Last summer, I began this blog with several posts aimed at graduates of landscape architecture programs who have faced difficulty in the tough job market. Some of those posts, like this one and this one, have been among the most popular. When I saw the series of opinion pieces in the New York Times Sunday Review (June 3, 2012) titled “My Brilliant Career,” with the tagline of “it’s worth remembering that careers aren’t built in a straight line, and that sometimes the oddest jobs are the ones that matter most,” I knew I had to read the articles. I especially like the entry by Leonard Mlodinow and the excerpt below.
Many of us wish for the security of a straight line path. When a career proves to be more unpredictable, it can be disconcerting. But the sinuous path often leads to a fulfilling life. And sinuous is an apt descriptor for many landscape architecture careers. Take heart and be inspired by Mlodinow’s words.
When we’re in college, we think about our future as a direct line from now to then, from here to there. You might get an internship at a financial services firm, then become an assistant, and gradually move up until someday you’re the boss. That’s a fine life’s path. But if you look at the careers of many successful people, you’ll find that their route is often far more sinuous. And if you look at happy people, you’ll find even fewer who traveled a straight line.
When I got my first job at Caltech after graduate school, a famous mathematician warned me not to keep working on that theory of infinite dimensions. It’s a bad idea to make a career of your Ph.D. work, he told me. Then, when I began to consider problems in an apparently too different area of physics, he told me: “You can’t keep jumping around. You have to stay in the field you made your name in.” I was 26, and I was supposed to think the boundaries of my career were already sharply defined.
The life that mathematician urged on me would probably have been an equally happy one. But instead of listening to his advice, I have written for television, produced computer games, designed a curriculum for math education and returned to Caltech, to physics research, teaching and writing — this time, nonfiction. I still see that famous mathematician, now an elder statesman, walking around the campus. I haven’t talked to him in a few years, but I hear that when my name comes up, he just mutters and shakes his head. And that’s fine with me.
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Since last summer, I have been writing about the impact of the Great Recession on planning and landscape architecture. My vantage point, as a college professor, means that I see creative, bright young people who have had the odds stacked against them for the past few years. Today, I am passing on an optimistic article, one of the many written over the past four years. Somehow, this one has a hint of possible truth to it, and I know that I, for one, am eager to hear good news. The premise is that the U.S. has finally reached a point where pent-up demand will finally loosen the purse-strings of those who have been sitting on cash and afraid to spend. Perhaps it rings true because I just came from a meeting where attendees discussed putting a multi-million construction project out to bid (we’ll never get a better interest rate…) because I’m one of the people driving an old car, knowing that it won’t last indefinitely.
Of the people who fear the country’s best days are behind it, a well-known economist recently said that people in 1933 thought the same thing. In that spirit, take what you will from this: (more…)
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Posted in Design Practice, LA Education, Recession Watch, tagged curriculum, design thinking, economy, employment, future, global trends, jobs, landscape architecture education, New Normal, paradigm shift, recession, trends on July 13, 2011|
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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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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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Posted in Green Infrastructure, LA Education, Recession Watch, tagged economy, employment, jobs, landscape architecture, landscape architecture education, New Normal, recession, trends on June 15, 2011|
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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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