The Five Biggest Lessons from My First Year

It’s been a strange year. From moving countries, to starting a role in business development, building a network from scratch, and, not to mention, learning an entirely different language which is British English—there’s been no shortage of interesting moments since I started at Nulty.

I think it’s safe to say I’m speaking as an almost assimilated American living in London working in this rewarding, global industry. And, man, have I learned (or rather learnt) a lot.

So, without further ado I’ve decided to share a few takeaways from my experiences. Who knows, you may just find some of these points relevant to your career as well.

1. The greater property industry is a food chain

This one took me ages to dissect. But, it’s really important to understand the different roles and incentives of everyone in the industry. Even if people are seemingly distant from you one way or another on said food chain, un-forced contacts should never be dismissed. You just never know where your next lead or referral is going to come from. If you understand this, you can pay it both forward and back.

For sake of oversimplification, I like to think of the industry in comparison to the animal kingdom. Obviously, client is king, so let’s just say they could be considered a lion. Then there are roles such as the project manager, who embodies characteristics of a giraffe—overseeing projects and foreseeing potential snags. And then, of course, you have your independent lighting designer, which, is a bit more like a unicorn—only believed in by some.

2. Soft skills are actually really hard

After spending my masters diploma fine-tuning my AutoCad, Adobe and BIM expertise to better prepare myself for the career path I knew I wanted, I stressed myself learning these detail-oriented software skills. What I didn’t realise, however, was that these “hard” skills are actually very tangible with practice, study and hard work.

“Soft” skills on the other hand, are an entirely different story. You know, the ones that no one actually teaches you to do but are actually vital in the workforce: leadership, teamwork, communication, problem solving, adaptability and, last but not least, “people skills”. You know, like Talking to Strangers (read my piece about that here).
3. The importance of working for a supportive employer

Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Although it may seem obvious, working for someone who trusts your ideas and judgement (no matter how crazy they may be) is a total game changer.

On second thought, this goes beyond the role of the employer. It’s extremely important to work alongside supportive colleagues, and even supportive industry peers for that matter, that share your ethos. A sense of community in the workplace is key.

I’ve never wasted less time with self-doubt and spent more time coming up with crazy ideas in my life. Like writing rambling blog posts or attending MIPIM, to name a few (read my MIPIM do’s and don’ts here).

4. How to be comfortable with the uncomfortable

Holy Toledo, where do I even start with this one. There’s something to be said about the unexpected advantage of having little idea what you’re doing when you start a new challenge.

Perhaps I developed an undeserving sense of confidence considering there wasn’t much to lose and everything to gain. I quickly realised the comfort zone is comparable to a muscle—with exercise it grows. This overstimulation and perhaps desensitisation have allowed me to stay out of my own way and learn to face presentations, events, and meetings with an ability to remain cool, calm and collected—which inevitably makes the whole “work” thing much more enjoyable.

5. Just because you speak the same language doesn’t mean you speak the same language
It’s no secret the Brits are famous for having a dry sense of humor (sorry, humour). If you’ve met me it’s probably also no secret that sarcasm has never been an area of difficulty for me. But, the language barrier between American English and British English is much more complicated than color vs. colour.

In fact, there’s a layer of politeness that exists in the UK that is not as forthcoming as the American way. To provide an example, let’s just say I learned the hard way that the word interesting to a Brit has a very different meaning to an American…

All and all it’s been a (mostly) pleasant experience and a great challenge. In “light” of this reflection, it’s hard to predict what the following year holds (or even the next few hours), but I’m optimistic it will be full of development for myself, Nulty and the industry at large.

Blog post by Sarah Crooks