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Members of the Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) were recently surveyed about their career paths in landscape architecture. Responses were varied and had many insightful comments and suggestions, which will be shared and discussed with everyone here over the next few months.

This week, we’ll focus on responses to the question: What one characteristic or skill is most essential for success in landscape architecture?

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Of course, there is no single skill or ability that guarantees success, but there are many that are certainly helpful to have and to continue to sharpen. Perhaps surprisingly, only a handful of respondents mentioned extensive knowledge of plants, horticulture, or the more technical, scientific side of landscape architecture as critical to success. Instead, being an effective communicator and other “soft” skills came up far more frequently.

The most popular answers were:
• Communication
• Creativity and creative problem solving
• Flexibility
• Adaptability
• Listening skills
• Passion for design
• Curiosity
• Attention to detail
• Critical thinking.

In addition to these top answers, there were several key themes that emerged, highlighting both the challenges and the appeal of landscape architecture:

Clear Communication—Verbal and Visual
• “Being a strong voice at the table”
• “Having the ability to communicate complex ideas”
• “Having the ability to articulate design concepts”
• “Being able to collaborate and communicate successfully with the project stakeholders”
• “Knowing how to build consensus”
• “Being able to tell a good story.”

The Power of Imagination
• “Able to envision a project”
• “Open to new ideas or ways of looking at things. Be curious.”
• “Able to visualize the potential in a place”
• “Able to envision multiple scenarios”
• “Able to think three-dimensionally.”

Systems-Level, Big-Picture, Multidisciplinary Thinking
• “Holistic understanding of disciplines LA influences, i.e. architecture, engineering, sociology, ecology, transportation”
• “Ability to see big picture in terms of people, places, and needs”
• “Broad thinking combined with interest in how things are built”
• “Horizontal thinking (searching for and uncovering connections among seemingly disparate ideas or objects)”
• “Ability to synthesize lots of different types of information”
• “Ability to consider multiple scales—regional, city, local, site—at the same time”
• “Ability to think across scales to identify opportunities”
• “Ability to think at all scales and be well rounded”
• “Ability to maintain a comprehensive outlook while paying attention to details.”

Hands-On Experience in the Field
• “Design feasibility. Too many new LAs have spent time in programs without any real test to what can be done in the real world, and not just their imaginations. Creativity is important, but so is cost.”
• “Stress and short deadlines”
• “Coordination of teams/people management”
• “Diplomacy”
• “Customer service/client relationships.”

Confidence
• “Self-assurance that our skill set is needed—landscape architecture is not widely understood and therefore not always respected as an integral part in the construction and rehabilitation of this built environment.”

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