THE JOB SEARCH:

Having practiced Landscape Architecture for....well, what sometimes seems like forever, but still, loving every minute of it; I remember first starting out in May of 1977 when I graduated from Texas A&M University.

Times change.  Our U.S. economy goes up and down like a yoyo.  I was fortunate, that for most of my LA career (and I'm still practicing), our economy has been pretty strong...though, I must admit, the past 7+ years have been challenging!

IDEAS/SUGGESTIONS:

1.  Get your LA degree.  B.S.L.A. or Masters in Landscape Architecture.  But, you first really need to be SURE that this career program is "right" for you.  It's one thing to want to be a Landscape Architect and it's another thing to have the "potential" to succeed at it.  I know this isn't a popular statement to make, but, I am personally surprised that some LA students are actually awarded LA diplomas.  In fact, I recall an LA professor of mine, who told me, some of my classmates would never succeed as a Landscape Architect...which I thought was an odd thing to hear.  But, now, I understand what he was talking about.

2.  While going through that 4 or 5 year program, develop a "strong portfolio".  Which should include strong "hand graphic skills", "learn a wide variety of computer skills...autoCAD, etc.).  Though, I have to admit, I have never produced a single drawing by autoCAD.....as I took my first Architectural Drafting course at age 12 (7th grade)...so, my Contract Documents (by hand), served me well over the years.  But, times have changed, you must have great computer drawing skills. But, hand sketching & being able to produce hand drawn color renderings is also a plus.

3.  Earning good grades or having a high GPA is always a plus, but, not a must have.  Owners of LA design firms are looking for "potential".  I personally remember classmates who made good grades, but, really weren't very good LA students.  And, some of them, never even pursued a career in Landscape Architecture.

NOTE:  After earning your LA Degree...you need to be thinking seriously about becoming "Licensed" as a Landscape Architect, in your home state.  I believe, you are required to have a minimum of (2) years of experience, working directly under the direction of a Licensed Landscape Architect...then, you will become eligible to take the L.A.R.E. examination.  Once you have passed the L.A.R.E. & have your (2) yrs. of experience, you will be eligible to apply for your "Landscape Architecture License" in your home state. Every State is a bit different in their "Licensing Laws" for LAs and you'll need to do a lot of research about the L.A.R.E. exam (as this is NOT an easy exam...and is an exam that is administered 100% by computer).

4.  It's a very competitive market place for LA's.  But, there are hotspots out there.  Do some on-line research.  Look at job opportunities on job boards like INDEED.com.  

5.  Research the city & State where in think you wish to work as an LA.  Some States (like NY & CA have very high costs of living & high State Income Taxes.  In California, annual incomes from $47k will cost you 9.3% in State Income Taxes + you then have Federal Income Taxes.  So, learn everything you can about the city & State where you're searching for an LA job.  Look at the city's apartment rental rates & availability, crime rates, cost of living...learn everything about that city!  And, don't be afraid to search for an LA job out of State.  Because, when you first starting off, the important thing is to get "experience".  You'll likely have to pay for your own costs to travel for a job interview & your own relocation costs - so, you have to take that into consideration as well.  Try, if you can, to set up more than 1 job interview...make the interview trips count.

6.  Your Portfolio (even if only student work) and your Resume' better be "very strong"!!!

7.  There's a book I bought for myself (less than $10 on Amazon.com) called "HireMe".  Takes 30 minutes to read.  Teaches you everything you need to know about HOW to give a fantastic job interview; which is very, very important!  The book even has several "sample interview questions".  Many years ago, after reading this book, I did a job interview and received an $85k job offer with a $10k sign on bonus.  That book made all the difference!  Well, I did have a little over 20 yrs. of exp., but, had not done a job interview in yrs., so, I really believe that book helped me land the job.

8.  Social Media is a new way to job search....and working with a "Head Hunter"...they can sometimes help you find the job you're looking for.

9.  If you're just starting out, looking for an "entry level position", don't be too picky, take what you can get for the "experience"...even if the pay is low, which it will be.  With "experience", you can begin to move up the ladder.  Be SURE to keep "samples" of sketches, drawings, any project you work on and develop a "professional portfolio".....that portfolio is your ticket to your future...guard it with your life. When you do land that job, be a "sponge"...learn everything you possibly can, from the experienced LAs around you.  And remember, during your 1st yr., you are being watched very closely, so, make every hour of every day count!!!

GOOD LUCK.....and I hope you enjoy the Landscape Architecture profession as much as I have!

Best Regards,

J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

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Great advice, Bob!  

Okay Bob. Let me rehash this a bit.

