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Thread: How did you get your first job?

  1. #1

    How did you get your first job?

    I am currently looking for my first planning job, I received my MRP this spring and have a B.A. in Geography, with extensive GIS skills.

    At the moment I am approaching 150 job applications sent out, and have been on roughly a half dozen interviews. After each interview I have been told that I am a strong candidate but they have selected someone with more experience. To specify I am looking for work within the Boston or NYC metro areas.

    I have had multiple internship and am currently looking to find another one to add to my resume.

    So I am asking how did all you gainfully employed planners out there get your first job? If it was recently how did you over come your lack of experience, if it was in better economic times how did you make your self stand out from the crowd?

    Any advice, or just tales of glory are welcome as responses to this post.

  2. #2
    Jul 2008
    I think I'm one of the only ones in my class who did this but I managed to stay on with where I interned during school. I responded to a GIS oriented internship posting through our department where I think I was the only person to apply. I've been here ever since. It took a while to circumvent the hiring freeze but they manged to turn my full-time paid internship into a permanent position.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
    Aug 2005
    Above urban19's plane field
    Networking, patience, and blind luck...

    Had a conversation with my graduate Program Director right after finishing up my oral exams - he'd been called that morning by a former graduate of the program letting him know that her group within the state DOT was looking for an entry-level person. He gave me her info, I called and talked with her and a couple of other folks about the job, and applied through the state employment system.

    I didn't even get an interview.

    So, after a five more frustrating months of looking (complicated by trying to stay where I was due to Mrs. Bubba's job and proximity to her family), I took something out of the planning field and stepped away from the job search for awhile. About nine months later, I was on the internets and decided to check the state's job postings on a whim...turns out they were advertising for another entry-level position with the same DOT group (and the application period was closing the following day)...applied again...fortunately HR was no longer picking who made it to the interview stage - that was now being left up to the group doing the hiring. Got an interview, got the job.

    For what it's worth, that job and my second job I left the DOT for have been the only two where I applied for an advertised opening - jobs #3, 4, and 5 were not advertised and came to me through networking (all private sector - #3 and #5 approached me, and I approached firm #4).
    Last edited by Bubba; 05 Sep 2012 at 5:53 PM.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  4. #4
    I did a little traveling from Illinois (Univ of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana 1985 MUP), had 4 interviews, an interview in Ardmore OK for a City Planner, interview in Hillsborough County for a Planner, interview in Houston for a Planner, and the last one in Galveston TX, was offered the job the day after the interview at $22K.

    The guy from Hillsborough County called me but I told him I was in the Houston area and would find a job there (and I did) but the mid-80's were much different than today!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
    Jun 2009
    Where the Wild Things Are
    I got an internship while in college. I had actually applied for an internship in Planning, but they'd already found someone, so the Economic Development Coordinator gave me a call and asked if I'd be interested in an internship there. He didn't even interview me. He just asked when I could start. It probably helped some that the department director's husband was one of my professors and I did very well in his class. Anyway, after being in the internship for about 6 months they decided they liked me enough to create a full-time position for me. Of course, that was in 2002/2003 during good economic times.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  6. #6
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
    Dec 2008
    the delta
    I took an unpaid internship while in college. After graduation had about 5 interviews, 20 rejections, but was only offered one job 700 miles from my fiance. After college, to stay near her, I took an unrelated and underpaid job with the city I interned with. Just as I was getting started the lone planner took another job and I applied. I say it was pure good timing but that unpaid internship sealed the deal.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  7. #7
    Jul 2010
    Eastern Canada
    My planning program had a mandatory internship component in the summer between the two years. I did mine at a local municipality. My work there was good and I assume I was liked by the other staff.

