April 5, 2012 at 10:32 am #158201
April, Some people just can’t handle the truth! Its not pessimism…its the hard facts. No rosy pictures. 14 years in this profession, experiencing all the ups and downs and watching many former co-workers go into another career field…have led me to believe that this is such a wonderful financially rewarding field to be a part of.April 5, 2012 at 10:35 am #158200April 5, 2012 at 1:28 pm #158199Kim RomanoParticipant
I should clarify Maui Bob, “Any job in LArch would be better than working for my current position in the government.” I’m working for a low income housing program in NYC, you are designing parks on a beautiful Island in Hawaii. While they are both government jobs, I’m assuming the working culture is very cery different. Wanna switch for a week and find out?April 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm #158198Ellis CuckseyParticipant
You seem to be saying a few different things here:
“How is doing AutoCad for years at a giant firm teaching you design?”
“The hardest part is not the design”
“…do you think an employer is going to be more interested in someone that pulled themselves up and created opportunity or who bagged groceries at Winco…”
Isn’t “doing AutoCad” as a way to get a foot in the door the same thing as “creating opportunity”? Obviously you and I are looking at this from two different angles, you as a self-employed designer and me as one who’s looking at doing AutoCad for a few years at a giant firm. But seriously, there are a ton of ways to pull yourself up and be a go-getter.
You’re getting great experience. That’s awesome. But I am too, even if it’s not the same experience as yours. Maybe it’s not the case everywhere, but I’m working daily with licensed LAs, creating designs for everything from sub-division entry features to small neighborhood parks to massive civic waterfronts. Yeah, I’m a drafter, but it’s not like I’ve got my head burried into the screen to the point where I don’t get any benefit from the design process. And not everyone wants to do residential design. This field is (or was, at least) fairly broad. There’s room for lots of perspectives on how to make it work.
PS: I hope you all are doing good there. I miss moscow and all the people more than I can express. Say hi to Jon for me.April 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm #158197Heather SmithParticipant
I’m sorry if I misspoke Ellis. I absolutely think you ARE making opportunity for yourself. While trying to be encouraging to those that haven’t landed a job I inadvertently made it sound like doing AutoCad was less then owning your own business. I did not mean that, I wasn’t thinking how that would come across. Jon has applied for MANY AutoCad jobs. haha. He occasionally still applies for those jobs, because we have been told, even here that working for ourselves will prevent us from working at a firm…because we have no way on the elevator. Which is frustrating to hear because we just haven’t been able to land a job with someone else. After four years we have had to shake it off and as I mentioned at another point, make lemonade out of lemons. I think people think the only way to get experience is getting a job with a firm, which if there isn’t work…can be incredibly disheartening. Most people don’t want to do residential, I just added that as an option to this conversation because as you know many areas…like Moscow, could never keep an LA busy without the build. I just wanted to throw another idea out there. I feel badly if I hurt you by what I wrote. Hopefully I haven’t managed to sound like an idiot again.
Again, I am so happy you got that AutoCad job…some of the best news I had heard on the job front…for years. haha. How is it going? Are you learning a lot? How is Mike?
Say hello to Sara!April 5, 2012 at 4:47 pm #158196
I have to agree with you Ellis. I’ll take doing AutoCAD at a giant firm for years over decades of learning design skills on my own. You’ll learn more about design on a typical day through osmosis than someone doing design/build solo will in a year. A junior staffer at a large design firm has the advantage of being able to interact with senior LAs and other junior staff. Most senior LAs feel an obligation to train junior staff, so design question are usually welcomed.