1 - how elitist of you. The fact that only 'some' people can make it professionally in LA after completing a professional LA program (especially a MLA) shows how lame the LA profession really is.
2 - your portfolio is the only thing that you will be judged on, so yeah that needs to be good.
3 - No one cares about grades
4 - Hotspots = there are more than 1 job available, but no more than 3 and you will have to beg to get them.
5 - See #4, you've gotta go where the work is no matter the cost of living.
6 - Duplicate of #2, but the duplicity shows exactly how important it really is.
7 - Are you kidding me?
8 - See #7
9 - Aka you are an indentured servant that should grovel for the chance to work for poor wages in order to help inflate your principal's income. Oh wait, did anyone mention that working in architecture firms is a pyramid scheme?


And yes, goodluck everyone. What a great career track.

Jonathan;

With all due respect, it seems obvious to me, that you have an "attitude" problem here.

I'm going to "assume" that you actually did graduate and earn a degree in Landscape Architecture....but, according to your Profile, you are NOT an LA.  And yes, there are LA jobs out there.  Maybe you were NOT meant to be an LA?  But, yes, I know it's a very competitive market out there...and it has been for the past 8 yrs.

On your list above (responding to mine)...No, I am NOT an Elitist as you stated.  I'm a "realist". Some students who do graduate with an LA degree, IMO (as well as that LA professor @ Texas A&M University mentioned to me) just won't make it in the real world as an LA.  I've seen many LA portfolios over the past 30+ yrs...and way too many are NOT acceptable. And, No, your LA Portfolio shouldn't be "good"...it needs to be "outstanding". Otherwise, good luck getting ANY LA job.

And yes, I agree, sometimes, you just have to take the job no matter the location or what the cost of living is at that location.  Getting "experience" is the KEY to a future in any profession.

And, No, I was not kidding about #7 above.  To have a chance at landing an LA job, you need an outstanding Resume', and outstanding Portfolio and you better be able to give a GREAT interview. That "job interview book" has been around for over 20 yrs. now....it works!  In that book, the author stated that the potential employer will make their decision whether or not to hire you within 6 seconds after they first lay eyes on you...so, 1st impressions matter.  The author of that book knows what she's talking about.  And, now days, job interviews are not easy to come by, so, when you get one, you best make it count!!!

I find most of your comments pretty humorous.....because, MAYBE if you were to follow a few of my suggestions, you would be working as an LA now.....and not doing whatever it it that you're doing.....ya' think?!

And, of course, going to work for an LA firm....you start at the bottom.  It's that way in every profession.  And yes, I helped make a couple of employers pretty wealthy...but, during my first 13 yrs. as an LA, I "learned" the profession.  I was a "sponge" and learned everything I could from many talented and experienced LAs around me.  So, at age 41, I was able to create my own LA firm....and after 2 yrs. of "start up time", my income was up 6x what I was earning at that last LA firm.  I worked my A$$ off...and it paid off.  Beyond the 35 calendar years leaning over that drawing board...I logged in over-time hours that equal (4) additional calendar years.

And, just an FYI....I believe President-Elect Trump will be a major asset to the LA profession.  I believe most LA practices are small businesses....and with many of Trump's economic and political proposals....It should be a HUGE improvement over the past dismal 8 yrs.  Personally, I hope Trump will be our President for the next 8 yrs.!

My advise to you, Jonathan, if you REALLY wish to be an LA, you need a "positive" attitude.  Best Of Luck To You!

Regards,

J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

Martin;

I have read your entire response carefully.  I guess my first question is WHY didn't you pursue an LA degree?  

Well, of course, no University Degree is going to come cheap.....but, I felt it was a critical part of the criteria in order to become a professional LA.  So, after 3 semesters of studying at a North Texas University (taking mostly architecture & design courses), I enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served 4 yrs. After I was Honorably Discharged, I enrolled @ Texas A&M University (got credit for my Freshman yr. due to previous University courses).  I went thru A&M on the G.I. Bill...worked Summers & my wife could only find min. wage paying jobs in a college town like that...so, it was a tough road.  But, when I graduated in 1977, I had ZERO college debt.

I'm thinking, if you have 19 yrs. of LA design experience, you should be doing quite well...even without the LA degree.  Sure, an LA degree is great to have, but to me, it's a person's talent and experience that's what really matters!  

In reading your response, you stated you have designed over 2,000 projects (in 19 yrs.)....that comes to over 100 projects per yr...which seems like a BIG stretch to me.  I have put in close to 39 yrs. (if you include my 4 yrs. worth of over-time hours)...and I have designed approx. 675 projects...though, approx. 70% of them were large multi-family developments (which are very time consuming...and most had at least 25 sheets to a set (24" x 36" size)...hand drawn.

