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Learning from the Future Leaders: top tips about how to succeed

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Playing to your strengths and the problem of perfectionism were among the topics discussed by architects Ben Adams, Karen Cook and Carl Turner, and AJ careers coach Matthew Turner at this week’s AJ100 Future Leaders seminar

Sponsored by Aliva, the event on Tuesday (17 May) at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios in London saw an expert panel sharing management and negotiating tips for architects who are looking to advance their careers.

Adams, founding director of Ben Adams Architects, advised that architects starting out on their own need to have a ‘thesis’ – a distinct intellectual position and approach, that marks them out from their competitors.

Karen Cook, founding partner of PLP Architecture, noted that perfection is never achieved – and architects need to ‘recognise the moment when continuing to make improvements is harmful’.

She added that: ‘Success has to be defined by you – it can be fleeting, so you need to build this into your goals so you are working to meaningful objectives.’

Carl Turner, founder of Carl Turner Architects, talked about the importance of ‘failing early/failing cheap’ i.e. experimenting at the small scale.

AJ100 Future Leaders event May 2016 sponsored by Avila  95

AJ100 Future Leaders event May 2016 sponsored by Avila 95

He had a useful checklist of steps towards career and practice success, which included:

  • Make a five year plan (a real one!)
  • Develop your ethos
  • Be selective about the work you do
  • Don’t be in a hurry
  • Be friendly
  • Don’t go to clients empty-handed (i.e. have ideas and thoughts ready to offer, whatever the stage of the discussion)
  • Be persistent
  • Speak plainly

The AJ’s career coach Matthew Turner offered reassuring advice to architects experiencing a mid-career stall. He stressed the importance of ‘self-knowledge’ and knowing what you are really good at.

AJ100 Future Leaders event May 2016 sponsored by Avila

AJ100 Future Leaders event May 2016 sponsored by Avila

Career coach Matthew Turner

‘Find out what you excel at, and don’t be afraid to ask other people how you come across,’ he advised. ‘Explore what is out there – we live in really interesting times for hybrid career – there is a rich seam of jobs. And make connections – it’s extremely important you keep doing this throughout your career – you never know how they will serve you in the future.’

The ability to live with pressure was a recurring theme: Adams, who is in the process of opening an office in Los Angeles, said ‘you need to be able to live with risk.’ He also explained that ‘architects can think management is shady. But we make better buildings if we manage better.’

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