By Rebecca Wahlstrom
Sometimes I find that networking is much like those ‘connect the dots’ sheets you would get as a kid. The sheet would be full of seemingly random dots that they promised would become a picture, but only you could figure out the common thread that connected the dots. If you were successful (hey presto!) you finally saw the completed picture. Networking is much like connecting those dots, you need to find a common thread or pattern, or else it will simply be a pleasant, but fruitless round of meeting people and you will not see the whole picture. You need a strategy. If you are a recent graduate, take a moment to step back and see where you want to go with your career and set about meeting people who can actually help that happen. People who are already in their career path also need to continue broadening their network. As the quotes that follow show, when life takes a turn and layoffs happen, having a solid professional network is essential to staying connected to potential job openings. You will read in the following how the ASLA has been critical in providing a framework for connecting those dots throughout their professional life.
“Relocating for a new job is an exciting as well as anxiety producing experience, as taking this sort of leap will require both professional and personal adaptation. In addition to learning the ropes at a new position, being in an unfamiliar city can initially lead to a feeling of isolation or lack of community. While still in school I became involved with the Oregon Chapter ASLA, and through this participation was able to preemptively learn about the design industry in Portland, as well as meet new friends. The people I met at ASLA events became my first points of contact while job hunting, these informal introductions often leading to informational interviews and firm visits. Now that I’ve been working here for six months, I can look back and recognize how important ASLA has been in terms of meeting my peers and deepening my understanding of the field.” – Claudia Sims, ASLA
“Finding work is hard, finding work in a down economy is considerably more difficult. This is where networking becomes imperative. Increasing your connectedness to the local landscape architectural community will significantly increase your odds of not only landing a job, but finding a job that will actually suit your skills and personality.
Realize that not every available job is going to be advertised in a saturated market. Employers currently sit in the catbird seat and have a tremendous selection of candidates to choose from even without posting on Craigslist or ASLA sites. The more connected a job seeker is to the market the more likely they are to hear about openings and be at the front of the line. Staying associated with your peers and possible employers through ASLA and other professional organizations is one of the easiest ways of achieving this. I have personally found that LinkedIn is a very robust platform for networking. Keep in contact with people either by phone calls, occasional coffees, or lunches, or by attending professional events as much as your time and budget allow. “ – Michael O’Brien
“When I moved to Portland in 1999, it seemed like, to my benefit, if you had a pulse and a landscape architecture degree there were plenty of opportunities to create your own destiny. Over the last 14 years since then, with the recession and lure of the northwest culture, the job market has become saturated with talented professionals. I was a casualty of The Great Recession in a somber week in the middle of September 2011. I spent three days calling everyone I knew and stayed up two nights straight putting my résumé and portfolio together. Within a week, I was offered a position at a firm that I interviewed with 10 years earlier.
When I tell people my recession story most people ask, disbelieving, how i did it in a weeks time since it is so hard to find work. I think it had a lot to do with connections that I made early on in the local community, participating in ASLA activities and other community based projects, volunteer work, but also a general interest in the profession.” -Ben Johnson
“Professional success is based on relationships – whether you are looking for the next big project or the next step in your career. Participation in ASLA connects you to hundreds of like-minded professionals who may be your next teaming partner, employer, or source of needed information.” – James Hencke, ASLA, LEED AP
Job market reports regularly show improvement one month and a decline the next, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. With this uneasy climate, employers would rather hire someone whose skills are not only proven, but someone who they know isn’t going to drive them round the bend within the first week of hiring. Knowing people makes a difference and the ASLA can help you in this process, but it takes action on your part. Show up at events, volunteer – be a part of the awesome design community here in Oregon and connect those dots.
To find out more about joining the ASLA, explore the following link;
Visit the ASLA Membership Page!