    After graduation I looked and looked for jobs. I wasn't even actually applying to anything because there was nothing to apply to. Then it's 5 months after graduation and I'm starting to get worried about student loans... and the woman who supervised me at my internship emails to say she's going on maternity leave and I should apply. So I do. And the rest is history.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
    May 2002
    Between here and there
    A classmate in a rural planning class, who worked for my region's MPO, informed me of one of the counties looking for a GIS person. I applied and got the job.
    What do you mean I can't plan? My SimCity has 390,269 people with a 99% happiness rating (1/23/2017)!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
    Jul 2003
    Down by Dun Ringill
    Blog entries
    My job search for that first full-time planning job was a long one. I don't think I hit the 150 application mark but I definitely sent out a whole bunch. Out of all of those I had a half-dozen interviews. I went as far as Oregon, Washington and Iowa for interviews. I finally, after nearly a year, got a phone interview for a position in Alaska and was hired after a second phone interview.

    The only advice I have to offer is don't be too picky. You may have to take a job in a place you don't particularly care to live. Believe me, coastal Alaska wasn't my cup of tea. But it also turned out well and I learned a lot. I don't regret it. It got me where I am today and I like where I am, at least most days.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  10. #10
    In the days before the internet became widespread..... the job was posted on the job board of the city/county building. I applied for it and got it.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
    Dec 2010
    I'm gettin' there
    Quote Originally posted by Silverdude2167 View post
    After each interview I have been told that I am a strong candidate but they have selected someone with more experience. To specify I am looking for work within the Boston or NYC metro areas.

    So I am asking how did all you gainfully employed planners out there get your first job? If it was recently how did you over come your lack of experience, if it was in better economic times how did you make your self stand out from the crowd?
    In a nutshell I overcame my lack of experience by applying for jobs all over the country. I wanted to be more selective about the actual job I would do, and the only way I could accomplish that was by being flexible in terms of where I would do it. I think if you are going to be more selective about where you want to work, you will have to be more flexible in terms of the actual work you do.

    I graduated with just a BAUP in '10 without any actual planning experience (had a GIS internship throughout college). After clawing my way to get 2 internships, a planning tech job, and my current gig as an entry/mid level planner in a city with over a million people in population (throughout all of this I've probably applied to 200-300 positions), I feel like things have turned out alright. The catch is that I have had to move...a lot...and it sucks. But at my age and with my energy it's something that a lot of other people (you know normal people who have a family and a social life) are less willing to do.

    Unfortunately breaking into the field as a Planner without any experience is a very difficult thing to do. I can't even recall how many positions I applied for thinking I was perfectly suited for what the organization wanted, and didn't even get so much as an email letting me know I was rejected. Don't get too down on yourself, something good usually comes when you least expect it.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  12. #12
    Nov 2009
    Somewhere far, far away
    My assistantship assignment during my two years of grad school was with the local city-county (pop. 950,000) planning department. I applied for an opening with the department a few weeks before I graduated and was hired exactly one week before graduation. I received my master's degree on a Saturday and started work full-time the following Monday. I've had two jobs since that one, but I will always look back on that one with great fondness.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
    May 2004
    Grand Rapids, Michigan (Detroit ex-pat since 2004)

    Apply for one, be offered another

    Back in the 70s, when the ASPO/APA was using cuneiform tablets, I applied to a small city advertising for a planner. My interview took place at the national convention in New Orleans. Some weeks later, their opening for a planning technician crossed my path.

    FWIW, several times I have applied for one gig, and a different position results. Once this was due to their selection committee being comprised of people from several agencies, and another time it was a referral to another nearby municipality. Not too long ago I landed an interview thanks to my volunteer effort on a local ballot initiative. Another went well partly because of an on-line forum (no, not this one) connection. One position took about a year to make it through the hiring process, and the first question HR asked, about ten months after it closed, was, "are you still interested?"

