This is not an exhaustive or a complete list.  It is likely to change over time, with edits, additions and deletions, and is simply a collection of my thoughts based on many years of experience.   You should follow your instincts, not rely at all on any of this and you must always seek your own professional advice from others before making a career choice.  Please do get in touch with me if you would like a general chat about the job.


Making a career choice isn’t easy.   This can be an especially tough decision when you are young, perhaps still at school or college, and have no life experience on which to rely on.   Fortunately, education is now structured in a way that has many openings and opportunities that go beyond the traditional University routes.  This is good, because we are not all suited to a formal academic training environment.

The heritage sector is diverse and my work as a Chartered Building Surveyor with specific focus on historic and Listed Buildings is just a small part of it. The technical aspects of construction, building pathology and architectural history can be taught.   However, there are other skills that are inherent within us and I think it is these that truly establishes someone as being really good at what they do.   It is these skills that I am going to focus on for this discussion.


If you love what you do, it won’t seem like a ‘job’.   If you can be passionate about the subject, perhaps even become obsessed by some to it, then this will make the learning a lot easier.   You’ll absorb information without even knowing you are doing it.   Being passionate about a subject is infectious.   We all love being around people who are experts at what they do and they talk with such excitement and enthusiasm..


You need to have excellent communication skills.  This is essential and I don’t think it is possible to progress very far without the ability to communicate effectively.   Being shy isn’t going to help you.   There are many aspects to this.   Communication will need to be verbal as well as written.   You need to be able to absorb information, take as well as give instructions and make decisions in a clear and concise manner in whatever way the recipient needs to understand.   Having the ability to simplify technical details will be required.   Having confidence for public speaking will be required.

Methodical Thoughts and Planning

This is an essential skill.   Whether a building survey or a project for repairs, there has to be a structured approach and well considered methodical thought process.   Do the right thing, at the right time in the right order.

Problem-solving, Analysis and Evaluation

You need to be able seek evidence and information about a building or site from a wide range of sources – which won’t always be the actual building itself.    Some problems won’t have an immediate answer and will require careful analysis and looking for a pattern, a source and other related evidence. You may not have all the information that you actually need.   Experience is essential and will be developed over time.   With experience you will develop that inherent gut instinct that will lead to form a conclusion and an opinion on which you can base your professional judgement.

You will need to make decisions and assess situations by looking at all the facts and evidence with a logical and analytical approach and perhaps also to weigh up the risks of different outcomes.   Always remember that there is likely to be more than one option to any problem that you are trying to solve.

Reflective Thought

Many times, the correct diagnosis will come to you after some time to think about the evidence.   This selective thought process goes on in your subconscious and it is a good professional habit to develop.   Avoid making a snap judgement, unless it really is blindingly obvious.   Spend some time to think about the evidence presented by what you have seen or discovered before coming to your decision.

Emotional Resilience

You will face challenges from time to time.   These might be challenges from your client, from an unrelated third party or perhaps from another professional.   The challenges are likely to question your decision and perhaps even your integrity.   The ability to stay calm, composed and confident is important at all times.


You need to be able to work in a team.   Even if you become self-employed you will still need to work with others in some aspects of your work.  You will need to be capable of building effective and collaborative relationships with others both within your organisation and also externally.   This is another aspect of communication skills that was mentioned above.   You don’t need to like everyone or become best friends but you do need to be able to work with anyone, even if you have different points of view on a subject.

Ethical Standards

RICS has its own published ethical standards, as will all the main professional organisations.  However, regardless of this regulatory requirement, you should have very high personal ethical morals and be committed to them.

You can learn about the RICS Code of Conduct here.

Personal Responsibility

Take personal responsibility for your own actions and deal with any problems that might arise.   Don’t play the ‘blame game’ and avoid the habit of ‘passing the buck’ and not taking responsibility for a decision or situation that develops.

Have Respect for Others

It is essential that you acknowledge and have respect for the wider community and that we are not all the same.  Avoid inherent bias or prejudices.  Have respect for diversity, and treating others with dignity regardless of their social, cultural or racial background, status, circumstances or appearance. You will meet and need to work all all parts of society at some stage in your career so this is a very important inherent skill.


You must be totally trustworthy.   You will be in someone’s home and property, possibly alone, and it is expected that you do not abuse the trust by stealing or damaging their personal property.

Leadership Skills

Even if you become self-employed the ability to have leadership skills are important.   Your client needs to feel completely confident in you and with your decisions.   Your colleagues and others than you collaborate with also need to know that you know what you are doing, that you can direct a team when required and that you have confidence in a decision and the consequential outcomes that will occur next.

Thinking ‘Outside of the box’

This is really important.   What we do is not a tick-box role.   If you are looking for routine and simplicity then this is not the job for you.   Ticking boxes and simply making comparisons to rules and regulations with rigid interpretations is not what this job is about.   The ability to think laterally, take information in and then ask yourself “what if….” is critically important.   You will need to regularly think outside of the box and the ability to do this is a ‘must have’ inherent skill.

Observation Skills

This is another critically important skill.   You need to have first-class observation skills and the ability to remember everything you see.   This especially applies to the small details and not simply the large overall context.

Report Writing

This is another part of the communication skill.   You will constantly writing reports for many reasons throughout your entire career.   Learn how to do this concisely and effectively.  It is really important.   Don’t try to impress by using jargon and technical words.  No one will understand you and you’ve wasted your time.   Keep it simple.  Use easy to understand words and writing.  Visualise your client reading it – what will they think..?    Remember the mantra…   ‘So what??’.   For everything you write and every defect you mention, ask yourself ‘so what?’. Is it important?  Did that crack happen last week, last year or decades ago?  Why should anyone need to know about the dry rot in the cellar?  Don’t just provide a list of defects.  Explain them.  Put them into context.  What caused those defects, how serious are they, what the risks and consequences, give a rough timescale for getting them do looked at and fixed.  Do they even need to be fixed at all?   You should not write your report in a way that would result in the building being like it was when it was brand new.  Not everything needs to be fixed right now.

You will learn how to make these decisions as you gain more experience.  Keep it concise.   Don’t provide a 100 page report if you could have done it in 50 pages.   Use photos, but only when they will help the client.   Annotate every photo and don’t just provide pages and pages of photos for no reason.   Keep it portable.   When you have finished the report, it should never be more than 20MB in size, otherwise it is unlikely to go through with an email.



Disclaimer:   Anything posted in this Blog is for general information only and it is not in any way intended to provide any advice, legal or otherwise, on any general or specific matter that you can rely on.  You should always seek your own legal advice.