March 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm #164214
I am a senior landscape architect level professional/also urban designer/also certified planner and LEED thrown in for good measure. I, like many of us, have experienced massive, hyper-extended unemployment in both the planning and design professions. The signs of improvement in our job market are just not there and will not be for sometime.
I have been offered a 4 month trial test drive with a firm with four offices in SE Asia. They want me to
be stationed in Shanghai. I have a little less than two months to get there. I am mostly free and unencumbered. I have set some things in motion by starting the passport. I have a lot of trepidation about this move, but I really doubht anything on the mainland will come along in time. I have applied for so many positions (public and private) in so many different slants and twists of our related professions, that I have lost count.
I would welcome all opinion, input and critique from any one willing to offer it. All I ask is to please avoid the simplistic such as “It is a job, right ?”. I am looking for more frank, candid and helpful viewpoints than that.
Thank you.March 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm #164293Ryan A. WaggonerParticipant
Hey landplanner, I only have a small amount of experience with people working in SE Asia, and it has all been bad. I’m sure that there are many others that have great stories about taking these opportunities, but the one’s I know of were just exploited for being from America. They made the move and tried to settle in. Obviously the work environment is very different, along with dealing with social differences and nuances. But ultimately, they realized that the only reason they were brought there was to bring a ‘western validity’ to their respective companies. Their input was rarely acknowledged, if at all. Both ultimately left after a relatively short amount of time (within a year), and drew little if anything positive from the move. Like I said, small base of information to make any decision on, but I would definitely do quite a bit of investigation on the perspective company before making the move. Personally, I would like to know if others from the states have joined the company, and would like to speak to them about their experiences thus far. I think that would be the best way to see how your transition would onfold….March 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm #164292
Well there are a few major considerations here, mostly economic. My unemployment runs out this year. There is one other western landscape architect, from the west coast, in their Singapore office. I will talk with him (hopefully in confidence) to get his take on your viewpoint.
thank you for the comment.March 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm #164291Andrew Garulay, RLAParticipant
Is there any other reason that you would want to be in Shanghai than your job?
Everyone is different, but I would prefer to be stocking shelves in a grocery store than to be a landscape architect or anything else in China. My job is not the beginning and end of me and I would rather shape my life by considering more than just my job because of that.March 11, 2011 at 5:59 pm #164290
Thank you for your comment. Yes the other reasons are to see another part of the world I have never been to and to be exposed to a culture that I know little about. I also would get paid fairly well, compared to what I have been trying find here in the States.March 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm #164289Tanya OlsonParticipant
For an American, I would think China would be a better fit than other SE Asian countries culturally speaking. Shanghai! That would be so cool! Personally, I would consider the risks vs the benefits, which I’m sure you have, but as I see it some are:
1. The LA job market isn’t going to come roaring back in the next 6 months while you’re gone. I don’t think you’ll be missing much.
2. There is almost nothing more that you could add to your resume – you’ve got all of the experience and certifications that anyone could ever want and still no job. Experience in Asia is just about the only thing you DON’T have except teaching and maybe you already have that too. It could be the iceing on the cake for some firm when you come back stateside.
3. Sorry – T=this is a pretty ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ answer….Have you ever just followed green traffic lights to whever they led as an experiment? Maybe this is your green light. If you have nothing to lose here, why not go check it out? Yes, you could be miserable, but only for 4 months. What is the alternative? Sitting around with your regrets and what if’s, which, depending on how neurotic you are (I’m not saying you are, but you might be), can last a lifetime.
I don’t know if this is frank, candid or particularly helpful, but if its fairly low risk to you (like you won’t lose your house or your spouse or children) then it seems like something better to do with 6 months than send out more resumes.
Best of luck in your decision-making. I promise you aren’t the penguin we’re pushing off the edge of the ice to see if there are any orcas below!March 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm #164288
Part of me says, “as long as you come back home with more money than when you left, it’s a win.”
