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Making a Lasting Impression
Professional landscape architects provide some insight on what they are looking for in an entry-level employee.
By Heather Hammatt, ASLA

The job market for landscape architects is somewhat challenging with today's uncertain economy undermining the confidence that typically drives growth and development in the United States. As the strains of Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" fade on college and university campuses nationwide, landscape architecture graduates face the daunting task of landing that all-important first job.

The more you know about the person (or persons) sitting across the desk and the philosophy and work ethic of the firm when you walk into an interview, the better. This idea is not new. In fact it has been a central theme of Richard Nelson Bolles's popular job search self-help book What Color Is Your Parachute? (Ten Speed Press, 2001), throughout its editions.

With today's easy access to information via the World Wide Web, finding contact information and basic background information on a firm requires nothing more than a quick glance at its web site. For smaller firms that have not yet joined the cyber age, the web may still provide news clippings or other informational links that will provide some insight. Purdue graduate John Haven, now employed with Carol R. Johnson and Associates in Boston, used the information he gleaned from online searches to personalize his queries to potential firms. "I used the information in cover letters ('I saw your project online,' etc.) to make the letters more personal. I was also able to discuss projects during the interview process," says Haven.

Many first-time job seekers are further harnessing the power of the Internet for instant communication, sending resumes and query letters via e-mail, setting up personal web sites to display their work, and creating digital portfolios that can be distributed on CD. However, the verdict is not in on the success of this approach, as the landscape architecture profession as a whole is not always current with today's technological bells and whistles (see Technology in this issue). While some firms have joined the cyber age, many still choose to communicate with a more traditional cover letter, resume, and work samples in hard copy. "We can pass that around more readily and don't have to spend time printing and compiling," says Pamela Shadley, ASLA, a principal with Carol R. Johnson and Associates.

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