A person that starts their own design/build firm straight out of school doesn’t have the advantage of seeing experienced design professionals at work on a daily basis. Most importantly folks that go out on their own usually don’t have experienced designers critiquing their work. The only person putting a critical eye on their work is usually some homeowner that doesn’t know squat about landscape design. Yeah I know having an LA degree gives a person the leg up over the average landscaper, but sometimes being a great designer in academia doesn’t equal being a great designer in the real world. Being able to have dialog with a senior LA is something I still value after 23 years in the business.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with striking out on your own fresh out of school. It’s just different and probably a tougher way to go about things. A person who is able to start a business and operate it at a profit, while staying committed to learning more about Landscape Architecture has just as good a chance of being a star in the profession as a person that has worked for years at top notch LA offices. As long as you remain a student of the profession and don’t turn into a pusher of landscape products it’s all good. The problem is too many guys that go out on their own too early fall in love with their own work and don’t develop as designers. These are the guys that never evolve from framing doorways with pointy evergreen shrubs, installing acres of unnecessary hardscape and planting monocultures of trees in straight lines. I guess it’s because the time it takes to sell jobs, pick-up materials, organize employees, install jobs and reinvent the wheel in general, is time not being spent thinking about and doing design.
I started writing this earlier before Heather’s response above and I got busy, so I’m posting it now in hopes someone will get something good from it.April 5, 2012 at 6:35 pm #158195Heather SmithParticipant
I am not sure anyone would say starting a business right after school is the best idea. But for us we had two options…work for minimum wage or work for ourselves. We did not have the choice to work at a firm doing AutoCad…and I know that a lot of people haven’t either. It does take longer to learn things on your own, I just don’t see the point in discouraging those with no other options by telling them to wait for the job market to heat up. My husband graduated four years ago…if he hadn’t worked for himself he would be dusty on his AutoCad skills and would have a huge lapse in the time b/w the time he graduated and when he had a real shot at a job. And then add on how weak his portfolio would look after four years completely out of the profession…probably decreasing his chance against more recent graduates. This is what I am speaking to. I am not saying it is better to work for yourself, straight out of college. I couldn’t do it. I am incredibly proud that my husband has been able to do this. I didn’t mean to say that design is easy…I meant to say that running the business is the hardest part. I just wanted to clarify that. I am just reminded again why I find communication on the internet so frustrating. We are all coming from different viewpoints and situations. I feel badly when I see people fearful they won’t find work, and I understand that feeling and reality all too well. I did cry over the fact that we graduated in 2008-09…and it felt hopeless. We are in no position to purchase a house, we have children and we are overwhelmed by our student loans. This is the situation we find ourselves in…and waiting for the market to pick up so that we didn’t have to learn from the school of hard knocks wasn’t an option. Believe me…he has written hundreds of cover letters, gone to Seattle and hand delivered portfolio cds and cover letters written for 18 individual firms, worked(and still works) on meeting people that can serve as professional connections. My response isn’t based on an either/or situation…it was based on survival. My husband and I didn’t go to school and spend thousands because we wanted to end up doing hard manual labor in 100 degree temperatures. I would encourage anyone in our situation to do the same thing we did. I know one architecture grad that does contracting, an LA grad that does contracting and an MFA that works for himself doing commissions. All of these people did not plan on working for themselves and don’t want to. But they have children to feed and find themselves in a situation they didn’t plan on. Yes, it is scary. Yes, we know we are at a disadvantage without mentors. Yes, we wish we hadn’t graduated when we had and we could work at large firms learning from the best. Yes, we know we have a lot to learn.
The economy is still a sensitive topic. I don’t know that saying more is helping me clear up any misunderstandings…so I will leave it at that.April 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm #158194
You’re absolutely correct sometimes we do misunderstand one another on these posts, but with a little clarification we usually are able to get back on the same page. Forgive me I spent a lot of time in Texas, so I write with an accent. As I stated previously, my last post was written before you posted your response to Ellis, I understand where you are coming from. Besides I clearly stated that there’s nothing wrong with going into business straight from school.
I repeat, as long as you remain a student of the profession and don’t turn into a pusher of landscape products it’s all good.
