A crappy job is better than no job at all….right? How low would you go?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION A crappy job is better than no job at all….right? How low would you go?

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    I read recently in an economics book (yeah, you do odd things with your spare time when you have a lot of it) that it is considered common knowledge that when you reduce compensation people are less motivated to work.  That is why layoffs are preferable to reduced hours or salary.  OTOH, I was listening to NPR recently and they were talking about why Germany has weathered the recession better and the pain the rank-and-file experienced has not been as acute.  There, factories reduce hours, even to a point where it might be just one day a week, when there is a reduction in demand.  That way they can maintain their skills and the companies don’t have to retrain new people when things pick up again.  The worker at least gets a little security in the idea that he will be able to get full-time hours again when things pick up.  Of course, they have a more developed social safety net there.  You don’t have to worry about losing health coverage.  Here we seem to want to use the fear of losing insurance and one’s house as a means of motivating people to work, which of course raises the general anxiety level, as evidenced on this site.  Anxiety isn’t very healthy either, and can actually shorten the productive part of of one’s life.  Burnout isn’t a good employment policy if experience and training is truly valuable.


    I’m thinking back to the worst LA job I ever had and how ironic it is that I’d even be willing to take a pay cut for THAT job.  If unemployment sounds like a good option, think of how good that option will be when it runs out and you still haven’t found a job. Or better yet the only job you can find is in a different state.  Unless you can secretly find a job before quitting, stay where you are.  Give your bosses the benefit of the doubt.  I think they actually showed appreciation by giving you a pay cut as opposed to laying you off.

    I totally know how you feel being under appreciated at a crappy job.  But now that I have seen both sides and especially conisering the state of our job market I can easily say I would much rather be at a crappy job. 

    Rant all you want here, but keep your head down at work and make money.

    Alan Ray, RLA

    I can understand your frustration…I had a similar problem in the 80’s with my employer. They wanted me to cut back hours/pay…I put in my 2 week notice and started my own studio…..best decision I ever made as far as work is concerned….I hate to tell you this but your struggle will continue until you decide to work for yourself . This is universal in our profession….yes, it’s very difficult to start with nothing but if you do it you will in a few years look back on it as your best move ever.  This is sad to say how it is as long as you work for someone else….

    Tanya Olson

    Very inspirational reply! Thanks! See people – you CAN start your own firm and make a living!


    I second that opinion, start your own practice now. Life is too short to toil, and set it as your mission to create a practice where you would like to work.  You may find that you are a good employer and the profession will improve. Well at least in your garden.  When frustration becomes a way of life you must change the situation for everyones sake.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I get down from time to time because most of the work that I do is very boring or just plain sucks. Sometimes I simmer there, burt sometimes I pick myself up and tell myself to kick its ass instead of letting it kick mine. I found the Winter X Games very motivational. Between goofing on their lingo and just seeing people do things that obviously took a lot of physical and mental beating to achieve I just can’t not take something from that. “Go big or go home” is their motto, I think.


    So for the past week plus, instead of thinking “you want me to do what?”, I’m thinking “you bet you ass I’ll get two buildable lots out of that AND not move the barn AND not require an easement around the cranberry bog road. It was still the same project, but it sure felt a lot better getting it done. Go big or go home even if it is a crappy project.


    I regret to say that  I have also developed a much better attitude from hearing horror stories about people getting paid salary and being worked long hours, people having pay cuts, or losing their jobs. I’m lucky and I better damn well appreciate it. What was getting me down is now making me realize I have it a lot better than a lot of other people. If you can’t have the job you love, love the one your with.

    Heather Smith

    That sounds really tough. On one hand it sounds like they are being shiesters…on the other hand it could be that they are just getting the ball rolling and need this new person to really bring in some real earnings that can be used to lift everyone. Unfortunately they have left you all in the dark…and that makes room for disgruntled workers. I think their lack of gratitude for your hard work is a big part of the issue. If they acknowledged the group sacrifice it would probably make you all feel you were contributing to long term stability.

    We have not been able to be hired by a firm and are working for ourselves. That is a whole ‘nother ball game of anxiety. We were forced to work for ourselves. I would take a realistic viewpoint of what is available to you as far as jobs go. You may want to bolt…but I think the experience you are gaining will pay off.

    At lot more then making killer cappuccinos. 😉


    The more I think about this the more I think it would be absolutely asinine to quit a job in this field in this economic climate.  If you get laid off you can think about starting your own firm.  I know people that are using unemployment to help them get their business going.  But quitting a job means no unemployment.  Can you afford to buy a plotter?  Legal copies of CAD, sketchup, rendering programs, health insurance, business related insurance, marketing?  Generally businesses take 3 years to get established and 5 years to really start making real money.  Really ask yourself if you can do this.    

