Unemployed Recent Graduates

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    I am an unemployed recent graduate. I graduated Cum Laude from a fully accredited university in May. I moved to Denver, Colorado in July ’08 hoping that the big city would have lots of job opportunities for me. I am currently working for a small design build company doing general landscape maintenance and snow plowing. My boyfriend is in the same position as well as a few others in our graduating class. Some are looking into other fields, one woman I graduated with wants to start an organic horticulture business.

    If there are any of you out there, you are NOT alone!
    I hope that we can share our woes and make it through this little slump together.

    Noah Mabry

    I graduated in August with good references and real work experience. After some very promising interviews and discussions with firms last fall everything stopped for me when the bottom fell out of the economy. Many of my talented classmates haven’t found jobs yet either.

    I really don’t think this is our fault. That is, that we are not as recent grads, unprepared or unqualified. However, the market for what we do is rather close to non existent. So don’t despair Brittany!

    Vance W. Hall

    I would not limit yourself to strictly LA work either. Check with city orgs for any related field that would allow you to work, make money and gain work experience. I agree it is more than likely a waiting game. In the meantime get LEED certified, study for the LARE, or fine tune those graphics and program knowledge.

    Vance Hall
    Denver CO


    I graduated in May 08 and moved to SF with a job in July. I got laid off with almost all other new hires a few months ago. This is definitely a hard situation for recent grads to be in. My friends in TX and Louisiana are having pay cuts and people are getting laid off all over the country.

    I’m studying for the LEED exam and applying to arch/engineering firms for admin/marketing jobs. I’m applying for CAD and rendering jobs too, mostly contract or part time. I’m also looking into volunteering at the park systems, planting trees, etc. and looking into other environmentally friendly work like greenpeace.

    I hope it turns around soon though because I miss designing and the paychecks!

    Roland Beinert

    I graduated in 2006, found a job in Reno that lasted a year and a half. After being laid off, I found a job in Boise last February. Within about six months I was laid off again. I’m now living on unemployment. I’m three years out of college, but only have two years of experience. There’s a landscape maintenance company interested in hiring me, but they won’t hire till March and when winter comes around I’ll face unemployment again.
    I know the Census Bureau will be hiring soon. It isn’t a bad option for temporary employment. Apparently the EPA will be hiring in October. They might have a use for people with our skills. The Bureau of Land Management and other government organizations might be able to use landscape architects as well. Those will probably be the most stable jobs for a while. My dad is even trying to get me to apply to the FBI. I’m still not sure exactly why.


    Hey Roland!
    I actually just got a position as an assistant designer in a design build firm. I am making peanuts and don’t actually get to do a lot of designing, but I am really happy to be working again!

    I highly suggest checking out design build firms who don’t necessarily have positions open. I don’t think the recession has hit the high end residential folks yet, so that ‘s a good place to start.

    Don’t worry I am sure something will come along shortly.


    I agree with Andrew. On the flipside, or at least in adding to what Andrew said and contrary to popular belief, there is ALOT that could be learned in design-build. Before I came to school for LA I was a designer/project manager at a higher end design-build in Boulder. I found myself working most days in and out of the office splitting time between job sites in the early morning and late afternoon, designing or filling out bid sheets mid day , and meeting with clients in the evening. I also did what many design-build business owners discourage and ran my own small projects on the side. It can be very rewarding work and the design is usually alot of fun since there are usually few constraints. Good Luck!


    Daniel Miller

    The 3 things I learned the very first day of Landscape Architecture:

    1) If you have a boyfriend/girlfriend…get ready to break up with them, because you’ll be spending more time in lab than with them and they probably won’t like it.

    2) If you’re in this for the money, you can leave now.

    3) Be prepared to look elsewhere for work ever 15 years, because the economy turns and the profession goes with it.

    While they all didn’t turn out 100% accurate, they’re pretty true. It’s a tough profession to get through in tough times, but this is the worst the profession has ever seen it. This downturn is global, not just national.

