Fresh graduate stuck and need advice

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Fresh graduate stuck and need advice

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    Rex Cayabyab

    Hello, I’m a new member to the site, and what a great place for resources/information.

    I just graduated last June and, like most people, struggling to find any jobs directly in line with landscape architecture, or related for that matter. I have brief experience in a professional setting, which I feel is my disadvantage unfortunately. I am constantly on the look for anything I feel I am qualified for, or at least somewhat, and apply to anything I can find. I’ve hadn’t much luck, though. I’ve thought about things I could do to improve my skill set and experience.

    Any tips/advice on things I could be doing in the meantime to bolster my credentials while on the job hunt? I’ve thought about going back to school for a Master’s, or becoming certified in something related to l’arch. Any and all suggestions are welcome. I appreciate it.



    Leslie B Wagle

    Well there are ads out there but they a) seem to be asking for people who can walk on water and/or b) will probably get piles of resumes; however keep it up and something will eventually happen.

    In the meantime, since you didn’t ask only for job leads, and you look healthy and maybe mobile, it occurs to me that the summer is coming on, and there are always lots of volunteer opportunities. Maybe not the ideal but if you found one that fit, it could pad your resume and also expand your general life experience. 

    Try googling around with these or some combination of such search words: 

    wooded area restoration

    garden information desk assistant

    wetland nursery maintenance

    watershed invasive plan removal

    earth day cleanup

    wetland site preparation

    green roof intern

    park docent

    nature camp counselor

    habitat restoration

    apprentice ecologist

    wilderness project

    children’s nature program


    Sarah Nicole

    Some ideas:

    Approach any and every firm you can for informational interviews to find out more about them, what they’re looking for in new hires, and whether they have any opportunities for you to do contract work and/or even volunteer work for them.  Most job openings won’t be advertised.

    Participate in design competitions to keep building your portfolio.

    Consider working for a landscape contractor to get valuable hands-on experience in construction details.

    Good luck!


    The job market for us is very tough! I graduated in May 2011 and until last week I was able to score my first job in the profession! 

    Keep your resume and portfolio up to date. Take advantage of technology. Put your resume and portfolio online ( is great). Keep learning and don’t stop searching for jobs. Learn to accept rejection. It can get pretty depressing very fast. Just don’t give up. 

    Search for jobs and using the best of your social capital (who you know). Apply for jobs that you don’t qualify for, but let them know you are looking for any entry level spots if available. Their response will give you the hiring contact info, which you can later use in the future if you qualify. 

    Create your own networking/business card. Make sure the card, your resume, and portfolio all match. Sort of like branding a product, you are marketing your skills and talents to potential employers. 

    Be very organized in your job search. I have a few email templates depending on the firm and their job posting. Here is one example I use:

    Hello !

    My name is Andres Felipe Fajardo and I graduated from ASU with a Bachelors of Science in Landscape Architecture ‘11.

    The purpose of this email is to inquire over any possible career opportunities with this firm. I would like apply for any entry-level positions that may be available. I have attached my resume,  a link to view my portfolio, and another link that further explains who I am.

    I do have work experience for when I worked for the Office of University Architects at ASU with Byron Sampson and Norman Yatabe.

    To view my portfolio online, please go to :

    If you would like to know a little more about me, please go to :

    As for my current aspirations, I am currently earning a Certificate in Small Business Start Up at Rio Salado College, and I plan to earn my masters in Urban Design and Real Estate Development.

    I appreciate the time you have taken to read my email, and my information.

    Thank you,
    Andres Fajardo
    Arizona State University – B.S. Landscape Architecture ‘11
    Oh , I also attached a file you can use to help you stay organized in your job search!
    If all else fails, get a certificate at a local community college. It took me 2 years to find my job! I earned a certificate in small business start up at my local college to compensate for that time gap. 
    Some things to think about. 
    Much luck!

    Congratulations, Andrés! I am a 2011 grad, the job search has been tough on me as well.

    What I found that has made the biggest difference was getting involved with my local ASLA chapter and volunteering at other local events. I know there are differing opinions on the value of ASLA, but it has been nice to have a community of people with similar proclivities, and local chapters are often more than happy to have volunteers, especially those who are emerging professionals. I second what Leslie said above about volunteering. It’s a great way get out of your apartment, network, and feel good about your self while helping out. I got involved with Park(ing) day last fall, did some pro-bono design work for a pre-school, and I am looking forward to NLAM in April. Being an advocate is a great way to bolster the profession and yourself.

    I have also given though towards going back to school, as well as taking on additional certifications. I decided that it wasn’t for me personally at the moment, but I’m not ruling it out either. If you’re looking to save money, maybe see if your local community college offers any related programs you might be interested in.

    Good luck, keep your head up!



    I’d avoid getting a masters if you think it will give you a better chance at getting a job in LA. It won’t, and even if you do find a job, you’ll end up spending your entire life poor trying to pay off your student loan debt. If you want to actually learn more and are interested in theory/experimenting, then yes furthuring your education is a good idea. Getting a job should not be the reason for getting a masters, especially if you already have a bachelor’s degree in the same field. There are more affordable ways to make yourself stand out from the competition. 


    I can relate. 

    It appears you worked for two contractors already, but in what capacity ? 

    If the office experience is not forthcoming, strike out on your own for a while.  If you’re back in WC, you have a lot of possibilities available to you.

    You have to find a number of contractors within a reasonable distance and provide design services to them on an exclusive relationship – they find the client, they sell the design service, you provide the design to the contractor, contractor reimburses you for an agreed upon amount if the job sells, and low amount if it doesn’t.