Another part of me says, “Screw China. Why are we continuing to kowtow to a country that is systematically conquering the United States (and the rest of the world) without firing a single shot. They own our debt, they own our petroleum production, they are getting involved in our defense systems… We are funding our own destruction by continuing to buy cheap junk made in China. If we, and the rest of the world, stopped our habits of conspicuous consumption, China would quickly shrink, especially if we stopped selling our water and energy to them (cough, cough, Australia, Russia and Venezuela)…”
It seems like we’re all perfectly happy to sell our souls for short term gains…much like the Indians selling Manhattan for a handful of trinkets (crap made in China) We don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into… and we may soon well regret our self destructive greed…
Then again, it could be a great experience… They have excellent design (when they are not trying to recreate Southern California), interesting food and attractive women that love Americans… could be a lot of fun for a single guy with no attachments…
Are they making it worth your while…?March 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm #164287Heather SmithParticipant
I would look at it as an adventure…unless you are leaving a family behind…which doesn’t sound like it? What is making you hesitant? Are you spending a lot of money to get there? Are you trying to sell your house? I would not do it if it is going to cost you more financially then it would to stay here…if that makes sense.March 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm #164286
Thank you for your comments. I will not be spending a whole lot of coin to get there and I will be paid fairly well. I am glad I am not dragged down by the leg-iron an underwater house represents to most that own one right now. They give you a four month trial run because the work pace is supposedly 2 to 3 times that of a US office (straight from someone in another design office in Shanghai and then verified via email from the office principal I would be working with and for). About $10K less in USD than I was making pre-mid recession layoff. Three weeks vacation, benefits and if you last a year, 2-3 months profit sharing.
I’m nearly two years rusty from this downturn, so more than a little unsure of my rebound and resilience.
If your frugal and fastidious, you can live fairly cheap in Shanghai. It is an office of around 20, one other Westerner in the office. Hgh rise residential, upscale villas, some commercial characterize their office work. They are looking to open another office in another city in China, so right now, they are on a roll. Whether the Chinese super-heated economy cools in the next year, is being debated as we write one another here.
One thing I am convinced of, this is my only viable, solid job opportunity right now. I just got two more turn-down letters for public sector planning jobs in the mail today.March 11, 2011 at 9:41 pm #164285
Your part of yourself is saying the same thing another part of myself is saying. I completely agree with the views of your other part also. As to your last question…. see my last response in this string. Your right about the imposition of Southern California residential architecture and master planned cloned communities there. There is a real upsurge in something there that resembles our period of middle-class upward mobility (mid 50’s through early 70’s)
before this downhill run in the opposite direction.
I like the beard. Next time you get asked that question in an interview, bring along a portable electric shaver and take it off right there at the conference table. They will give the job and never forget it. I once wore a bathrobe over my sportcoat and tie to an interview. (another story for another time)March 11, 2011 at 10:00 pm #164284Heather SmithParticipant
Good luck with whatever you decide! And when you are in a position to hire, call us! 😉 I might be joking…I am not sure I am ready for China. 😀March 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm #164283mark fosterParticipant
No advice on the offer itself, but you are at a perfect time in life to do this. It will never be as easy as it is for you right now to pick up and live in another place.
I lived and worked in another country for a year (Europe, not Asia) in my early 20’s. It not only gave me an insight into another culture, it let me step out of my own. Both were invaluable personal experiences.March 11, 2011 at 11:45 pm #164282
Have you looked into the Austin Planning firm opportunity that is listed on Cyburbia ? I have seen your posts there before so you probably are well aware of it.
I appreciate your viewpoint, but I far older than you, have limited options and this is my only opportunity at present. I have done little networking.March 11, 2011 at 11:59 pm #164281March 12, 2011 at 12:03 am #164280
Amen. Moving is no fun… I wouldn’t mind a diesel truck with an airstream on the back… just keep moving… but packing, unpacking, getting settled, getting unsettled, packing, moving, repeat… no thanks. It’s not healthy for plants and it’s not healthy for humans…
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