Advice for Emerging Professionals

The Power Station, 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category image: Adolfo Cantu-Villareal
The Power Station, 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, General Design Category
image: Adolfo Cantu-Villareal

Given the question What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? in a 2014 survey,  members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs) responded with a wealth of insights into the profession and sound advice for emerging professionals. Among the topics mentioned most frequently were the importance of business management and marketing skills, and also being an effective communicator. In addition, several other key themes emerged, highlighting both the highs and lows of a career in landscape architecture.

Skills to Focus On

“How important communications are to being a good professional.”

“The best idea in the world is worthless unless it can be communicated to an audience.”

“How important/beneficial sketching can be and to take more art classes to hone that skill.”

“How to draw really well and how to take top-notch photographs.”

“The importance of collaboration with other trades (architects, engineers, sociologists, developers) and how to communicate better in multidisciplinary teams.”

“The importance of marketing skills for personal success in the profession.”

“The importance of public speaking and professional writing.”

“Artistic expression and creativity aren’t the only things you need. Writing, organization, and management skills are just as important.”

“It is very important to have good people skills and business skills. Our whole profession is based on selling ideas to people and managing people.”

“The business aspect of running a firm. So much of our work is trying to win new work.”

“I wish I had a better understanding of the business side of things, accounting, proposal writing, fee estimation, client coordination, etc.”

Ground Up Journal Issue 5: Delineations, 2016 Student ASLA Honor Award, Communications Category image: Gene Stroman
Ground Up Journal Issue 5: Delineations, 2016 Student ASLA Honor Award, Communications Category
image: Gene Stroman

The Nature of the Job

“How much time would be spent writing, and working with others’ writing.”

“I wish I had taken typing in high school. I had no idea I would spend so much time at a keyboard.”

“How much time was actually spent inside on the computer…I may have chosen something else had I known.”

“As an entry-level LA at most private firms, a high percentage of your day will be spent in AutoCAD.”

“The time demands that the majority in the field feel is necessary to be successful, and how to balance that with a healthy lifestyle.”

Chilmark: Embracing a Glacial Moraine, 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, Residential Design Category image: Roger Foley
Chilmark: Embracing a Glacial Moraine, 2016 Professional ASLA Honor Award, Residential Design Category
image: Roger Foley

The Challenges of the Profession

“How vast the profession really is, and how important it is to know at least something about everything. It’s very daunting.”

“How long it takes to develop skills—one is always learning, but it takes forever to really get proficient at everything an LA needs to know.”

“How little people knew about the profession and our capabilities.”

“It is always a struggle to share what value a landscape architect can bring to a project.”

“The need to gently educate clients about the breadth of what landscape architects provide.”

“How transient jobs are in design fields and how difficult it is to become established.”

The Bright Side

“How absolutely rewarding the profession can be.”

“How much fun and diversified the field is. Never a dull day.”

“How much variety there is in the field in terms of work and types of projects.”

“How much fun I would have creating a better world!”

Bridging Disciplines/Cultivating Health: Using a collaborative international community design/build model to facilitate mental health treatment, 2016 Student ASLA Honor Award, Student Collaboration Category image: Daniel Winterbottom, FASLA
Bridging Disciplines/Cultivating Health: Using a collaborative international community design/build model to facilitate mental health treatment, 2016 Student ASLA Honor Award, Student Collaboration Category
image: Daniel Winterbottom, FASLA

Make Connections & Explore

“The value of building a network in college with other students in related disciplines and working that network in business.”

“To understand what networking really is and how to better promote myself.”

“How to locate a good mentor.”

“Make a concerted effort to continually expand your skill set. Don’t get too comfortable with any one thing.”

“Design is not a spontaneous process. It is the result of building a library of ideas gleaned from the ideas of others and your personal library of observations and experiences.”

“There are other paths for LAs besides working in a firm.”

“It’s up to you to move forward in your career. No one is going to promote you or push you forward; you have to work for it.”

“A career can last a long time, so some measure of patience is a good thing.”

“The journey and not just the destination has value; career development is more spiral than linear for me.”

At the start of 2014, a questionnaire was sent out to members of ASLA’s Professional Practice Networks (PPNs). The theme: career paths in landscape architecture. As you can imagine, responses were varied, and included many insightful comments and suggestions. Synopses of the survey results were originally shared in LAND over the course of 2014, and we are now re-posting this information here on The Field. For the latest updates on the results of the annual PPN Survey, see LAND’s PPN News section.

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