Posts Tagged ‘employment’

Nothing like a little break and a (fairly) relaxing holiday to clear one’s head. The holiday week began, though, with more news of recent graduates struggling in the weak economy. No advice from the comfortably employed seems sufficient, but I did run across these words from Forrest Church (2009) this weekend which I pass along:

I have a mantra that I’ve come to live by over the past few years, and it’s served me very well. It is “Want what you have, do what you can, be who you are.”

He explains all three parts of the mantra, but I will just relate the middle, as the other two seem self-explanatory.

Doing what you can means doing all you can, no more and no less. It’s not just mucking by, but it’s not trying to do more than you can either, not stretching yourself out so far that you can’t help but force a failure.

I’m going to focus on the part about not stretching so far as to force a failure… And while I’m on the subject of motivation, I will add the motto of my former workplace, Virginia Tech. It is ut prosim, that I may serve.

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It would seem that conceptual thinking is inseparable from design, but I find that many design students just cannot grasp the idea of abstraction. Can this be taught? Is the capacity for conceptual thought just part of a person’s DNA? In searching online for insights, I found these observations.

1. This definition from the Eleven Seconds blog:

conceptual thinking is simply the ability to effortlessly walk up and down the ladder of abstraction

and the slightly murkier:

 To make their thinking useful, abstract thinkers need to be able to convert something abstract into something concrete, and vice versa.  This ability is what I call conceptual thinking.  A conceptual thinker starts in the concrete, then walks up the hierarchy of abstractions.  At some level they make connections between the abstract representation of the concrete thought and another abstract representation.  If need be, they can then walk that abstract thought back into another, very different concrete thought.  The idea is that a local search (i.e. making connections) in the abstract space is easier than a local search in the concrete space.  And so that person can either communicate more effectively, or solve the problem more effortlessly.

The example given of moving from the concrete to the abstract is seeing the concrete problem as an example of a more generic class or category of problems. Pattern recognition leads to relationships between ideas and eventually back to the concrete.

2. Discussion about conceptual thinking in the world of business tends to focus on the growing need for such thinkers in business (critical for the flexibility and innovation demanded by the global economy) and on the fact that these people are “hard to come by.” (more…)

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I say broadly! Several posts in this blog are directed at new graduates and job seekers (check the Recession Watch category to the right). This one follows in that vein. It is common for landscape architecture education to be narrowly tailored and made to conform to accreditation standards. This means that the end goal of landscape architecture education has been traditional design practice, even if that goal is unstated (there have always been alternative career paths). Curricula are developed to facilitate this outcome and maintain accreditation. What happens if the likely outcomes for graduates are something other than traditional design practice, as is happening now? What does that mean for the value of LA design education? If traditional LA practice were the only use for a LA education, we’d be doomed. As a pragmatic type, I’ve struggled with this question. But I’ve decided that a design education, and a landscape architecture design education in particular, is a tremendous opportunity for students these days – even if the slim job offerings say otherwise. Why would I say that? (more…)

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Jack Dangermond (esri.com)

I’m tempted to say “I ♥ Jack Dangermond,” but … I do REALLY like him! He is the very inspirational president of ESRI, Environmental Systems Research Institute, the company that produces ArcGIS software, and he is a landscape planner from way back. The profile in the NY Times reveals his personality beautifully. He has somehow managed to keep his company privately held since its founding 42 years ago. He could have sold out so easily many years ago, but he is passionate about his work. When I met him a few years ago at a small specialists’ conference, we heard that he had just pulled an all-nighter on a big project – not because he had to, of course, but because he was so caught up in it that he wanted to. (FYI – If you are a job-seeker, you should really read the article. Jack discusses interviews and what ESRI looks for in new hires.) (more…)

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Neither been there, nor done that – that’s my caveat for all advice from older people to young job seekers today. We haven’t been here before. You’ve heard the comparisons, right? Not since the Great Depression … If you were an 18-year-old job seeker in 1930, you would be 99 years old now. 99 year olds might have some good advice for young people today. With the caveat, I am going to dispense advice anyway – to Ryan, who is working in a seafood warehouse one year after graduation, who still has a passion for landscape architecture and is very eager to set off on a career path. I have highlighted some lucky young LAs in previous posts (here, here, and here), but I know that there are a lot of people like Ryan too. They need a source of optimism and inspiration. But first, some sobering reality. One of the best charts I’ve seen on where we stand comes from the blog Calculated Risk. The chart is current through May 2011.

Comparison of Job Losses in Times of Recession

The good news? A slight uptick in that red line. OK, it’s the kind of image that makes you want to bury your head in the sand, but that’s not an option. And waiting it out isn’t one either. Ryan needs a job that will launch his career. Where should he start? (more…)

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Tough times test us. And landscape architecture students who graduated in the last 2-3 years have been tested. The bold, tenacious ones seem to have found ways to make it, even if their motivation and sense of self-worth have been challenged along the way. When they land in a job they love, it is especially sweet. That is the case for Mark Bogdan, a BLA graduate of 2010. He has found his first good career opportunity with a nonprofit organization. (As I keep hearing about new grads being employed by nonprofits, I wonder if it is a trend.) Mark generously shares his experience here in the hope that it will help other newly minted BLAs and MLAs.

