One the best parts of our Professional Practices in Landscape Architecture course is the opportunity to talk with professionals and academics in multiple facets of the landscape architecture field. On February 2nd we had the chance to talk with several principals and associates from the Ohio based firm MKSK. Although we spend much of the time looking over and discussing the firm’s lengthy list of built and in-progress projects, the topic that I personally found most interesting was “What are traits you look for in your new hires?” This is something that is on the back of every grad student’s mind from day one of grad school. What are employers looking for? How do I make myself more marketable in an ever-increasingly competitive profession?
The associates at MKSK mentioned two key criteria they look for: communication and public speaking; and being proactive. Both broad and overarching categories, these two skills are key to success in competitive design disciplines. More specifically, MKSK’s associates said they are looking for someone who can “read the room instantly” and “understand and react to feedback appropriately,” both key to working in professions that are as client driven as landscape architecture. As for proactive, MKSK is looking associates who are willing to dig in and find projects that are potential good fits for the firm as well as eagerly responding to inquiries from potential clients.
One characteristic that I think could be added to this list, in relation to working with clients (and likely never said out loud in an interview), is the ability to say ‘no’. Being proactive and looking for work is a key skill, but knowing when a job is not a good fit and being able to say so to the client in a respectful way is also a powerful tool to have that will likely keep you from digging yourself into a deep hole.