How does a recent graduate get that first job?

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums PORTFOLIO & RESUME How does a recent graduate get that first job?

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    Edward Flaherty? Wow! I made contact with you 15 years ago for a position in Saudi Arabia. I recall because I seriously considered moving overseas. Entry level work and I graduated with a BLA. We twice spoke on the phone and made several email exchanges. I ultimately decided to join HNTB in Baltimore. I still have the same Yahoo email address so I’m certain its saved in the account. I also read an article 3 or 4 years ago you wrote in ASLA magazine regarding overseas employment in the field. I said: “Hey its Ed!”. Anyway…

    Small world and profession. Goodness Gracious.

    mark foster


    Of the dozen jobs I have had, I only got one through a traditional channel (advertised, interviewed etc), and it sucked.  The best ones came from people I met while doing something else.

    Great advice by everyone here–especially about networking and face time.  I would add that your best channels are not the folks hiring, but the folks who know who is hiring.  This would include your classmates and/or past graduates from your schools.  

    Good luck.

    Barbara Peterson

    Speaking of networking: ’tis the holiday time…short notice but it looks like your NY ASLA Chapter has a holiday party tonight (the 6th) – . If you can, ATTEND, bring business cards and a great attitude.

    Also, looks like the NY Chapter has some jobs posted on their website – .

    Barbara Peterson

    So, I noticed that the holiday party this evening is sold out…contact one of the Chapter’s officers and see if you can still get a ticket…..(or consider contacting the Victor Stanley rep – looks to be the event sponsor – to see if there are any additional tickets…). Good luck: have fun.

    Jordan Lockman

    Another option if you have no relevant experience is to cast a wider net. Look at jobs that will build skills that you can ultimately use as an LA.

    Examples would be:

    1. CAD tech positions in any field.

    2. Landscape/Design Build.

    3. Nurseryman jobs.

    4. Graphic design/presentation.

    5. Construction(landscape, concrete, etc.)

    There are other options, but mainly you need to keep an open mind and understand that out of school it is not always easy to get everything that you are looking for. Sometimes it is good to have a diverse work experience that will help you understand how to design, present, or construct the built environment.

    Jordan Lockman

    It never hurts to think outside the box for networking. You don’t just want to meet other Landscape Architects. You want to meet potential future clients, other professionals(Archs., Engineers, Nurseryman, etc), and people involved in the building industry. You would be amazed how sometimes these contacts can be just as fruitful in a job hunt than other LA’s.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Especially any job that will make you known to potential future sources of work whether it would be as an employee or as your own office in the future.

    Trace One

    New York city Planning has four really interesting planning jobs – you would be in the heart of cool, the Borough of Brooklyn, home to Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Safran Foer, Michelle Williams the actress…I LOVE brooklyn…

    wish I was younger – you meet everybody who is controlling land use, you influence the future of new york – it is hard political work, but very very interesting – I like the tech job, producing presentation drawings…


    All this talk about ‘networking’ makes me want to barf a little. We skipped over the step where you become really good at something, ie drawings, construction documents, code research, ecological restortion, etc. 

    Sure it helps to have a network, but the candidate with the best portfolio, requires the least training is going to get hired 9/10 over the one with the nice smile. At least thats the way it should be.

    Tosh K

    ‘Being qualified’ is implied, but no matter how good you’re on paper, I think it’s safe to say that having a relationship with those that are hiring helps them determine if you’re a good fit for their ‘culture’.  Most studios work as a team, teams need team players that fit the culture.  They may not be the best, but of the finalists being the best fit is important.

    How to build that relationship is a hard thing to know unless a program teaches that (let’s face it, larger universities that tend to have LA programs, don’t play that up as much as a small lib-art school would).  I think a lot of us are putting in our 2cents on how to do that to help out – in my experience the networking does help a lot in putting your face and personality out to the firms and hence getting a chance to prove yourself with a job. 

    And if it’s entry level, other than being a quick learner and having a good attitude, chances are a candidate isn’t going to be a really good at work tasks (at least not immediately, maybe rendering but rarely not CDs/specs/code).

    Colin Heffern

    I think landscape architecture is just a difficult field to break into. I am in a similar boat, having graduated this past May with Masters degrees in both landscape architecture and planning, and recently moved to Denver seeking positions in both fields. Throughout the past several months I have followed many of the suggestions from this thread, reworking my portfolio, arranging and engaging in informational interviews with professionals at nearby firms, and following up with contacts to reaffirm my interest. This is often possible in private firms, but public entities do not offer many opportunities for creating contacts and following up on potential positions. You apply and then wait, possibly months, to hear if you have moved on in the course of hiring. It can be a frustrating application process.

    While degrees in both fields has opened up a few more opportunities for me personally, neither are especially happening fields in Denver and many other cities at the present time. Too few jobs and too many applicants. And like many applicants, I have some internship experience with Safe Routes to School but very little in a landscape architecture firm. Further complicating matters on my end, especially in the planning field, I have a physical disability which prevents me from driving. This limits the ability to expand the job search into landscape sales and more far-flung offices.

    You are not alone in your frustration with the job search. Keep positive and pound the pavement.


    I might argue that its implicit to you and I, but there are lots of new grads that may very well think ‘its all about who you know.’ I dont buy into that philosophy. Being really good at what you do, or at least caring passionately about what you do is the real ticket to meeting and knowing more people in your industry, that leads to job opportunities. Im going to hire the candidate that puts their work first and shows evidence for that fact over the one that I can get along with.

    Conventions and mixers are nice to supplement your network, but building real pro relationships takes time and a few different jobs in my experience. I interned and worked for a new office every 6-12 months before, through, and after school. I stuck with the last one for a few years before slowly bleeding out on my own. But the first priority has always been the work. I have said for a long timethat I’d rather go teach skiing than compromise my professional integrity.


