Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect who wonders whether there is another career in which they could do far better
I am an architect, and I have always been an all-rounder – competent, but never shining at anything in particular. I always sense I want to do something else, but what can it be? I can’t see what I am really good at, so don’t ever know where to start.
Being convinced there is an alternative version of your life out there is disarming and is probably sucking away a lot of your energy.
By knowing what you are good at you’ll feel more confident with yourself, and that can translate into many aspects of your life. That might include planning other directions; or maybe you’ll finally admit you are perfectly suited to architecture after all. I say this as I sense there are many architects out there who might also consider themselves all-rounders, and consider that a positive rather than a negative.
My advice would be to open up this internal discussion to the views of others. People around you may surprise you with their answers. Try making a list of trusted people and ask them what they think you are good at.
You could also consider taking a personality test, like for example 16 Personalities. Beyond describing your personality type, it also goes into careers, relationships, parenthood, and suggests how your personality type can work best. Some consider such a process as stereotyping, but remember, you are looking for insight so keep an open mind.
Try writing down the top five things you like to do, then think about why you like to do them
Start noticing your life and your decisions. For a week try writing down the top five things you like to do, then think about why you like to do them. For example, you look forward to the weekly office lunch, and people have frequently mentioned that they value having you there too. Don’t jump into deciding what this would mean for your career, but note it down, especially when it includes feedback from others.
While doing this, try looking for patterns that appear. It could be a character trait, or an area of enjoyment that people notice makes you happy. See if you agree with these patterns and how they could translate to your life.
You should also begin to articulate to yourself what your skills are. Hard skills, which can get most attention, are specific teachable abilities that can be measured. Soft skills are aspects of your personality that help you interact well with others.
So, for example, maybe everyone tells you that you are great at keeping a cool head when on-site conflict arises. That’s a soft skill. Being really good at reviewing contractor detail drawings is a hard skill.
A really telling exercise could be imagining that you were given a project. What area are you most confident in handling? How to do you feel about working with other people? Sounds simple, but these answers can really reveal some surprising insights.
Some of this reflection might be easy, some may be harder than you think. Keep an open mind; answers could surprise you and your first instinct may be to deny them. Remember that there is a different version of you that people see, parts of yourself that you might not recognise. If you are open, you may find an area of work that would pleasantly surprise you.
Be open and be patient. Change might not happen instantly, but this doesn’t mean that you aren’t good at anything. Self-knowledge and self-value are key. Who knows, the end might see either change or continuation, with you better appreciating your lot.
AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org