College Life to Work Life: Joining the CALA Family

Welcome to the Callander Associates family, new project designers and recent college graduates, Amanda, Cameron, and Kelly!


1) What trials did you face during your job search?

A: Because of my previous internships I did not have as much experience with AutoCAD and construction documents. Firms I had interviewed with asked about my construction document experience and I had few projects to show.

C: I found it difficult to work passionately for my part-time  jobs as a Graphic Designer, Landscape Contractor, and Lifeguard knowing it would take full-time effort to pursue, and ultimately secure, a position at a respectable firm.  

K:Most of the jobs I found required a minimum of 1 to 2 years of full time experience in a landscape architecture firm, which I did not have. In the end, I applied to any job which required 3 or less years of experience.

Amanda taking a break in studio at Iowa State University, Ames IA.

2) What are some of the differences between college life and work life?

A: College life is less structured with huge gaps between classes you can choose how to spend your time. but at work, your breaks are limited, you have to be responsible with the time you now have.

K: Yup, no more staying up late and betting on your afternoon class gap to nap.

C: Don’t forget about the dress code! Throwing on whatever clean clothes I could gather worked at school, but an often overlooked aspect of being a professional is dressing the part.     

3) What advice do you have for soon to be and recent college graduates looking for a Landscape Architecture job?

A: Ask your professors and professionals for advice and resources. Do firm visits or job shadows to get a feel for the type of firm environment you want to work for. Make connections with landscape architecture professionals or graduated students. You will get rejected from jobs but take that as a learning experience and move on.

C: Keep an open mind. You may not have your “dream job” upon graduating but that’s okay! The technical skill-set and knowledge base of a typical Landscape Architecture graduate is valuable and applicable to a number of disciplines.           

K: Learn AutoCAD and construction documents. Seriously. These are the two things that will get your foot in the door.

Cameron working on a project in studio at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

4) What about Callander Associates impacted your decision to join the team?

A: Prior to my interview I was intrigued by the diversity of projects on the CALA website, ranging from small parks to lage trail master plans. I left my interview excited, not only by the opportunity to work on diverse projects, but to be a part of a firm that encourages professional growth through continued education program.

C: I left my interview at CALA drawn to the idea that I would be involved in all aspects of a project from preliminary design through construction administration. Predictable daily routines and a feeling that their opinions weren’t appreciated were issues my colleagues from school had with being young professionals in the design industry. CALA’s size encourages meaningful collaboration between entry and senior level employees, and provides inumerable learning opportunities and greater responsibilities on projects.

K: After my interview, I had a feeling Callander Associates’ work ethics aligned with mine. My colleagues, who interviewed me, showed enthusiasm when they reminisced events they planned to gain community feedback. They also expressed the importance of wanting employees to have a healthy work life balance – “if you are consistently putting in more than 8 hours a day, then we need to fix something”.

Kelly posing for a picture during a cold winter day in studio at the University of California, Davis.

5) Knowing what you know about working now, would you have done anything different in school to get ready for it?

K: I would try to get a landscape architecture internship or mentorship as a freshman and sophomore, instead of waiting till I am a junior.  Firms typically prefer students with more experience, but some of my studiomates were able to find internships and mentorships when they were a freshman or sophomore. You could visibly see through their work how their early work experience within the landscape architecture field allowed them to get more out of our studios, classes, and professors; thus making them stronger job applicants.

A: Yeah. Get involved with organizations such as Student Society of Landscape Architecture and ASLA (American Society of Landscape architecture) early into your education to gain more experience and meet Landscape Architects.

CR: Agree! I found my job at CALA through my old TA who was a studio mate of my now co-worker. Stay connected and get involved!

Written By: Cameron Roach, Amanda Holtman, & Kelly Kong Designers in Gold River and San Jose

February 15, 2018 at 9:02 pm