    Hello Kelly;

    For job interviewing skills, I would like to recommend an inexpensive book for you.  You can even download a copy of it from  The book is called “HIRE ME” by Patricia Drain.  This is an excellent book!  It tells you everything you need to know before going to any job interview (regardless of which profession you’re in).  It costs about $10.00 and takes less than an hour to read.  At the back of this book, the author has provided approx. 30 or 40 really great potential job interview questions. This book address everything on how to dress, what to say & not say. And, I believe it also discusses how to write a professional resume’.

    Various LA firms handle interviews differently, of course.  I once went to an LA job interview and was asked to stand up and do a project presentation in front of the Owner of the firm. I think, some LA firms will ask new hires to perform autoCAD during the interview.  I feel sure that most firms will want to see your design portfolio.  With regards to your LA portfolio, make sure it’s well organized, professional looking and with only your very BEST samples. 

    I agree with what Tosh has recommended.  Networking is critical. Using social media (and personal contacts) to get to know as many people as possible.  Starting out is tough in any field, especially in this economy, but, perseverance will also help you.  You might be able to find an LA firm in NYC where you could do an internship – and I believe, by law, you must be paid.  Even if it’s not much money, it would be an opportunity to get some experience and your foot in the door.  In today’s market, you’ll probably have to be pretty aggressive!



    Fred Besancon

    Here are a several more thoughts / suggestions to add to the mix.  Some of which probably have been addressed by others, but maybe in a different way:

    • Networking:  Another way to meet professionals is through your local design schools and trying to get involved as a TA or serve on design juries.  I imagine its different in NYC, but here in San Diego the local architecture program often is searching for locals, including recent grads, to help serve on design juries.  Having a landscape architecture background or field experience helps too since most professors are looking for expertise outside of the traditional architect coming in giving the usual comments.  For me personally, I ended up serving on some juries which led me to further discussions with a local professor / landscape architect who ended up using me on side projects and got me to start teaching a variety of courses.
    • Job packages versus portfolios:  I don’t what you’ve been sending to firms Kelly, but I found that given g a small sampling of work rather than my full portfolio very helpful.  First, this allowed me to select key projects specific to each office.  This approach also allowed me only to show the best of my work while not giving away my whole show and (hopefully) having the firms wanting to see more.   I combined the school work with a CD-ROM of a couple slideshows of school projects / PDFs for them to look at too to help make the package stand out more.  I know that works because the firm I work for now later made a similar little package when going after a project and said it was inspired by my job package.
    • Being specific to each office:  It took a bit more time, but I did my research for each office I sent work to as much as possible (web sites, visiting their work, talking to others who knew of them) so that the cover letter spoke directly to them and what skills I could offer that they would probably need.  If I was fortunate to talk to someone on the phone, then I could show off that knowledge of their work and how interested I was.
    • Habitat Management / Non-Office Work:  Don’t short shrift your field experience.  If ecology / restoration is a professional interest, then use that to your advantage.  I would think that background speaks considerably to what differentiates you from others.  That’s the great thing about landscape architecture – its a field that takes in a lot of experiences.
    • Unscheduled Visits:  I found it very helpful to drop off my resume packages in person was helpful.  Once in a while it may end up with me getting to talk to someone, but most importantly for me was just seeing the place.  If I did end up talking to someone later on the phone or even getting an interview, I could rehearse mentally being in that space versus going in cold and trying to take in all in.  Also, you can learn a lot seeing how an office is set up after you visit some…
    • Timing:  You may not be getting a response now because they are not hiring, but the work load can change dramatically in a matter of days.  A job package coming after a firm just landed some big projects will do wonders.  Check back with the firms later to let them know that you are still active in your search
    • Follow up:  After finishing grad school I remember there was one firm here in San Diego I really wanted to interview at and was dismayed when I didn’t hear anything back.  After a couple weeks, I called to see if my job package went to right people.  Later that day, I got a call back for an interview – someone the package got lost in the boss’ stack of papers.  After interviews, I also would follow up a couple days later with a thank you card that I made that had samples from my portfolio to remind them of the interview.
    • ASLA Web Site Portfolios / Make yourself stand out:   After grad school, while spending time pulling together work and cleaning it up, I spent a lot of time downloading and looking at other portfolios on ASLA’s web site.  I went in looking for what made strong portfolios and what worked in terms of organizing / presenting information.  Of course having strong work helps, but I found in looking at other portfolios that a poorly organized book can diminish the quality inside (images too small, bad layout, poor typography, et cetera).   I also kept asking myself what do I offer to a prospective employer and how I distinguish those abilities / skills / attitudes different than others?

    Good luck!


    I have to agree with what you’ve stated in your comment. 

    Although, I believe networking may be one avenue for job hunting in today’s social medial prone society…….it’s the design work that will and should separate one candidate from another.

    I guess, just getting in the door for an interview is the tricky part.  But, I have always believed that an outstanding Portfolio is key. 

    Like you, after working for a couple of other LA firms, I went out on my own.  Actually, the Dallas firm I was working for (13 years) just ran out of design work due to the recession in 1990.  The firm had massive layoffs.  And, there we very few LA jobs out there.  I started my own private practice.  But, it was my (design work – Portfolio & experience) that helped me land clients.  So, though I wasn’t interviewing with LA firms, I was basically interviewing with developers in order to get their projects. 

    I really didn’t network back then.  I just blanketed the Dallas/Ft. Worth area with marketing packets – resume’, photos of built work and color Xerox samples of color renderings as well as examples of contract documents – and that did the trick.

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