Career change at 41

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    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I think it gets overlooked that it is not very time consuming for a principal designer to put together a conceptual plan and delegate it to staff. When that is the case, the principal first only needs production staff. A principal designer can begin a lot of different projects in a short amount of time. Each can stay on track with the right amount of production staff and good production staff management.

    He or She does not need another designer when that is the case, so the only positions being offered in that circumstance is in production. When the firm grows the need to manage production creeps in before the need for another principal designer does. It seems to me that it takes a fairly good sized firm before the need or want to hire a second principal designer creeps in.

    It is not a profession that has a ton of design job opportunities. You either have to get caught up in a good firm that is growing that sweeps you up the ladder, or you have to strike out on your own because not many firms are looking for anything more than production people, project managers, or production managers. It is simply because one principal designer can produce a hell of a lot of work if they have the right support people.

    If you were in there shoes would you spend more money to hire a designer with a lot of potential or less money to hire someone to do the dirty work on your conceptual design?

    People don’t hire simply to fulfill the dreams of ambitious talented people. They hire to fill their needs. Hopefully that can help someone along their way to fulfill their dreams, but it is at best a secondary result.


    Absolutely. And, you have to add-in that licensing requirements mean that production staff are (legitimately) utilized at the lowest rate possible; and, they have to accept those conditions if they ever want to become licensed. It’s sort of a scheme that you have to buy into (I did not). 

    Joey Donovan

    Hi there! Sorry I’ve not been able to get anyone to contact you directly. I do have some further advice, however- contact the UK Landscape Institute (the professional body representing landscape architects). They will give you advice more relevant to a UK resident.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I’m not a big fan of the “internship” but I get it that the intention is to promote experience. The reality is that it creates opportunity for exploitation. One can exploit while patting himself on the back for “giving back” and “giving a hand up” to aspiring LA’s.

    I don’t know the answer, but I am a big believer in being paid what I’m worth to you and paying you what you are worth to me. Internships devalue that in my opinion. …. especially when opportunities ae limited in a stressed economy.

    Chunling Wu

    In reality, you won’t get low pay as long as your new career/job is still related to your background. But it may be a risk in many aspect if you completely jump into a new career.

    It’s a risk because it’s not just what one person wants at this age. It’s also about family, personal goal/life, career achievement, salary, value, time, etc. Above all, it’s also related to how good this person is; How much this person will contribute to learn a new career; How faster this person can get good design skills; if he/she is lucky to get a job he/she likes (there are many directions in landscape architecture); if he/she is lucky to get promotion quickly. After all, it’s team work in most companies. Personality and communication skill play an important role here. So before you moving any step, there are some big questions you need to ask yourself. Why you want to change your job completely? Is there any other way to save current situation? How much passion do you have to LA now? Will you have financial pressure if you become a full time student?

    However, it really depends on what you are looking for. No pain no gain. It may be a great change in your career. Risk doesn’t mean mistake.

    So here are some suggest I can provide. Not sure what type 3D graphic artist you are. But 1 you could self market and open your own studio or find a new job. 2, you could be consultant or sub-contractor. A lot of design firms (most arch. and engineering) would like to have some one like you to do some animation in house. The pay is good, maybe better than designers. You may even give a try now without take 2 year school. 4, google/amazon/facebook etc as UI designers. / concept artists for movies. 

    Hope it’s helpful a little bit. 

    Grant Beerling

    Ok short answer as my iPhone is difficult to write with at any length on this web site.

    A friend of Joey, I started at 44, finished at 49, and 4 and half years later I am a senior LA.

    Ba and Ma route. Worked stupid hard, all nighters and doubles, last chance saloon attitude.

    Do the Ma conversion, but a lot of supplemental work on AutoCAD, networking, site visits and working out what really drives you.

    There are only advantages to age. You can learn anything, and by now you’ll know your strengths and how to work with people.

    It’s a tough industry, highly rewarding when you see your stuff being built. The whole team effort.

    Use your life skills and work like your life depended on it and you’ll be fine.

    Any questions let Joey or I know, slow reply due to being busy…

    Take care

    Grant Beerling


    Grant……I’m seriously impressed with all that you have accomplished…..especially at your age.

    You DO “realize”……that you are definitely an “anomaly”….right? *smile*.  I guess, I’m just thinking that there’s only about 2% of “potential” designers who could accomplish what YOU have.  I agree, that being older has definitely worked in your favor.  IMO, the younger generation today, don’t quite have the “work ethic” it really takes…sorry, don’t mean to offend anyone.  And the KEY statement you made above is “work like your life depends on it”…because, that’s absolutely what it takes!

    You have demonstrated that…….if a person wants something badly enough….it is definitely within reach.  That a serious focus on the studies and hard work…puts the odds of success in your favor!   I wish you continued success as you move forward.  Well done!

    J. Robert (Bob) Wainner

    Joey Donovan

    Thanks for offering your experience Grant, you were exactly the person I was thinking of when I saw Gia’s first post!

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