Curious that you have designed approx. 2,000 projects, but, you have not posted any Portfolio samples on your LAND 8 Profile?  I admit, that on my LAND 8 Profile, a few samples were from my Dad's professional graphic portfolio (I'm just very proud of my Dad's talent & wanted to share)..he was a major influence on my wanting to become a professional designer.

I really wouldn't worry about the LA Degree issue.  As long as you have the extensive experience that you have..and you have a strong, creative LA design portfolio to show for those many years...you should be fine.

BEST OF LUCK!

Bob

Wow Bob you're up early. Not meaning to thread-jack into another topic but the numbers you gave are interesting. I also had a lot of group homes, elderly, and multi-family work that I don't "show" on my page I have stashed if needed. I saved the technical drawings in miniature but these projects are hard to photograph and were always more a challenge of getting past reviews and helping needy people in tight budgets. So, lately I have arrived at a strange insight when thinking back on all the work that led to a reflection on landscape architecture itself.

If we take 30% of your total and divide by your number of years, that makes about 5 mysteries per year. I also suffered the hard student passage with husband at minimum wage etc. to get the training, just 3 years or so ahead of you. If I take out the 15 year span of working in a planning department and some semesters teaching, I also end up with a low number of NON-multi and single family residential.

My question is, does that residue essentially stand for "prime" or more aesthetically-driven projects? I'm thinking about what I hoped to design as a younger person starting out, and did get my hands on some of the time, but that was much rarer than I ever expected.

So here's the theory: In other words, in order to really make a living, we have to take what comes and in my case it included a lot of government low-income housing that served a social purpose but always had a minimum budget. No matter how sensitively done with what we had to work with, it's not "notable" to the passer-by or even the residents. The more supported urban spaces, well-landscaped corporate office complexes, medical/dental properties, parts of college campuses, government-funded renovated arts buildings, church grounds etc. that lent themselves to becoming aesthetic, were few and far between. Although looking back, they can be collected into a comforting legacy, I've also seen some neglected and a few replaced with other uses. 

I suppose it varies with the historic timeframe and luck one falls into, but I wonder if we shouldn't share this "reality" among more people coming along behind? We tend to blame (at least speculate about) our kind of training, or region we live in, or recessions, or status of the profession, or public awareness, etc. but in truth, society needs those "basic" jobs done far more than the "cream" of the stack, and most of our time will be spent meeting those basic needs.

People, if you've had a fantastic career at Disney World, please don't respond to this, LOL.

Leslie -

You make a good point.  I agree that if a more representative cross-section of the work that LAs do was presented to students and young professionals that it would serve well to better align expectations with reality.  As it is, ASLA only recognizes the cream of the stack with their 'shiny things' awards, so no wonder most people enter the profession expecting their first project to be the next Highline.

Everybody wants the puppy.  Nobody wants to pick up the dog shit.

Actually, I found that (this) generation of students has a fairly realistic expectation as far as scale of projects. Everyone should be very cautious to pigeon-hole new LA's as having starchitect expectations. From my perspective, the reason why the largest percentage of students become disillusioned / leave the LA industry (or at least why I did) is because many (most?) of the basic employment expectations are not met by the LA industry/current market. Some of those expectations include: getting employed, making a living wage, upward mobility, not suffering at the hands of your principal, etc. You know, the basics of 21st century employment. Would it help if successful LA's like Bob or Leslie shared their experiences with projects to students? Doubtful. Neither of those designers ever dealt with the great recession in the most fragile period of their careers (aka the beginning). I think students would be eager to hear from a LA from the depression era, though ... if only they were still alive. But until that miracle happens, sharing your prolific career that spanned the most affluent period of american society to people that are just worried that they can get an entry level job and pay off their student loans grossly smacks of ego-centrism.

And yes, not having a LA degrees sucks. But, the most important part is the experience and licensure. No one cares if you have a MLA from GSD if you aren't licensed. And, if you did have a BSLA from Cal, then it wouldn't be as good as someone with a MLA from GSD, and so forth and so on. Everyone get's prejudiced against because of something. 

Jonathan, I sense your frustration but in response to the "Neither of those designers ever dealt with the great recession in the most fragile period of their careers (aka the beginning)," there is a lot more to tell but I spared the readers.

Two recessions hit me (and HARD), one being exactly right after I graduated in '74, another severe one in '90-'92. (Deletion of tales of woe here). It is because of them and wondering if I ever really recovered that I do truly sympathize. I looked back to the icons of earlier history and thought THEY had it easier. Then in the building boom you refer to I was tucked away in a planning department doing some pretty awful stuff (mixed in with a bit of satisfaction). Nearing retirement it seemed the best place to stay. But yes this last recession has been horribly protracted.

