ASLA Oregon LANDbytes JANUARY 2014 Feature:

Uncovering Your Career
By Rebecca Wahlstrom

If you ever had to search for employment, you are familiar with the ritual of sending resumes to prospective employers. During this time it’s easy to feel that your resume is just a small piece of information in an ocean of applications. Not only are resumes handed out, they are emailed, posted, and dissected by computer programs looking for key words; now more than ever, the right words matter. We need to work so that our profession is one of those key words being searched for by those who hire.

Are people with a landscape architecture degree not being considered for jobs beyond a traditional landscape architecture position? Design job advertisements list desired fields that include architecture, civil engineering, and planning, but rarely list landscape architecture (usually buried under the heading ‘other related fields’). What can be done to move the our profession into a place where landscape architects, armed with proper training and experience, will be viewed as marketable in today’s job market?

I’ve frequently gotten this response when someone looks at my resume or finds out what I do; ”Oh! That sounds fun! You must love plants!” Yes and no. While I do love plants, that is not the extent of my interests or training. You know that – I know that – but do people who hire know that? Saying that landscape architects must love plants is akin to saying that architects must love wood. While architects might admire wood and its properties, it is just one piece of the bigger picture.  

Is a planner or architect more sought after for jobs than a landscape architect? Is it true? One might question if it is simply a residual perception of an outdated class system, or a real breakdown in the training of landscape architects. It seems that a dialogue needs to take place between the people that hire and the people who educate to ensure that new graduates get the tools they need to survive in today’s work world. Not to say that the landscape architecture profession needs to redefine itself, as one can never be all things to all people, but we need to actively foster a change in professional perception and review our current system to make sure new graduates are able to get meaningful work.

Moving the landscape architecture profession from the job where people assume they will be periodically out of work, to one where landscape architectural training is seen as an asset to projects and therefore enormously valuable to the workplace, is critical. Just think of all the sectors of industry, construction, ecology, and policy that could benefit from people trained to think and create for the environment using whole systems in simply elegant ways. It’s fascinating to think of all the changes that could happen, but doing so will take energy and persistence to break through professional barriers. One might say it is the growing pains of a profession that is constantly striving to find new ways to make a difference. The theme for the 2014 Landscape Architecture Month in April is ‘Career Discovery’; with that topic in mind, let’s work to make sure that landscape architecture is a robust and vital career choice for these new students and practitioners.

(Will not be published)