What to do whilst looking for work during a economic downturn?

Back in the last recession (2008-2010) I wrote the post “What do if you get ‘laid off’ during a recession?“, many of the points are still valid but I thought is maybe useful to do an update for 2020 as we all know the world has changed a lot in the past 12 years.

The best thing to do now is prepare your CV/Resume, portfolio and cover letter/email. You need to develop a few different versions to suit the variety of firms and organisations (residential, public realm, local governments, etc) that are looking to hire. Also get ready to have the various points about who you are, your work and what you are strongest at for your Zoom or Skype interview. Remember to update your Linkedin profile (photo, jobs, skills) and fill in not only what your job position was but also what you learnt. Also reach out to some of your previous colleagues to provide an endorsement about your skills and work on your profile.

Network and Build Relationships
Currently, it is hard to (face to face) network due to coronavirus restrictions however, it is still possible to network with people virtually.

“Internships and job offers might be canceled but relationships are not. Making connections during this time will not only create unexpected opportunities for you now, but it will be an investment in your career in the long-term. Every job offer I ever received and every project on our books now is the result of a relationship that has been cultivated over many years, starting when I graduated undergrad in the middle of the 2008 recession.”

Nina Chase – Principal / Merritt Chase

To get you started, below is a list of ways to virtually meet people and build relationships:

  • Email an alum from your school and invite them to a virtual coffee
  • Connect with a leader in your field on social media and send them a nice message about their work
  • Once we can travel again, find funding, even if it’s small, through a grant, a foundation, or a scholarship, to travel and meet the movers and shakers in a city that you are interested in working in
  • Ask a non-profit if they need help with a grant proposal, with either writing or visuals

Remember to regularly keep in touch with previous employers and see if anything has changed.

Participate in the industry
Often there are organisations (Non-Profit, Non-Government, Government) who will be looking for people to volunteer and assist with organising or participating in events.

The internet offers a large amount of high quality, free online tutorials that you can learn new skills and refresh your past learning.

Screen shot from Eric Arneson Youtube Video

Youtube especially has a wide range of tutorials that can help you learn new skills including:

Linescapes – Here you can find new videos every week on how to draw, sketches from our travels as well as talks with interesting people about the importance of drawing.

Eric Arneson (pangeaexpress) provides tutorials around hand and digital rendering.

Land Space Architecture provides tutorials on mapping, digraming, and visualization.

You can also get inspired by the various talks and presentations on the numerous landscape architecture channels including TCLF, reSITE, Harvard GSD, University of Toronto, TEDX talks. Just remember to set a time limit so you do not end up down the rabbit hole of youtube.

Various software companies such as Sketchup, Autodesk, Vectorworks, all offer free online tutorials and tips.

Also remember to work on other skills that are not often formally taught at university such as professional writing, project management, soft skills and more. These will become invaluable during your career as they often can make you stand out from the crowd.

Utilise your local landscape architecture organisation
Your local landscape architecture organisation (ASLA, SILA, CSLA, AILA, etc) can provide you with advice & information that can assist you. Remember to also look out for events and information that can help you get back into the industry.

Go on self-guided site tours
Your city and towns offer a great way to self-learn by going to sites to learn about scale, spaces, design, and landscape technology. This is not limited to built sites but also those under construction, although access will be limited you can often see through the fence and gaps in hoardings to gain an understanding of how projects are built over time. You can document these visits, either through photos and notes or just through your social media accounts.

If you have been in the profession for a while go back to some of your first projects and review them to see what is working and assess how would you design it differently in the current social environment.

Test your skills
Look out for competitions in landscape and associated professions. Connect with current and past students in various fields as they may be looking for a landscape architect to assist with design and visualisation. Students should also look out for student only competition such as our “Reimagining The Spaces In Between” ideas competition.

Be open to opportunity
Over the past 3-4 months there has been a dramatic change in the way that design firms work with many people now working from home. This opens up the opportunity for landscape architects and firms to broaden their expectations to include people who would not been considered in the past, such as those living in nearby or far away cities. No longer does the team have to be in the same city, many large firms are using the lessons learned and systems developed from collaborating on large projects and competitions to have their internal teams virtually collaborate across the country. Also many small firms have also realised that they may be able to have diverse teams in various locations without having to come together under one roof. All of these changes in the way we work is opening up opportunities for those willing to be open minded to the new way of working.

Don’t give up and have patience
I know it is hard to wake up and not feel like giving up, but these periods are often short-lived (in terms of your career) and it is best to seek to have patience when searching for your new job. You may have to work in job that is not what you wished for, but theses jobs offer the opportunity to learn and work on your various skills. Keep learning about the profession, connecting with others and you will find a new job in the future.

Article Written by Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of WLA.

Collaborator: Nina Chase – Principal at Merritt Chase

Feel free to contact Damian Holmes via email [email protected] or discuss further on Linkedin or Facebook

COVER IMAGE: Flickr User – Jernej Furman – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)