My Resume…Your Thoughts and Musings

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION My Resume…Your Thoughts and Musings

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    Jarrod D. Lee

    I am sure that many of you are in the same boat as myself…thoroughly experienced and frustrated!  I have been out of work going on 8 months now.  I have sent out resume after resume, only to get, sometimes, a ‘thank you’ or ‘you were not selected yada yada yada’.  I know it’s tough out there with hundreds of qualified applicants vying for the same jobs.

    Unless you live somewhere that has a very active professional organization of LA’s it is a little hard to find someone that understands the lingo that we have to include in our resume packages.  Furthermore, trying to explain why we might be a better fit for a job within a firm than what they are advertising for is akin to having a conversation with the family pet…they listen, but really don’t understand what you are saying.

    My resume seems to always be evolving.  I can’t decide if this is good or bad, but I’m pretty sure it’s both at the same time.  I want to have a consistent package to send out everytime, but job listings don’t always allow that to occur.  Something may need more emphasis or I might feel that past employment may get me noticed more than experience or certifications.

    Anyway, I have attached my resume with this post and would appreciate your thoughts, observations, criticisms, etc.

    Thank you,

    Jarrod D. Lee

    David Barbarash

    It seems like you’re trying to fit too much into a resume and making it into a hybrid resume/cover letter/textual portfolio. Your work and project management experience should be strong selling points to separate you from others, but I don’t see much that emphasizes that skill set. It gets lost in the “Project Production” section. I’d take the highlights from that section and turn it into a “Skills” section to be placed after your work experience and before your awards and honors.


    I’d get rid of the “Philosophy & Motivation” section first. Your first two statements basically define you as a Landscape Architect, the amount of work experience will be described in the later “Employment History” section, and your married life and veteran status matter little in describing your professional qualifications. Save that info for face to face interviews.


    The “Experience” section is also unnecessary as those skills should hopefully be evident in your portfolio. To me a resume is nothing more than a rap sheet to quantify professional status and achievement, not as a textual portfolio.


    Move the “Employment History” section above the “Achievements” section and get rid of the references. To me they’re a separate document to be delivered upon request and not as a part of a resume.


    These moves should get your resume down to one page, which is a bonus. If you want to elaborate on your duties and specialties, you can do so in a short blurb after each firm you worked at; a perfect opportunity to describe your project management and report writing experience, and where possible, any projects you brought in or delivered under budget. 


    Be wary of naming yourself a LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT in times before you were licensed (before Sept. 2011?). I use the term “Landscape Designer”.


    Also, I’d hope that every resume you send or deliver comes with a cover letter, preferably one that is tailored to the firm in question. I know that it’s near impossible to write a custom letter for every firm when you’re trying to blanket the world with your resume, but what I did is have a few (3) generic cover letters depending on the type of firm (pure design, AEC, design/build, etc.) and took a few minutes to change up the opening paragraph to demonstrate how I believed I’d fit into the firm. I spent 31 months on either full or partial unemployment so I feel your pain… good luck!

    Thomas J. Johnson

    “Philosophy and Motivation” sounds odd… an employer probably doesn’t care about your philosophy. If he hires you, your philosophy will be his philosophy. Dig? Motivation is to earn a living, that’s why you’re applying for a job. Inspiration might be a better word. With that title, you should talk about philosophy and motivation. What follows seems unrelated. The length of your marriage and your childrens age don’t belong on your resume, especially in the first block. Veteran of US Coast Guard does not belong in the first block… you could add it at the end… oh, wait, it is at the end. Redundancy kills. 

    Your experience section is just a list of terms. You need action words. What did YOU do? In what context? For what company? During what time frame? What did you contribute, accomplish, achieve?

    Your certifications are strong. Move them near education.

    You went to Mississippi University for Women? Aren’t you male? I’m confused… that must have been fun/interesting…

    Employment history – combine with experience section. Give context. Action words.

    References – 8? Really? 3 – max or “available upon request”.

    If your RLA takes effect in September, then you are not an RLA yet, don’t call yourself a Landscape Architect in the title. Landscape Architects might take offense.

    That’s the stuff that caught my eye in 30 seconds or less. Quick and dirty, not time to sugar coat it. Hope that helps.


    Jarrod D. Lee

    You guys have hit on all the points where I waiver a bit as well.  This gets a little long, sorry.


    “Philosophy & Motivation” used to be “Character”.  Neither of those words/phrases really worked for me either.  The goal was to find a suitable replacement for the out dated “Objective”.  I thought about “Motivators” or maybe edit the bullets and use “Design Philosophy”.  Although the Married and Veteran bullets appear to not be relevant, my goal is to indicate stability and age.  I have been to interviews or talked with people on the phone and they were often suprised that I pushing 40.


    I agree that the “Experience” section is just a list, and after receiving a degree in LA and working in the field for 10+ years, this stuff should be appearant, but I have noticed that resumes are often directed to Human Resources people that only understand the definition of something, not really what it takes to actually use that skill.  My favorite was the title Talent Aquisition Manager!  We aren’t auditioning for Westside Story.


