Sifting through the crowd for anyone that might be interested, I began to look for eye contact and a curious posture. At last! Found one! “Do you like art? How ‘bout science? ..math? ..nature?” Their answers almost didn’t matter. My response was usually, “Well, we do [fill in the blank] all day long.” The fact is, you can take the profession of landscape architecture in almost any direction. Given the diversity of jobs available to a landscape architect, you can work for universities, park systems, city planning departments, private design offices, nurseries, farms, arboretums, or for any number of other organizations. Some landscape architects, for example, focus on something very specific like soil science while others might be engaged in something more comprehensive such as regional planning. It is this diversity that many young people find so appealing. This is why I got into landscape architecture, and I feel compelled to share this profession with anyone who might be looking for such a rewarding career.
Last Wednesday, Salem High School offered their students a Career Fair from 8am up until about noon. Nearly one-thousand students attended the event as they entered the gymnasium in waves, one class after another. The students were met by vendors from over forty organizations representing a variety of tradesmen and professionals, including job fields such as the armed services, nursing, parks and recreation, shipbuilding, and technical design. Vendors, including myself, listened and shared eagerly with students in order to build their understanding of what careers are available and their requirements for entry.
As landscape architects with WPL, my colleagues and I had our work cut out for us. Alyssa, a recent graduate from Virginia Tech’s landscape architecture program, had been able to talk to many students about college and transitioning to an office environment. Jarrod and I, on the other hand, have been practicing for almost two decades. We were able to share what it is like to have designed for many of Hampton Roads’ most popular landmarks. Sometimes the discussions were one-on-one, while occasionally one of us were able to talk to as many as four students at a time.
Toward the end of the career fair, students from Product Design & Production met with us asking if we could come back to their Visual Arts studio to speak with their class. Their teacher, Melissa Schappell had us briefly introduce our profession since these students had all been through her architecture program, which consequently devotes a few weeks toward landscape architecture. Alyssa, Jarrod, and I will be headed back to her class in the Spring to speak to this effort, and we are eager to share more.
Events like Salem High School’s Career Fair are held annually in other schools in Virginia Beach. Other school systems throughout Virginia likely hold similar events. By talking to the career counselors in your local schools, you can find out more about these opportunities to share your trade or profession. Most students are looking for a chance to experience the real thing. Job shadowing, part-time work, internships, and volunteering are all ways to allow them to understand what a job is like before they graduate high school and begin to narrow their focus.