will depend upon the chemistry of all of the contributing members. The importance of the team extends to every detail of every project. From cooperation and innovation within the office, to engaging external members such as engineering consultants.
Your personality will also play a huge role when it comes to representing your firm to the client. How well can you communicate your ideas? How do you contribute to the atmosphere of meetings? Will you be someone that clients enjoy working with? You don’t need to be a stone cold architecture machine, feel free to share your personality a bit. Be engaging and confident, ask questions, and be genuine. Keep the mood light, yet professional.
Perhaps one of the most important things to remember is that who you are doesn’t start and end with architecture. Though architecture may often be described as a way of life, you likely still have other passions. Don’t be afraid to share those passions as well! You might be surprised to find that many other people in the firm can relate. These shared passions can turn into great friendships and methods for creating an even stronger team. When I first began my career my mind was focussed solely on architecture, but I quickly learned that being a part of this team meant participating in so many other activities as well. We do lunches together, pub nights, fitness classes, join sports teams, fundraising, sketch club, lectures, and even axe throwing! There is really no limit to the number of activities you will do together when the people you work with are not just your colleagues, but your friends.
How does all of this tie back into getting hired? Inject your personality into every step of your application process, from delivering your resume, to the interview. Whenever you interact with anyone, make sure you present yourself as a respectful, confident, and charismatic individual that is open to learning and also sharing your own knowledge. Smile! Create an atmopshere during your interview that is relaxed and comfortable. If you can even share some laughs, you’ve likely done a great job of connecting on a more personal level.
Some important things to remember are:
- Be genuine. Use your passions to fuel the energy you exude when applying and during your interview. Don’t feel like you have to hide who you are. You are not a robot!
- Personality traits like charisma and confidence are skills that can be exercised. If you feel you may lack these traits, not to worry! They are traits that can be practiced.
- Don’t forget that you should also assess whether a firm is a right fit for you. It isn’t all about what they want, what do you want? Does the atmosphere of the firm seem to vibe well with your personality?
- Don’t be a “yes person.” Don’t be so focussed on being likeable that you become too afraid to share your own perspective. Have a voice. If you disagree, respectfully share that! This is, again, an example of a skill that can be exercized. There is a careful balance between being overly argumentative and being timid, so don’t be afraid to figure out where that balance is.
The last tip I would like to share is what I do personally when I go for an interview. I imagine that the person I am meeting is a friend that I haven’t seen in a while. Imagine how you would treat your friend. You would likely be happy to see them and excited to have a conversation. You would probably feel comfortable and relaxed with your friend, so bring that energy into your interview.
I hope you find this post helpful. I would love to share more thoughts in the future on how to exercise various aspects of your personality, like your confidence or communication skills. In the meantime, continue to follow along in the Networking Event Series and if you have any further questions comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.