Looking for a mentor

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    Gareth Callear

    Hello there.

    A little about me, I am a year out level landscape architect based in the UK, I graduated in 2012 with a 2:1 and immediately afterwards ended up being taken into hospital to fix my back after breaking it in a bike accident. After the initial recovery period I found it hard to get taken seriously with being at a year out level and being a year behind everyone else from my bunch, being unable to find the money to progress onto my masters and stuck in a hinterland of needing experience go get onto the masters and or my masters to get a job but being unable to pay for my masters or gain experience.

    In the end I accepted a job as a machinist for an engineers firm doing, well, machining for the most part some sweeping and a lot of drilling, as bills needed to get paid and being on benefits is the worst. I’ve been doing that job for nearly 12months now and I really really want to get back into Landscape, my portfolio, lack of experience and now a nearly 3 year gap means it’s even harder to get a toe on the ladder. I’ve managed to put aside some money that means if I live like I’m unemployed again I can work for free to gain experience and I’m hoping to win a scholarship as all masters programs in the UK are essentially self funded. 

    All that aside, is there anyone out there who would be prepared to give up some time to help me get my act together and become employable in the field I actually want to be in? Any and all input and advice is gladly welcomed and will be invaluable. 

    I know I have a lot of weaknesses, I’m not especially hot with planting plans, I can’t use Autocad and my technical knowledge is perhaps a little bit lacking but I’m dedicated, willing and ready to learn, I can’t offer much for your time but I’ll do what I can in endless favours if you decide you are prepared to mentor me.


    Tosh K

    Things I’d recommend: get a job in construction to help learn that end of the work, it may also help you get contacts in the field; get a job in a nursery or related plant trade; learn AutoCAD, this is pretty critical to being employable to most firms; keep networking in professional organizations.

    best of luck

    Maria Torres


    I hope you are well. I suggest being involved with a local ASLA chapter where ever you are try asla.org and, see what events are happening. Sometimes you may find the possibility to tour open studios of firms and meet people that way. All the best!

    Gareth Callear


    Thank you for the tips. I’m not based in the US so can’t really join in on those but I have been to and do try to get along to me local LI group meetings and events but they’re frequently poorly attended or badly advertised so you don’t know about them typically till 3 weeks after the event. Last years AGM had maybe 20 people there and most were students.

    I’ve tried to drop into local practices but usually don’t get through the door, they’re busy people or when I do, they’re not impressed with my portfolio given my short comings and or lack of experience and masters.

    I’m trying to learn CAD, is there any sites you know to learn them or any books?

    Not being in London, there’s not much room for networking that I’m aware of so networking is hard.

    Is there somewhere to get a portfolio critique?


    Post your portfolio here. I’ll critique.


    Hi Gareth,

    So sorry about your back! I got hit by a car on my bike a few years ago- that is a terrifying experience to say the least. Was it bike versus car in this case? I have been lucky to walk away relatively unscathed from both of my car-on-human battles (minus some heinous bruising in my most recent car encounter in Thailand), but I know how easily it could have gone the other way.

    A few ideas for your current dilemma:

    1. Don’t discount the value of good volunteer work! While working your current gig, there is nothing to stop you from starting to build up your skills and experience in your off time. In my last job, I wasn’t getting the zoomed in, community level experience I wanted, so I joined my towns Committee on the Environment, advising them on planning and sustainability issues. When I went to apply for my current job, I included that in my experience section- employers don’t care if you got paid, they just care about the skills your gained. I think it was integral to helping me get this job.

    2. Resume! I would have some folks on Land8 (or colleagues from school, etc) review your resume and help you identify ways to strengthen it or skills they see lacking. I am happy to review if it would be helpful.

    3. Informational/mentoring interviews. Start setting up informational/mentoring conversations with folks at firms or offices you are interested in. Bring your resume, and approach these as ways to identify skills you are missing to compete well in their offices and suggestions for how to best get those skills. This will also get your name out there, and they may think of you in the future when jobs open up.

    Hope that helps!


    Gareth Callear

    Hello, sorry for the ghost bump, life got extremely crazy since the last posting. If it wasn’t for my back condition flaring up so I’m off work then I wouldn’t be catching up at all!

    Since my last posting I’ve looked into getting cad training but the cost is prohibitive so I’ve been trying to pick up the basics on my own time. 