    You will learn to move quickly, deal with difficult clients and moving budgets, make friends, learn who in the field is flakey, make money, lose money, and get experience within the landscrape field.  You’ll figure out that you might need a business course (Mt SAC if you can get in) or two, and that time management can be really tricky to master.

    Learn your plants.  And I mean learn them.  Go the the growers in your area – wcnurseries(dot)com, etc.  Walk the fields.  See what is available and more importantly, what isn’t available – mags like Garden Design showcase stuff not readily available to your area.

    You would be wise to go pick up a shovel to plant or install irrigation once in a while too for one of the contractors. You’ll see first hand where stuff you thought would work didn’t, learn how poor quality maintenance is the norm, and get a bit of respect from the contractors along the way.

    Your design background will be made ever more solid, and you’ll be able to speak with authority from experience.


    Jordan Lockman

    I fully agree and this can not be emphasized enough, a redundant degree in L Arch following a undergrad degree is pretty disappointing. Unless, you are looking to change fields or expand your field. You could get a masters in Arch. or something that is somewhat related, so that your undergrad is still a bonus to have. Otherwise, I would recommend searching out positions that will enhance your degree. Such as, garden center, nursery production, garden maintenance, city zoning, parks, hard-scape contractors, GIS tech, drafter, etc. 


    Congratulations on graduating, unfortunately it is very tough out there. I graduated in 2010 and it took me about eight months to find a full time LA related job. The hardest part is just getting a foot in the door to interview. I applied to everything that popped up on the ASLA Joblink and eventually one of those listings landed me an interview and job. I have since switched jobs and that was only possible through networking and keeping those ties strong for many years.

    I am not sure where you are located, but I think design-build is a good way to start — in a nursery. Many small companies seemed to start being receptive to calls and inquiries about this time, in preparation for the spring schedule. During my search, I started keeping an excel sheet that kept track of what the name of the firm was, when I sent an inquiry, when I received a reply (and if so, the name of the person). I did a mix of cold calls and cold emails, many times neither yielded anything. Sometimes I did get somewhere, which was encouraging. Most importantly, stay as busy as you can. Don’t let the “no’s” put you down. Keep sketching, exploring, and travelling if funds permit. Polish your resume and portfolio, and as an above poster said, make business cards and network like crazy. Attend local expos and trade shows. Volunteer work also is a good option to build experience. I designed a small garden for a church that ended up going into my portfolio and impressing my current employer during my interview. You just never know how things like that can help you out in the long run.

    Land8 has a great group of people and resources that can help you out. Good luck.

    Tosh K

    I’ll echo a lot of what’s been said – get a job in anything related to LA (planning, CAD work, nursery, HomeDepot, landscaping) or really anything.  Showing a good work ethic, ability to multi-task and meet deadlines is a big part of an entry level expectation; also showing some humility in taking odd jobs can be good too (a lot of hubris is sometimes shown by recent grads).

    Use whatever network you can develop (alumni, ASLA, faculty connections) and be enthusiastic about any kind of face time you can get with someone in a firm.  Many firms are willing to show you their work and studio on an informational basis (helps them hone their presentation skills and we all like to talk about our projects a bit).  They also like to see recent student work to know what skill sets are out there.  Local ASLA events are a good place to network (where I found my last 2 jobs).  When you get responses, stay in touch with them – I’ve found that they are serious about “keeping you in mind” even years after the fact.  Checking in every 3~6 months is reasonable if they don’t indicate otherwise.  Most positions go unadvertised because the pool of people sending in materials is so large, it’s unnecessary or daunting (imagine going through 200 portfolios as a 5~10 person office…).

    One thing I found helpful is to make it a group effort (look, apply, review portfolios/resumes, and discuss the process with a few of your peers and maybe a mentor if you can find one).  It’s effective and can be less stressful going through it together.

    My impression at least in the NE is that things are looking much better of late.

    Good luck.

    Daniel Meier

    I recently received my master’s in LA after my B.S. in Planning, and am having some trouble as well finding a job. I would agree that you should not go back to get your masters if you already have a Bachelors in LA. If you do go back for something different, in my program we took many courses and learned many of the same things that undergrads were learning.  

    Somewhat regretful, I began my job search a few months after graduating, and took a leap of faith and moved to Chicago from Ohio a few months ago to explore the market and job openings in the city. There is next to nothing available in Chicago. I have been doing the same as many, responding to ASLA postings everyday, even if I feel I may not qualify. I have little professional experience related to the field, which definitely makes it tough to catch employers attention. I have traveled abroad and also published work, but feel most of the time that may not be of interest to many employers since it is not in a professional practice setting…

    I have had a few nibbles of interests, but not many. I am setting up a meeting with the Illinois ASLA chapter president, which I am sure will be beneficial. I am always all ears to any and every opportunity that may arise.


    Wes Arola, RLA

    These are all great suggestions. Many firms are going towards BIM (Revit) and Civil 3D which there are courses in. Also if you already are a wiz at Sketchup, I’d look in to rendering programs and render some of your old projects from your portfolio.  If you could get some sort of certificate or credible experience with those programs, I would think that would be just as valuable (if not more) than landscape construction or nursery experience. Both would be ideal.  Any entry level openings these days, in my opinion, are going to be for production/drafting work because of a surge in the workload. Thats reality. The faster and more experienced you are at CAD, Sketchup, Revit, etc… the more appealing you will be to those job openings in today’s environment. I would welcome other’s thoughts on my opinion.

    Best of luck!

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