Insights into the forces shaping our industry.

Emerging Lighting Professionals: Marketable Skills and Qualities

Hiring Advice

In my previous blog, I discussed the positions lighting companies are looking­­ to hire emerging professionals for and their concerns related to hiring emerging professionals. Now I’ll address the skills and qualities they are looking for in emerging professionals.

The 5 most common skills companies seek are:

1. Computer skills. This includes MS Office and Adobe, as well as AutoCAD, Revit and AGi32. Revit is a newer skill but is rapidly becoming a requirement in design firms and very few mid to senior level people have experience with it, so that will set you apart.

2. Strong communication skills; both verbal and written. Before sending a text and/or email, reread what you wrote to ensure it makes sense, there are no typos or inaccurate autocorrects, words are in correct tenses, etc. Before a phone call/interview or voicemail, think about what you are going to say; write it out and rehearse it.

3. Ability to problem solve and look for solutions. When a problem occurs, you should research and devise possible solutions to discuss with your manager, rather than simply stating the problem.

4. Organizational skills.

5. Listening skills. You have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason, listen twice as much as you are talking. If you are the only one talking, you’ll never learn.

Take classes at your local community college or online to acquire any of these skills. There are many books on these subjects as well. I recommend joining your local toastmasters to improve communication and leadership skills.

Top 5 qualities companies are looking for in emerging professionals are:

1. Willingness to learn and adapt. The biggest pieces of advice I can give are: to learn and always be curious (ABC!). Lighting is everywhere, study the fixtures and manufacturers! Look at objects like fabric or fruit under different lighting sources; ask: how does different lighting affect the objects appearance? In which stores do they look better or more appealing? Don’t be afraid to ask questions of why things are done a certain way to gain understanding. Go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and compare all the lighting fixtures and light bulbs; their quality, their capabilities. Tinker with lightbulbs and fixtures; understand how they go together and what components are in them. Subscribe to and read industry magazines: LD+A, enLIGHTenment, tED, etc. to learn about the latest trends in lighting or technology improvements or what issues are affecting the industry. And read other sources like Electrical Wholesaling to learn how lighting interfaces with all aspects of a building and the different buying influences. Relight your home/apartment every so often; how does the new lighting make you feel, affect your mood, etc. Go to plays and art museums and pay attention to the lighting, how does it affect the mood or scene. As I mentioned earlier, learn new technologies like Revit. Take IES courses or attend a local community college; one class mentioned in the survey was the IES ED-100: Lighting Education Fundamentals course. Once you have 3 years of experience, study for and take the LC exam through the NCQLP. Read books or take classes on organizational development, critical thinking, public speaking, personal finance, research methods, etc. Study the science of light and color; read research papers on how lighting affects human health or the production of crops or animals, etc.

2. Work hard and pay your dues. There is a common misconception that millennials are not hard workers and surely an exaggeration, but this is what you’re up against and you need to prove them wrong! I suggest you read Mindset by Carol Dweck. It discusses how people have either a fixed mindset (which leads to entitlement) or a growth mindset. The fixed mindset is believing people are born with an innate talent for something; you’re either good at that thing or not. The growth mindset believes we are constantly learning and growing; and with practice, we can improve. The point is: work hard! Dr. John Townsend, author of Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way, says we have to change the conversation in our head from “I deserve” to “I am responsible for”. For example: “I deserve a promotion. I’m going to wait until someone gives me the promotion I deserve.” Change that to: “I’m responsible for my work ethic and the quality of my work. I’m responsible for executing my job responsibilities with excellence every day. I’m responsible for informing management of my career aspirations. I’m responsible for building the skills necessary for promotion.” There is this underlying theme that failure isn’t a bad thing, it’s an opportunity to learn. Michael Jordan said: “failure makes me work harder” and “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” After a failure or set back ask yourself: what did you do to contribute to this? And what could you have done differently?

3. Sense of design. If you haven’t already, pursue a Bachelors or Masters degree in Design, such as architectural engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering (depending on your interests). Outside of education learn design on your own time. Take up photography, art, drawing, etc. Build a side project, volunteer, there’s lots of ways to gain new skills beyond the 8 to 5!

4. Passion / interest in the industry. Get involved! Network with people in the industry, go to events like Lightfair, LED Specifier Summit, LEDucation, etc. Review the products. Ask manufacturers questions; tell them you are new to the industry and would like to know about their products, their best applications and how they are made, what components did they use and why, etc. Talk to people you’ve never talked to before, ask them questions about how they got into the industry, what do they love about the industry, what advice do they have for you as you begin your career? Join organizations like IES and IALD. Volunteer for a local play or theater to help with lighting. And again, go to plays and museums, and study lighting.

5. Be honest and trustworthy. You don’t have to remember what you said if you’re always telling the truth! Your actions should match your words, if you say you are going to do something, do it. Set specific goals with a time and place that you will get it done. For example, if you want to send your resume to 10 companies next week, set a goal that you will be at your desk on Wednesday just after breakfast sending them out; and visualize it so it sets in your memory. Be transparent, if you are having a hard time meeting a deadline talk to the people involved about the circumstances and discuss how you can either fix it or adjust the deadline. Be kind and considerate of your colleagues; try seeing things from their perspective. Avoid gossip and keep secrets.