I received my MLA last year and still have yet to find full time work. I make do in retail part time, and some contract work on the side. I am thinking of casting my job search wider (I have been sticking to urban design/planning and landscape arch/design so far). Any ideas as to other avenues to look at where my training would be at least a little bit relevant. At this point I just want out of part time retail work. Also any strategies on how to market myself to something that is not my degree would be most appreciated.

Thanks for any input.


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I think this is true...that design/build is doing better. I am still amazed that we have as much work as we do. Our area is busy for design/build work, we aren't the only ones filling this need. We had our first larger commercial project and won a bid for WSU...on top of our residential designs. We have four full time employees right now and we just hired a babysitter for 8 hours a week so that I can help with design work. Meaning...I did Autocad today and conceptual work and as I drew with those colored pencils and markers thought...YESSSSSS!!!!!


Now, more than ever, employers would like a person with proficeint AutoCAD, SketchUp, etc., superior plant material knowledge, field supervision, and (10 years experience in mind), with a 0-3 years salary request, usually out of school. This is what these postings mean. No such individual exists. Most of the time, when the work thins, you are expendable. Thats the truth about project oriented businesses, whether it is a core LA firm in CA, or a design build in VA, or an engineering firm in NJ. Its always been 'part of the industry', but now the work has been at a never seen before low since '08, so now contract basis talent out of school is being sought.


We are biding time w small work or none, until it rebounds. Will it ever? I see a slight rise. Lets see after the election? Or does that matter?

This isn't quite on that track but could tie in on the "ideal person wanted" theme. It seems that education and employment in general are becoming unhinged. 

Majority of unemployed now have some college education:

For most of the recession, the media kept saying that the college educated were doing better than others but this seems to flip it around. There are plenty of opinions on this story (go to Mish's Global Economic Trends) but I wanted to exclude editorial suggestions on what to do about it, just cite the story and encourage discussion. In the "olden days" even if we had a job search on our hands, at least we didn't have monstrous student loans. How long can universities keep up their price tags when this is the result?
Meanwhile, even if the high school and less educated are finding employment, it might not be rosy either.


On a related note....a few months ago I read an interesting article about a study done on college transfer/completion rates.  One surprising find was that a significant number of college students were "transferring down" from 4-year bachelor's programs to 2-year community college/trade type programs.  This was typically done in junior year.  The authors speculated that these were people seeking more hands on, marketable skills.  I'll see if I can find the link.  But that was one thing they did not expect to find.

Hmm…I’m starting to wonder that myself alland. It seems like working stiffs get hosed no matter which lawyer we choose to lead us.


I’m not too worried that this mess is going to last much longer, because I can sense that Americans are getting restless. It won’t be long before the “regular” folks take to the street and demand results from our politicians. I’m not talking about the stereotypical dreadlocked, pot smoking angry young male either. When the anarchist and occupiers take a backseat to the pissed-off soccer moms, trades people, designers, cops, preachers, etc. then we’ll see change.

From your mouth.......

Let me make myself clear. I’m talking about all of the snakes in Italian suits that make a living telling lies. Some are good guys that care; most are bad guys that will do anything to get elected. I’m not singling out any one person or party. My beef is with the system and not with the few politicians that want to fight for progress and real change. I will say this though, it’s obvious to me who the leaders are that are willing to stick their necks out to make something happen and who are the ones just saying no.   


I shouldn’t have “gone there” and jumped all political anyway. Maybe it was the beer I drank on an empty stomach. I’ve turned into such a light weight.

Craig, Don't be too hard on your self, That's age catching up. It happens to the best of us.

Wait a minute...I am a soccer mom, designer and occupier. haha. I protested then and I would again! The scourge you are imagining was a VERY small portion of protesters.

I think a good alternative career is any one that allows you to travel.  I believe it is important for LAs to travel and see the work of other LAs, noted works or architecture and famous natural landscapes and cities known for aesthetic merit.  I've been working as a biomedical technician, wihich is bascally electronics repair for medical devices.  I'm part of a large project to upgrade the entire nationwide inventory of a particular device.  The work is simple and repetitive, but I get to travel to places I would have never gone on my own.  I spent part of my Memorial Day enjoying a John Nolen designed park on the Mississippi river in La Crosse, WI.  Nolen worked early in the last century and is known for new town plans that New Urbanists like to cite as models.  See Marymount, TN.  Considering my present living arrangements, being on the road is an upgrade, as they put us up in decent hotels where I have a bigger bed and cable and get to eat out all the time with my per diem.  Besides that I just like travel.  The lifestyle seems to suit me, and I make more than enough to get by.


There was a girl in the LA class of my school who graduated 4-5 years after me.  She decided to become a flight attendant with an international airline so she could have a chance to see so many of the great places she learned about in the LA classes. Tragically she died when that plane crashed off the coast of Long Island in the late '90s.  If you go to the offices of the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission in Hackensack, NJ, you will find a little memorial to her, as she had worked there as an intern.  He classmates and former co-workers designed and built it.  Lesson: do what will allow you to gain the life experiences you want, not just job experience.  The actual job may not be great, but it may allow you to do other things or gain experience in a new area.

Hey Aaron,

I haven't read all of the responses so hopefully am not being redundant. Both my husband and I have BLA degrees from the University of Idaho, graduated in 2008 and 2009. First off...the depressing news. Neither of us got jobs BUT I didn't apply. My youngest is just two years old, so the plan would have been for me to get a job at a firm about now. My husband on the other hand applied, to hundreds. Hand delivered portfolios in Seattle, made up creative poems and sent spicy chocolates from our town. All in an effort to be noticed.

The good news, I think you are being smart by thinking outside the box. For us, we have honed in on our local market. We are beginning the fourth year of owning our own design/build firm. We live in a state where licensure is possible without employment opportunities and my husband passed his exams and is a licensed LA. This was the way we had to look outside the box. We didn't want to do this. We wanted to design BIG things, but we are finding that happiness is available from many directions. Unlike a previous poster, I would encourage you to become skilled at planting plans. This is something I am working on, my husband is getting better and better, and something that could create a niche for you in the long run. We had two semesters of plants, many LAs don't invest a lot of time learning about designing with plants. It can be very challenging and enjoyable. LAs are responsible for designing with living material that changes seasonally, daily, etc.

The last thing I want to say after stumping for what some may see as insignificant is to reevaluate what you would bring to a firm. From my husbands experience we know that personality means a lot. YOU are your biggest commodity. What makes you different from the hundreds of unemployed LA grads? Find that thing and exploit it. This high school commencement speech really underscores this point. When I heard it I completely agreed and think that all designers should take what he says seriously. :)


Good luck, Aaron. This experience is and will make you a stronger, more compassionate person.

PS...get a job doing installation. Many won't agree with this, but if you can find an LA to work for you will learn the importance of detail and project management. Show him/her you can work independently, hard and without complaint and you may be able to get permission to use projects you help design/build in your portfolio. The ability to have something besides academic projects is huge.




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