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December 2004 Issue

Developing Entry-Level Design Portfolios
Strategies for graduating students.

By Janet Lee Coleman

Developing Entry-Level Design Portfolios Jessica Buesching

Next spring, more than a thousand landscape architecture graduates will begin looking for work. I know because I will be one of them. So I am interested in what employers are looking for in entry-level portfolios. What turns them on—or off?

To get some answers, I asked recent graduates how they assembled their portfolios and how prospective employers had responded; I interviewed employers; and I informally surveyed departments of landscape architecture to find out how they help students prepare their portfolios.

How important is the portfolio in getting you that job? In some cases, very important. "The portfolio is 75 percent of what we judge an applicant on," says Sue Overleeson, recruiter for Design Workshop. Not all firms place such a heavy emphasis on the portfolio, however. Many rank it between 25 to 50 percent of what they look for in an applicant. "The portfolio usually is not going to win or lose the job for you," advises Mark Epstein, ASLA, a senior landscape architect at Adolfson Associates in Seattle. "Interviewers...may place more emphasis on confidence (not arrogance) and positive attitude."

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