Getting back in the game – Teaching an old dog new tricks

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Getting back in the game – Teaching an old dog new tricks

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    Chris Davis

    Ladies & Gentlemen,

    I have been out of the design office setting for the last 5 years.  I have tried to keep my CAD and graphic skills up to par, but after having an interview at an office last month, apparently they are quite lacking in some aspects.  Does anybody have any good references, online courses that are really worth the money, or all around suggestions to point me in the right direction.  I know that I am at a point where I either have to invest heavily in this, or lose the skills all together.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, even the occasional smart and slanted comments.  What say you people of Land8?  I am pretty desperate right now.




    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Are they truly lacking or were they just not a good fit for that particular office?

    Goustan BODIN

    Have a look at the portfolios here and at other places, that will help you know where you stand.

    Now, one interview is just not enough, it barely counts as ‘warming up’. Find 5 more interviews, or visit offices (good threads about that last point here on Land8)

    Barbara Peterson

    I agree w/Andrew and Goustan: talk with other firms. It may “just be” that particular firm.

    Did they give you “specifics” as to why they thought that you might be “lacking”? If not…could you call them and ask them for additional clarification so that you know where you “need” improve or what skill they felt needed work…you may only need tutorials vs an actual class.

    With regard to classes, I have received notices from Imaginit regarding AutoCAD classes but I have not checked into them so I cannot attest to “how much I would have learned”. (If you would like to check into them, the website is .) Perhaps someone has taken one of the classes and could comment.

    Don’t forget to focus on your other strengths….ie are you strong in CA or spec writing, etc.

    Good luck.

    Chris Davis

    But I know that my CAD skills are not what they were 5 years ago.  I didn’t even use them for at least a year, so I need to knock the cobwebs out at least.  I have plenty of strengths, but for me to be able to jump right in the mix of a busy office I need to strengthen those skills.  No matter what office I am interviewing at.  I mean will I be over looked by a fresh out of school graduate who may have the greatest CAD skills out of his class?  No different than needing to brush up on hand graphics and sketching.  I am not going to stop interviewing and go focus on polishing my CAD skills, but I do need practice

    Ashley J Rohrs

    I have been out for 5 years as well.  I took an AutoCAD 2012 course (general, not LA specific) last fall and after the first week I realized that once you understand AutoCAD it is not that difficult to relearn.  It’s just like riding a bike!  Take a community college course and you will gain your confidence again.  I still use my graphic skills today (just not for an LA job), but I’m assuming its the same idea.

    Goustan BODIN

    Fully agree with Ashley : I also have been away from Autocad for a few years in the past, and it does come back quickly when you get your head into it. Even the new interface, options, icons, whatever. It’s a scary one, but after all, it’s just another software…

    Again, autocad is just one skill amongst (too) many skills LAs need to  master.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I agree with Ashley. ACAD drafting has not changed that much … just more conveniences in options of how you can do things.

    Fifteen years ago, I took a “bridge job” doing cad drafting for a small civil engineering/survey office while I was looking for a job with an LA firm. It was like ACAD grad school and I got paid. It actually was an advantage that I was not a surveyor or engineer for getting hired because they knew they were not training a future competitor.  …. just a thought.

    Tosh K

    Your advantage in having past experience in understanding lineweights, drawing layout and the application of drawings in the field should set you higher than recent grads (they may know some aspects better, but generally aren’t versed in office-use of CAD).

    As others mentioned CC courses and  working for a CM/engineer/surveyor/fabricator (doing shop drawings) could help brush off the cobwebs.  On the other hand, firms that do higher end 3-D work may just not be a good fit (unless you angle more for the managing end).  I generally found coursework to be less useful as the application was hard for me to grasp.


    I’d say the key to most people having a job (or having kept a job through the past few years) is versatility.  Not always true in every firm, but most levels and titles within the office do Cad to some extent — from intern through PMs and associates, etc…  it’s a necessary evil skill.  We all get that; so brush up on it.

    But, aside from Cad, it always helps to show what else you can do to assist.  Can you learn/demonstrate a good understanding of page layout in InDesign for proposals, presentations, etc?  Can you use Photoshop to render a plan or create a simulation?  (Bradley Cantrell has a good book and a great weekend course (or at least used to) that I’ve found helpful and methodical.)  Some companies love Sketchup (Daniel Tal’s book). etc…  Even if you’re well versed in construction detailing, construction admin, etc.  it always helps to have a diverse skill set that shows when the office slammed you can jump in help on something.  It also helps to show that when the office is slow you’re also versatile enough to step out of your “role” and do something else.  That’s all I got.

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