    I have flip flopped “Employment History” and “Achievements,etc.” back and forth for a couple of months.  I tend to think that what you have achieved is more important than where you have worked.  Example: I have worked with a lot of contractors that worked for really crappy GC’s, but there work was outstanding and/or they were very involved in the community, veteran, etc.


    To balance out the list of “Experience” I include a Project List with my package where separate the projects by discipline.  I combine some of the things in the list where I feel its appropriate.  This section is rather daunting to me because of the amount of experience that I do have.  I can easily say that I have performed, in some combination, 75% of those things listed on almost all of my projects.


    I have a cover letter that is pretty standard with a second paragraph that gets edited for each specific job.


    I understand that some LA’s might get pissy about me calling myself a Landscape Architect.  I also understand the title and practice terminology.  I went to school and got my degree in Landscape Architecture, not Landscape Design.  Anyone can call themselves a Landscape Designer.  If you went to school and got a degree in Accounting, you would call yourself an Accountant, but not a CPA.  Therefore I do not call myself a Registered Landscape Architect.  This is something that the our profession needs to settle once and for all.


    And yes, I attended Mississippi University for Women (  It has been officially co-ed since ’82, but men were attending even back in the 60’s.  It was founded in 1884 as the first state supported college for women, called The Industrial Institute & College then.  It is a very small liberal arts school…and yes, with a ratio of 10 girls to 1 guy when I started in 1990, I had a BLAST!


    I’m going to make some tweaks to my resume and post again.

    David Barbarash

    Tough one then. I understand your issues with HR departments and how clueless some can be. To settle some of the issues at hand here, think about the purpose of your resume. Is it a document that gets you past the HR level and on to the decision makers? If so, then clear and simple (and boring) information pertaining to your professional background is all that’s needed. That’s how I’d treat most if not all cold call style of resume drop offs. I’d balk at a large packet with resume, project list, etc, if I was a firm that wasn’t actively looking to hire; too much information at once unsolicited. Others on this site have mentioned a 1 or 2 page folded “Brochure of Highlights” as a personal marketing vehicle. 


    To demonstrate stability & age, can you list dates worked for each firm on your list? Any decent length of time at one place SHOULD show stability and loyalty, I’d hope.


    As for the whole Landscape Architect vs. Designer thing, I couldn’t agree more with you, and since we don’t have a title similar to Architect in Training that many unlicensed architects I know use, we’re legally stuck with the generic and undescriptive designer tag.

    Jarrod D. Lee

    What I think I am trying to achieve is a resume that represents my work/employment, but projects, or reflects, that representation from/through my personality. I know I just want to work, but the last 2 firms that I worked for did not see the design world through the same eye, which is understandable, but they were also not willing to look at it any other way but their own.  I know that business is business, but I refuse to be somebody’s CAD Monkey.


    This field requires the eye of an artist, a scientist, a philosopher, an engineer, an accountant, among others. I just don’t want to put myself in a crappy position again.  Working for ones self is the best way to avoid the situation, but those opportunities are about as rare as $3.00 gasoline (at least in my area).  It’s the age old conundrum…Swallow your pride or ration it out and hope that it sustains you long enough.


    I’m going to try and post edited resume package today.  I would appreciate any future input you ay have.  Thank you.

    Jon Quackenbush

    I agree with Dave, only adding that you should avoid alliteration at all costs (IE passionate proponent), unless you are being humorous.

    Also, as a designer you should be able to make something a little more creative and less pedestrian in layout.  I like a watermark of some sort, perhaps something you have sketched… I am not saying it needs to be striking visually, but it should at least be something that keeps your eyes on the page for a couple of minutes as they take in and consider your qualifications.

    And make it no longer than one page.

    Jarrod D. Lee

    So, basically were talking about a resume that has Education, Employment History and Achievements?  I do like the idea of a watermark or background.  I did that on my last resume back in 2004, but that was a much different worl of work back then.

    So how would one address a job posting that states where you must have specific and essential experience in 20 different areas?  I’m just curious.

    If a firm is looking for someone with experience in those 20 areas, and you can demonstrate that you have 10, and the next guy has 15, you automatically move to the bottom of the pile.  In a world where I am competing with 100 to 200 other people for a job, bare bones will not cut the mustard.

    Jason T. Radice

    I tend to agree with the other reviews that the current iteration lacks a bit of focus. It is also waaaay to personal. HR and employers really don’t care about family…and legally have no right to ask about it. I agree with finding a substitute for “objective”, and I have have found its replacement…NOTHING. Objective? To get a job…duh. The objective is redundant.


    I found it difficult ro read as well. I would go with a much more structured standard resume or CV format. Employers have to read a hundred or more of these things, so yours will maybe get a minute of their time, so you want to make it easy for them to find the most important info. I put my licensure and LEED accreditation at the very top under registrations. Then education,  and then employers in chronological order and dates with title and a brief description of services performed.


    I also have publications, so that is on the first page as well. I have a second page with less pertinent information such as communtiy services, speiclaized skills (here is where the computer stuff comes in), and completed major projects. I do not include references unless specifically requested at an interview.