I was very worried, nervous, frustrated, almost angry about graduating in this difficult economy.  I tried to make it a point to ‘stay within the industry,’ and I used my past experiences to filter through the job search.  Since I had some construction and site design experience, I applied for everything from entry-level LA, construction foreman at a construction company, residential design/build, nursery worker (to learn more about plants), etc.  Since I had no ties, I applied to big firms who had work in China, India, Dubai, Europe (anywhere and everywhere). Still I had no bites for a job. (more…)

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What advice do recent graduates (1-4 years out) in landscape architecture have for students who are graduating now?

First, some optimism. In the spring of 2011, there were more job openings in landscape architecture than in the previous 2 years, according to job watchers on the East and West Coasts. For example, Archa Malhotra Kalla, employed since 2008 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area said:

Yes, the economy has had a major impact on the profession, but I do feel that things are picking up now. I’ve seen more job listings in the past 2-3 weeks than I had in the past 2 years. I personally have been involved with construction administration and some landscape inspection for a highway project. [Editor’s note: diversification.] Also, I used this time to learn more about green building practices (get and maintain professional credentials) and the sustainable sites initiative.

And, in California, K.M. (MLA 2007) had the following reaction to the question about “green shoots”: (more…)

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Nonprofit organizations have not been immune to the economic downturn, especially those dependent on donations. However, it appears that an increasing number of landscape architecture graduates in this region (New York) are finding jobs in the nonprofit sector. J. Lyons (MLA 2009) reports that there are “green shoots” in her professional niche in the “In the Field” excerpt below.

I’ve been seeing a lot of green shoots, mostly because I’m working in an environmental/sustainability field, and these movements finally seem to  be becoming more of the norm and less fringe. I’m sadly grant funded, but, where many of my colleagues who are not in the environmental field are getting program cuts, I’ve been able to take advantage of a wide range of funding opportunities to expand programs. I honestly feel like we’re in the midst of a very hasty and significant paradigm shift because of the combination of pressing environmental and economic concerns.

The emerging areas are definitely “green infrastructure”, sustainable agriculture, and regional community planning that integrates rural and urban systems (food/agriculture and energy).

We’ve hired a handful of people in the last few months, and regardless of program and function – we look for an ability to be interdisciplinary, applied experience instead of pure academic experience, and self-directed inquiry and problem solving.

My advice is to volunteer! Students and graduates need to show that they are constantly engaged and involved, inquisitive and proactive. If someone can’t find a design job right away, seek out a job that is interesting and find a way to design in your free time – volunteer or do design competitions.  I feel like things are moving very quickly and evolving rapidly (do I sound like an old fogey already?) so adaptability, gumption and perseverance seem to be key.

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As described in a previous post, I sent messages to a variety of landscape architects and recent grads to get feedback on their experiences as influenced by the national economy. The most global (in more ways than one) response I received was from Nick Onody, MLA 2009, who is employed in a multidisciplinary firm in Toronto. The breadth of his comments suggests that I start with his take on professional trends and follow-up in later posts with other people’s stories of personal experience. I think each view can teach us something about what is happening now and how those both “in the field” (currently employed in the profession) and “on the fence” (seeking employment in the profession) see the world. Nick’s view is strongly influenced by landscape urbanism and its spinoffs.

Thank you for the message. I think this is quite an interesting endeavor on your part and timed perfectly at such a critical time in the design professions. The ‘Great Recession’ has led to a variety of trends and forces that have sent the profession in fundamentally different directions. Over the past decade, we have witnessed landscape come into vogue. Sustainability and the rise of LEED. Landscape as ‘scene’ to landscape as urbanism. Terrorism and natural disasters. The rise of megacities and the influx of city migrants globally. Population decline and suburban foreclosures locally. What does this all mean? What has changed and what is to come? (more…)

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Since the recession began (long ago in Dec 2007) and its impact on landscape architecture began to become clear (2009), I have looked for information online that might shed light on how landscape architecture is being transformed. I have found very little – except posts by recent grads looking for jobs or people considering this profession and wondering if it is a good idea. Is there little discussion and analysis because everyone is just hoping that things get back to “normal” soon? We’re all optimists? Or am I just not looking in the right places?

Recently I began collecting anecdotes from people either practicing in the field or looking for a job in the field as a way to get a glimpse of what is happening. So far, I have a small sample, but the stories I am hearing are interesting and varied. And they’re not as depressing as I might have thought. Perhaps I should not be surprised that creative people have (mostly) found creative ways to get by, and maybe even thrive, in difficult circumstances. I will be posting these stories over the next few weeks in the Recession Watch category.

Specifically, I asked:

As someone who teaches in a landscape architecture program, I have become anxious as graduation time arrives while the economy remains stagnant. The Great Recession has had a significant impact on the profession. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the promises or pitfalls of practice now. Do you see any “green shoots”? Any emerging areas of practice, including the nonprofit sector? Any advice for someone in school today and/or graduating next month?

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