    I don’t mean this to be doom and gloom by any means.  I’m only stating facts to help you consider your options.  Search for a job while you’re employed or get laid off and start your own firm.  But DO NOT quit your job.




    You make some good points and generally I agree, but how can you mention obtaining legal copies of CAD and utilizing unemployment benefits to start your own firm in the same breath? Using unemployment when you are technically self-employed is illegal, though I realize the reality is that many professionals are doing this.


    There are ways to getting around costly expenditures such as plotters, office space, health insurance and marketing. I know people who aren’t getting health insurance from their employer anyway, so why NOT start their own business? They’re paying for themselves already anyway. In addition, when you’re self employed you can deduct or expense health insurance premiums and expenses, so theres a net loss right there anyway, lol.


    Overall, I agree, it would probabaly be unwise to ‘quit’ your job right now, but I don’t think anyone should feel as trapped as a lot of professionals do now in their current situation. Just my two cents.

    Bill Delaney

    I am in that boat, I have had my own business for about 5 years.. so there is no unemployment benefit.  It’s sink or swim right now and I do not turn down much…Need your piano moved? I just reluctantly paid for E and O insurance for another year but it is a tough economy no doubt.



    Right on, if a company doesn’t give you health insurance then that’s a huge deciding factor.  Especially if you have kids.  

    I’m not sure there are ‘ways around’ costly expenditures though.  As a business expense you won’t be taxed on it but you still have to pay for it in some fashion. 

    I looked into the legal aspects of starting your own business while on unemployment and it’s perfectly legal as long as you report any earnings to the IRS. You can even have a part time job and be on unemployment.  You report your earnings and they deduct it from your weekly check.  This is what unemployment is for…filling in the gaps until you get back to where you were before.  And you can buy anything you want while on unemployment.  Food, diapers, photoshop, CAD, alcohol, tobacco, firearms…..:) 


    Well, maybe I’m wrong about the unemployment thing.


    I thought that you could not be self employed while collecting unemployment, but maybe it’s that you cant collect unemployment benefits from self employment? Dont know. I know that you can get part time unemployment.


    As far as expenditures–I think a lot of people think they need more than they really do to offer a design service, thats all. I wouldnt really need a plotter, office space, or some of the other stuff and there’s a great book called ‘Guerrilla Marketing’ for that stuff, but ymmv.

    BZ Girl

    The thought of going out on my own is absolutely tantalizing at this point. Truth be told, i’ve been dreaming about it for well over a year now. I took a small business management course at a local college to learn about writing a business plan, how much start up capital i would need (not a terribly whole lot, compared to other types of businesses), how to do balance sheets, etc. I do not get health insurance through my job; i get it through my husband’s, so no loss there. We have a ton of savings right now, since we’ve been feverishly stockpiling cash in case one of us got laid off. I’m in the process of getting licensed….3 sections of the LARE down, 2 to go. My absolute fantasy is that THE DAY i find out i’ve passed the last section and am licensed I quit this hellhole and run joyfully into the self-employed world. I know it’s tough, i know it takes 5 years to make a profit, i know nothing’s guaranteed…but i just can’t imagine anything more rewarding. You’ll never work harder for anyone else than you do working for yourself. And i’m not afraid of hard work; i know i would do whatever it takes to be successful.


    Bill, i’m curious about the expense for E&O insurance. That’s one thing i haven’t looked up yet. How much does that run you? I’m sure it’s not cheap.

    jenny janis

    From your post, it seems like you are ready to draw the line of dignity. Clearly your mental health is being affected and therefore you should seek other options which will help you feel better about your day. I would try to ask them for a timeframe when you can expect your salary to return to its original level, and start to hunt for other employment opportunities in your area. Nothing is worse than having a miserable job. Landscape Architects and Architects in general put up with a lot of b.s. in the workplace…long hours, low pay only to see pieces of our ideas become reality. We don’t need the extra torture and more of us should stand up for being treated properly. What you do completely depends on how flexible you are and what your resources are around you.

    mark foster

    BZ– I’m pretty sure the states run the insurance, so it varies.  It usually costs more when you start out and gets less expensive after you have been around for a year or two–insurance companies like to have a track record.  E&O insurance is a specialty, but any insurance agent should be able to give a referral. 

    It sound like you have positioned yourself perfectly to start your own firm.  Good Luck!

    p.s. the whole “5 years to make a profit” thing is overblown. It’s the break-even point you want to consider.  Make sure you can afford to put more into it then you take out for a year or two (kind of like an expensive hobby!)  Then be prepared to make about 1/2 of what you make now for a few years.  Sounds tough, but who cares?  You’re building something. 

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