I’m not discouraging you from being an entrepreneur, I’m offering you insight on how you might avoid problems that real life LAs have made by stating facts. I’m not saying that one path is “better” over the other. One path just might be harder than the other. Applying oneself and not taking the easy route to achieve something is commendable. This is coming from a person who has spent his entire life swimming upstream. So relax, I’m tuned into your frequency.April 5, 2012 at 8:33 pm #158193April PreyParticipant
I am mystified as to how folks can assume that its a “choice” between entry level employment and going it alone. It isn’t. And while going it alone is hard…how is that ANY harder than trying to get a foot in the door in this economy? Nobody has made the case that gaining entry level employment in a shitty market is easier! I should also add that there are not many firms in my metro area. It will take all of two days – if that – to get portfolios out and cover my area. Then what? Sit on my hands? Call them once a month (that will take about 15 minutes)? Then sit on my hands some more? That kind of passivity isn’t an option, as far as I am concerned.April 5, 2012 at 10:12 pm #158192
April most people fresh out of school don’t have the resources to start a business. For most the options are either limit their chances and pursue jobs at LA firms exclusively or adapt and take any job they can get. I agree choices are limited for recent grads-your point?
“And while going it alone is hard…how is that ANY harder than trying to get a foot in the door in this economy?”
How about these for starters:
- Loosing ones butt by not knowing ones true cost on a landscape project is a lot more painful than getting rejected on some crappy entry level job.
- It’s hard to face property owners after you’ve screwed up and wasted their money because you didn’t know what you where doing.
- Landscape installations can be back breaking if you have to do the labor yourself. Don’t kid yourself digging holes and humping wheelbarrows all day requires a certain kind of strength and stamina. So even if someone is active and athletic they will still probably have some sore/stiff mornings until they’re in “landscape shape”.
- Dealing with difficult clients on top of everyday labor issues can make you want to jump out of a window.
- Weather is a b-yotch. There’s nothing more fun than having all your money tied up in a job and not being able finish it because of the weather.
- Squeezing people to get paid is not like waiting for next Friday’s direct deposit from the job.
I’m not discouraging you, I’m just schooling you. You might be a contractor eater and all, but you still need to go into the game with your chin strap buckled.April 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm #158191
Nah, my earlier work sucked compared to what I do now and I’m proud to say it. When I was fresh out of school my mind was full of theory and academic bs. Of course I could talk design and follow the “rules” my professors drilled into me, but I didn’t know sh!t. Besides being able to meet people from around the world, the best thing I got from my BSLA was learning the right questions to ask.
You haven’t seen your own seasoned designs yet. I’m ten times better than I was twenty years ago, because I understand people better, I’ve been to more places and I’ve developed an intimate understanding of my materials palette. It’ll probably take you seven years or so to see just how much the work you’re doing right now sucks. You’ll have old clients saying how great a job you did on their landscape and you’ll be spacing out thinking about all the things you would have done differently.
Being able to see your own projects mature is priceless. My best projects are ahead of me. It seems like all designers should feel this way.April 6, 2012 at 2:08 am #158190
Believe it or not I catch the Long Island R/R into the city and I ride 1, 2, 3 or E trains a dozen times a year or so. It sure beats sitting on the L.I. Expressway for two or three hours.
I was actually expressing my discomfort with the thought of me passing through April’s digestive tract in little chunks.April 6, 2012 at 2:48 am #158189
3 day weekend, Craig and Henry! Woohoo time! Lets all go home, baby! Good Friday is one of those paid holidays. Its been a crazy work week. Time to let loose. I wanna ride the subway train roof like a surfboard…all over NYC. L Express is my ticket around the city!..April 6, 2012 at 4:04 am #158188April PreyParticipant
I wish I could take credit for the ‘chunks of guys like you in my stool’ line…but must give credit where its due.
RIP Phil Hartman 1948-1998 (probably did not pen the line but he delivered it wonderfully playing Frank Sinatra giving Billy Idol some grief).
Thanks for taking the time crafting thoughtful, ‘food for thought’ posts. Just curious…what is the longest stretch of unemployment you have experienced in your adult life?April 6, 2012 at 4:13 am #158187
That last question is for whom?
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