    I have recently switched to a Curriculum Vitae format and a rewritten cover letter, and that has been working quite well. Much of what you had put on your resume should be in your cover letter, such as your philosphy, and also tailor your skills to what is asked of the applicant. I find the cover letter is the more approriate place for the employer to get to know you. The resume, as Sgt. Friday always said…”just the facts.”

    David Barbarash

    Yep, just education, employment, & achievements. Add in a “Skills” section at the end to showcase your computer programs and report writing too.


    To address the job specific points, use the cover letter to highlight your skills. To me a resume is little more than a declaration of eligibility (Are you educated? Have you worked? Etc.) The cover letter is where you distinguish yourself from other candidates. My reasoning could be the reason why I spent over 2.5 years unemployed though…

    Heather Smith

    Having a license won’t get you a job…knowing someone will.

    Stating you have a license when you don’t could cause a firm to question your integrity.

    People have given you a lot of great advice…my husband has written hundreds of job specific cover letters and has made his resume fit on one page.(He graduated in 2008…so his work history IS limited). Keep it short and sweet, don’t even mention your family, just show them what you have to add to their firm. These guys are getting HUNDREDS of applications…they have to get past the cover letter before they even get to the rest.

    He does have his license and landed one phone interview which led to nothing, otherwise he generally will not even receive rejection letters.

    We have our own design/build firm…pays better then a firm would and we are no longer on this roller coaster.

    Good luck!

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Regarding calling yourself an LA – remember who your audience is. You may not be settled on what you should call yourself, but the principal to whom you are applying to sure does. The last thing you want to do is give the impression that you overstate things. They know you have a degree and experience based on your resume. This makes you look insecure.


    Speaking to your targeted audience is what you need to be thinking about. It is not about telling your life’s story, just the best parts of what they are going to be interested in. If you were a Colonel in the Army, you would not list all of the ranks you held along the way and all of the tasks you did along the way. It takes a bit away from where you are right now by dilution.


    Also, understand what they wat to hire you for. Until you have a real lot of experience, they are looking for production and/or project management much more than the qualities of a lead designer. People also tend to read attitude, character, and your comfort in your own skin. You don’t want to be read as insecure.  


    I once had someone use the flyfishing term “match the hatch” to describe to me on what to communicate in a resume. Your resume has to match the job being offered. The people reviewing them were in your shoes once and know the routine. They also have seen and read it all on resumes. Presentation is not going to make up for lack of content and volume of content will not overcome quality of content.


    Give them the best of your best without overstating anything. Try not come off as insecure.



    Jarrod D. Lee

    Thanks for the input everyone.  The resume that I posted today was about Version 30 that I have written since September of last year and I hadn’t written one, other than for an SF330 since 2003.  This one hasn’t gone to any potential employers.  I think there is more desperation in this resume than all the others that I have written so far.  I’ve been at this 8 months and have only scored one interview.  The only tool that I have to fix this situation is my resume and I have GOT to get it right.

    I am not claiming to be registered.  I am only trying to state progress towards registration.

    I have kept track of all of my projects over the years, with description of work.  I am in the 80ish range with 1/3 where I was the project manager & lead designer.  That’s 12 pages I’m certainly not going to include in a resume.

    “Just the facts” and “Match the hatch” are on two sticky notes stuck to the top of my monitor.  I see them everyday, but so many of the jobs that I find listed are either so vague or have 20 different points needing attention.  Vague is tough to figure out what to include.  20 is tough to condense into a coherant document.

    After the job that I lost last year, I REFUSE to work somewhere that is not family friendly.  No client is worth losing family time, ever.  My departure from there was not pretty and…I’m gonna leave it at that.

    Thanks everyone.

    Jarrod D. Lee

    I agree with the employers’ market point, but I’m just not going take anybody’s swollen head crap anymore.  I’m old enough to not keep my mouth shut.

    I’ve posted a reworked format, still in draft, but I am liking it much more.

    I do the same with postings that I find.  I’ve got somewhere in the 60 to 70 range of folders like this.

    David Barbarash

    Something I just noticed: take down the resume’s you’ve uploaded here so far (if you can) and re-post versions with your address and phone number blacked out or removed. You never know what kind of unsavory people are lurking the web. Also, I’d move your “experience” section to the end of your resume; after work experience and before honors and awards. First and foremost HR wants to see if a candidate is qualified for the position (education and work experience) THEN they’ll look at a persons specific skill set.


    What’s an Earthbound Visual Object Prophet? You’re predicting things we can see as they approach the planet? Is there a meteor incoming? Are the 2012 predictions right??? … Kidding, just curious what that title was…


    I disagree with having to address EVERY point in a job posting. Ultimately, a firm wants to hire the best person for the firm as a whole (obviously). Job descriptions have a short list of “needs” and a large list of “wants” for a prospective hire and no no candidate can fill every niche in an office. Elaborate on the things you excel at in your cover letter, mention the ones you’re familiar with, and forget the rest unless you’re asked directly about them. Just be sure to cover all the “needs” convincingly.


    Be sure to mention your knowledge of Civil 3D in your cover letter and emphasize it! It’s the closest thing to BIM us LA’s have (though Vectorworks comes close) and unfortunately the more buzzwords you can hit on the better. Ugh.

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