Leslie...I just wanted to chime in with you on what you stated. Well, when I graduated in 1977 I found an LA job in a small LA firm in Sarasota, Fl. (my home was Dallas...my wife & I made the move). The next 13

continuing...........during the next 13 yrs., I was an LA at a Dallas, Tx. LA firm that grew from 6 LAs to 40 LAs...and even though I worked my way up to the #3 LA (just under the 2 Owners), the pay was really LOW!  But, during that time, I was a "sponge" and learned everything I possibly could from many very talented and experienced LAs.  You just can NOT teach yourself "Landscape Architecture"....working for an LA firm and learning from exp./talented LAs is the only way I know how it can be done.

THEN, in Feb. 1990, 98% of the staff was laid off (due to a BAD ecoomy)...and there were zero LA jobs out there.  So, at about age 41, I decided to do my own "start up LA practice).  Best thing that ever happened to my LA career.  But, for 2 yrs...it was very tough, designing every little job I could get my hands on & marketing daily all over the Dallas/Ft. Worth area for new work & new clients.  After 2 yrs. of frustration, I began to get some major projects...several upscale multi-family projects (since I had 13 yrs. exp. designing Class A apartment communities).  I remained a (1) person LA firm...still am.  Had a great run until 2008........THEN, once again, the economy tanked!  So, between 2008 & early 2016, those were not my best years.  Earlier this year, suddenly, I began to get several new design projects......yeah, at age 66.  So, I have had some rough times during my LA career.

So, Leslie, as you learned, I realized over the years, that there will always be Up and Down periods in our economy.

On the education (LA degree issue)...I recall a favorite LA Professor tell me (in private)...that, in his opinion, 50% of the 32 LA grads in my graduating class would most likely never become successful Landscape Architects.  I thought that was pretty curious at the time.  Because, I just assumed (as I'm sure all my classmates did too), that we'd all be OK in the real world.  I guess all University Professors have to protect their jobs.  But, IMO, every LA graduate who earns an LA degree are not equally talented or have the same degree of potential. I think the same is true with every University degree program.

I feel I had a bit of an advantage over most of my classmates, in that I had taken (2) Drafting courses in Junior High, (2) Architectural courses in High School, (4) Architectura Drawing courses at a North Texas University (plus, at least (5) art/graphic arts courses in those years...before enlisting in the U.S. Navy for 4 yrs...then, enrolling @ Texas A&M.  

IMO, I feel our economy is or is about to turn a corner...for the good.  I'm optimistic and plan to continue designing...never really consider full retirement...but, I am taking things slower.

GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

Bob

Congrats on hanging in there and getting revival at 66. My '74 trauma was move to take a great job that lasted 3 months before layoff, followed by patched together work enough to sit for and pass exam in '77, then loner business with its ups and downs until offered another "great" job in '87 that gave me 3 years instead of 3 months before layoff again. The resulting '90-'92 experience was like yours, slow but reviving work, and when I responded to the planning 'opportunity' I had to break off the local contacts (no side work allowed). Then retiring 15 years later, I found I just couldn't mount that effort again in one lifetime....So from 2008 forward, have kind of re-invented myself in pro bono work (advising with or without illustration of concepts) for non-profits mixed with the other passion (music). Now at 70 I'm still finding that blend has enough challenge. Our next thread should be how do we really know when to rest? I'm thinking some of us can just never cease to lend a hand or thought to the fullest of our ability, since it was never based on pure logic, but a degree of passion all along.

1.) You are way off base if you think recent grads are the only ones who suffered through the great recession.  Who are firms going to hire in that environment - a recent grad with 1, 2 or 5 years experience that will stick around for a few years, or a more experienced LA willing to take a deep pay cut, but who will likely jump ship at the first opportunity to make more money?  A business has to invest considerable resources training and developing each new employee they hire with the expectation that the services of that employee will provide a return on their investment over the course of a few years.

2.) Please provide a copy of the "Basics of 21st Century Employment" that you are referencing. If this is something that they hand out at graduation or some new federal labor law, then I am not aware of it.  I'll stand by my claim for the need to better align expectations with reality.  Colleges and Universities are not in the business of finding you employment, they are in the business of putting butts in seats.  Nobody owes you jack, so stop belaboring your sense of entitlement.

3.) Lastly, if you are employed by someone else, you WILL do some suffering at the hands of your principal/manager/boss, regardless of your line of work and no matter which century you are living in.  If you are that awesome that no boss could possibly find fault with you, then you probably wouldn't working for someone else to begin with.

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