    I have recently updated my cv and my linked in: uk.linkedin.com/in/gaclandscape

    I will link my cv too, I’ve added to it and tried to review it and make it look a bit more unique the only issue is every time I look at it I hate it a bit more, it’s neither a “creative” cv nor a standard “skills” cv.

    Lauren, your last point is something I’d be terrified to do, I tried it once and basically got escorted out of the offices. Once bitten twice shy and all that.

    My portfolio is attached in the first post if anyone would like to look at it, it’s designed to be printed on a4 and then posted in a5 envelopes as a small pamphlet hoping to attract peoples interest as I don’t have the funds to print a large scale port folio and I don’t really know where to even begin with creating an online portfolio.

    I’m sorry this all sounds doom and gloom but I don’t know where to turn and I know what I want to do I just don’t know how to do it and need the negative feed back to make things better.

    If anyone could point me to books or sites of merit to boost my knowledge in all fields of landscape then I’d be over joyed, especially if It means I can learn more skills in my slim spare time away from work.

    Again sorry for the seeming gloomy post and I hope it’s not too incoherent, I’m on some very strong medicine for my back.


    Gareth Callear

    Thank you, my portfolio was in the first post. I haven’t really had chance to touch it since the original posting.

    Gareth Callear

    Hello Lauren, thank you for the offer, I’ve uploaded my current resume if you don’t mind having a look still.

    Mark Di Lucido

    This reply addresses the CAD portion of your post.

    A co-worker in one LA office I used to work in was trained as a steel fabricator on buildings. He injured his back and couldn’t return to his original trade so he taught himself Autocad (I want to say he did this in 6 months to a year) and was able to parlay his relatively quickly gained proficiency into employment. So teaching oneself is feasible if not the preferred way to go. If you’re already teaching yourself the basics then I presume you have access to the software which is half the battle. A next step might be to obtain a set of digital (Autocad) drawings from an actual project to:

    1) understand what a set of typical LA construction drawings entails and how they’re ordered, laid out, prioritized; and what project information they usually convey, and

    2) to learn about some of the larger, necessary digital construction drawing production concepts like layers, xrefs, imagerefs, viewports, text, linework, and plotting.

    You can learn much of #1 from pdfs but for #2 you’ll need actual Autocad.dwgs. Trying to recreate the entities in the in the Autocad.dwg files can help you learn about the concepts in #2. If you don’t have access to .dwg files send me a message here and I’ll try to get you some.

    Notwithstanding your statement that, ‘the cost is prohibitive’, I would still strongly suggest some kind of instruction. On this side of the pond community colleges are a pretty cheap way to do this but if you don’t have them on your side I’d consider seeking a tutor for just a couple of sessions; maybe even asking someone at an LA office or advertising for the service online, etc. Because Autocad is designed to be used for everything related to design it has hundreds of commands, most of which you’ll never use in production of LA construction drawings.  A couple of lessons from a tutor can quickly help you cull the superfluous commands/routines/etc., saving you a whole lot of time, energy, and eyeball strain, and getting you sooner to your goal of working in the profession.

    I’d also suggest learning the basics of Photoshop and Sketch-up as many offices use these apps too.

    Last, don’t get bogged down in CAD—it’s only one of many tools that should eventually be in your tool box. Other LA skills such as hand-graphics, writing, and public speaking will get you in the door too so by all means develop/accentuate/demonstrate these whenever you can.

    Gareth Callear

    Thank you for the reply, I did the opposite, I broke my back and now work in a metal work firm!

    Going on the rough exchange rate, the Autocad course here is 6 weeks and would cost approx $800, that’s also a 6 week period I wouldn’t be able to work because I couldn’t find a night school but I’m getting there slowly. #

    I’ve literally just started a project for myself and there’s a volunteer project on the horizon hopefully!

    I’m pretty handy with sketch-up, I love that it’s 3d, autocad being a 2d design tool always bugged me, it just slowed everything down which is why I never learnt it, I figured out work arounds for 90% of what I was needed to present. I regret it now of course but you live and learn. I’m trying to learn rendering in it now, that’s a whole different ball game.  

    Photoshop too I aren’t terrible with, not amazing, but I can knock together a pretty good looking photo montage when pushed.

    Thanks again and if anyone else has any feed back.

    PS. Is the file I attached actually open-able or visible for people to open?

    Mark Di Lucido

    Your resume and the LaurenceAssoc.pdf are viewable

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