    Be thankful for the work you have, people have to do doing things far out of their “job descriptions” just to get by. Good luck with it all, keep your heads up..

    Rob Williams

    My biggest advice to you is don’t be too proud to work! Whatever that work is. Sometimes when you are climbing up the rope of life you need to tie a knot and hang on. Network as much as you can now while you have the chance. All economic trends cycle.

    Get as much practical experience as you can now and when the economy turns, you will be ready! Then you can start the climb again to greater opportunities.

    Lastly, diversify as much as you can. Don’t get your attitude down. Remember, people will hire you first because they like you and not so much how your portfolio looks. If you have a poor attitude and lack confidence, no one one will want to invite that ‘cancer’ into their organization. Good attitudes as well as bad attitudes are infectious!

    Keep your head up and expect great things to happen to you and they will!

    David J. Chirico

    Whenever times are tough, I fall back on my CAD skills. That widens the target a bit because it involves so many disciplines. I worked a second shift CAD job for an engineering firm that retooled steel mills. It actually helped with my accuracy in drafting.

    Best of luck to you all!


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    Chad Crutcher

    Unemployed Grads…

    Chin up! I speak from experience. In the 90’s I had a viable design practice in San Francisco that was hit hard by the CA recession. There finally came a time when I had to bite the bullet and find a way to make an income by doing a more humbling job while retaining the flexibility to serve what clients and contracts I still had. I ended up delivering lost luggage for the airlines out of SFO (usually from 6AM to 8 or 9 PM) AND driving a truck delivering bundles of newspapers to delivery staging points (usually midnight or 1AM to dawn; this was to get health insurance for my family). All this, and, when necessary, I could call the delivery dispatcher and log off duty for a few hours to meet with a client or attend a meeting, etc. I revealed what I was doing to some of my closest clients, fearing they would be upset, but all of them understood and gave me kudos for doing what I had to.

    I came very close to giving up on LA, and on the day I was offered a full-time position dealing at a local poker hall (one of my pastimes) after a few months of part-time evening work to train (I quit the newspaper), the most amazing thing happened. A daytime delivery assignment found me at the front desk of an international design firm in downtown SF. I was dressed in shorts, my shirt was out and it was the end of a very hot and muggy day…picture for yourself what I looked like! I asked the receptionist if this firm needed any help, either as an employee or contract work. Long story short, 3 days later I was in a suit interviewing with the firm’s principal. I ended up designing international high-end destination resorts and traveling to Asia a few times on assignment. Later, the business began to get domestic resort commissions as well. I’ve since worked with another firm in Reno, NV, returned to the SF firm for another 2 years and have been back in Reno since 2003 with yet another company, managing the landscape department of a multi-diciplinary planning and engineering firm that, thankfully, has been more fortunate than much of our competition. Sorry, I haven’t enough backlog to warrant hiring right now.

    So what’s the point? First, do what you have to do. I went bankrupt in 1997, just before I got the design job…you can come back. Without details, know that my circumstances are much , much better than 10 years ago. Remember, this too, shall pass.

    Now, for specifics about the profession, here are some tips I learned and keep relying on:
    1. Look at the asla.org jobsite EVERY DAY! I do this still. Check the APA and AIA job sites, too. Why? Because you will see every day that there are jobs to be had.
    2. If you can, be willing to relocate to where the jobs are…New Orleans is booming and needs professionals.
    3. One response herein mentioned getting LEED accreditation, others are going back to school. Good idea. Make yourself more valuable.
    4. Learn to love the profit motive. Now is the time firms need those who understand and are motivated by profit…this is a business and profit is its lifeblood.
    5. Remember that LA’s are generalists…any experience you have may someday be applicable to a design project. I’ve done everything from pump gas to selling clothes, to fast food, etc. ad naseum (sp?). All of these experiences have paid dividends. Imagine how much more valuable you can be to, let’s say designing a shopping center. if you have had experience in the back of house operations of a regional mall, you will have valuable insight that can benefit your client. I market my experience as a dealer to casino clients, letting them know I’ve “been there”, if you will.
    6. Lastly, the number of folks retiring is 5 times greater than young professionals coming in. Notice all the senior positions opening up everywhere?! Those jobs have to get filled and that means openings at the firms they leave. recently, there has been an increase in the number of times one sees or hears about data indicating that LA’s are now the highest pais design profession, on average, and that the promise of the profession remains great.

    So, stand by! Your opportunity is out there wating for you to trip over it.
    Thanks for reading my long winded diatribe…but, I just had to let everyone know it does get better.

    By the way, about being humble…there was more than one occasion that my delivery job put me in the offices of competitors. I kept my shades on and hoped for the best. No doubt I was recognized at some point. The thing is, I can now look back at those experiences and draw real satisfaction that I hung on.

    Good Luck.

    Mark Sanford

    I graduated last may, with decent grades. Could not find anything in a Design firm, so I started looking other places , landscape contractors, maintentance companies. Six months later I found some luck!

    My main duties are estimating and budgeting, but i do get to do small designs for residential projects! Hopefully the job will stay strong.

    The fault in this job is that there is no LA on staff, so This experience is kind of a LEARN ON your OWN situation. I was able to locate a kind of “MENTOR” who is helping me, but you need to work under an RLA, for CLARB and the LARE!

    Just wanted to share my story, good luck to everyone.


    I will be finishing school very uneventfully this summer. I left my job here in town to have more time to manage school work so I can graduate, now I’m wondering if I should have just stuck out another semester and kept the job as it may not be there as I had planned when I finish here. I think in the long run it’s still best for many students to focus on what they can do today to make themselves more useful in their first jobs. Some friends in the studio here just went to LA Bash and heard Michael Van Valkenburgh speak. They were surprised to hear him say something to the effect of “…learn to operate a skid steer…” I think that would have made everyone laugh 5 years ago and maybe a few still did. Ironically, that’s exactly what I was doing five years ago, operating a skid steer, digging trenches, wiring timers and valves, and pushing rocks around. I remember going to lunch one afternoon in Boulder and overhearing some young people around my age discussing how “..they didn’t need to know how to plant a tree…they are landscape architects..” At the time I was shocked as I was working for a design-build and thought everyone who did landscape design MUST know how to plant trees and shovel rocks. I remember going back to the office and laughing about it with my boss, an LA, who I later realized had never planted a tree either…I did cad the rest of the summer…

    It’s ironic to me now that these are the things I am hearing. Suddenly, students who scoffed at the thought of backyard landscape design or manual labor are suddenly rushing to get experience on a bobcat. It’s ironic because now I wonder if I would have had a better shot at a job at MVVA’s office if I kept shoveling rocks somewhere…my hands are weak, my skin is pasty, I’m broke, and I’ve developed a sleep disorder. I think there are probably hundreds of students in a similar position. It makes me try to remember exactly why I took this path as I know Andrew remembers how hard of a decsision this was for me five years ago. I remember liking drawing and coloring, even though I wasn’t the “greatest” and I remember loving learning how to build things and setting boulders with a crane service and being able to spin 3 ton rocks around with a single finger. Maybe these are the things some of us should try harder to get back to..

    Roland Beinert

    Sometime this month I’ll start a job as a mow crew leader for a landscape maintenance company. It has nothing to do with design, so I’m still looking around for something else, but I’ll take what I can get for now.
    At this point my goal is to go back to school when I’ve saved enough. There’s a lot of computer programs that became popular right after I graduated, like sketchup. I’d like to learn them in an environment where I have someone looking over my shoulder. I also remember enjoying GIS work in college, and would like to relearn that. Tuition is actually fairly low as long I stay in Idaho where I have residency.

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