  14. #14
    Aug 2001
    Western Pennsylvania
    I volunteered for Soil Conservation Service, which is now part of NRCS. Every job since then has come to me because of connections I made at that time. For what it's worth, I was recruited for a paid internship for an oil and gas consultant, and turned it down because I had committed to the volunteer position. I don't regret it.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
    Nov 2002
    While a grad student I got a part time internship at a regional planning agency in MA. After graduation I worked there full time for about a year for very low pay. This was back in '99 when jobs weren't so hard to come by but RPA's may still be the best places for entry level jobs in the areas you're looking for.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
    Oct 2005
    Senior year undergrad - had to have an internship.
    Interned (unpaid) at the County doing GIS work two days a week for 4 months.
    I was offered a job upon graduation using up a GIS grant at part time 20 hours a week.
    There was a shakeup in the land development review division about 6 months into my part time work in which two employees left back to back.
    The supervisor asked if I wanted the Senior Planner Job full time.
    I applied and got it.
    Last edited by Tide; 07 Sep 2012 at 12:34 PM.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
    May 2005
    Metro Detroit
    I had just finished my undergrad in 2000 and a few months later I responded to job ad on an old State planning listserve. I had two internships prior to this.

    The job only lasted 1.5 years, but I learned a hell of a lot, and it helped me get my foot in the door for subsequent opportunities.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Feb 2007
    Playing at a movie theater near you
    I applied to many jobs with a lot of interviews (about 6 in a month span). A professor asked how my job search was going and if i landed a job. I told her i interviewed in numerous places, but seem to either not land a job or asked for a 2nd interview.

    She picked up the phone and called a friend of hers who emailed her earlier in the week begging for new talent since they were so short handed and flooded with work. She spoke with her and told her my skills. They asked me to apply.

    I applied, 2 weeks later, interview, next day job offer. I stayed there 7.5 years.

    I also had a second job offer right after that interview, so i played my former employer pretty well to step up the pay.

    I was also offered another job 3 weeks into my first job.

    I preface this with a year, 2003. The boom had just begun.
    No Signature Required

  19. #19
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
    Jul 2007
    more West now
    As I was finishing up grad school I was applying for jobs all over the country because finding employment in my home state of Florida was going to be difficult with the onset of the recession in 2008. I applied to my current employer (found job listed on this website first) and was a perfect fit for the job description and filled a need in the department to have someone who could focus on design and historic preservation as a part of their regular duties. A little specialization never hurts! My tips for people looking-you may not get your ideal position at first, but look at every opportunity as a chance to get experience you need for your ideal job. Also having a specialization, formal or informal, will help you stand out from the crowd. I have a graduate certificate in HP.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  20. #20
    LUCK more than anything.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Plus
    Jun 2003
    Plan Commission Executive Director interviewing me in a mall food court.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
    Mar 2007
    Lowering the PCI in the Hills
    I wasn't even looking. I had just started grad school and was working as a social worker for a state agency when I got an email from a local government who had my information on file from a job I applied for in their finance department about a year earlier (I didn't get an interview or anything for that job, just a letter saying that I wasn't selected to move forward but that they would keep my information on file). When the lady told me they wanted to interview me for a job in the planning and economic development office, I jumped at the chance.

    I interviewed for a position that was much more focused on the economic development side of things and was offered the job and accepted it. A few weeks later, one of the interviewer told me that my ability to highlight my accounting, research, and GIS skills placed me well above the other candidates who had similar education and work experience backgrounds. There were two people who interviewed me and they said I also seemed to be the only one who took the time to actually do a bit of research on the position and the department.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  23. #23
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
    Apr 2003
    Philadelphia, PA
    Granted - those were better economic times (2002-ish - and funny to say because at the time everyone thought the world was falling apart) but I was lucky enough to live near two of the most depressed and dangerous cities in the country that a lot of planners in their right mind could and did pass over. That's how I got my foot in the door.

    I think broadening your search to places you might not want to live is key.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  24. #24
    Dec 2008
    Upstate, NY

    Self employed

    My first paid planning gig was responding to a local request for technical assistance. I knew a planner at the local MPO that was putting it out and they gave me the heads up. It wasn't a lot of money so bigger firms were not going for it but it was a enough to get me my first paid planning position as a project manager. I am currently awaiting the contract for another consulting job, a similar situation where it was not enough money for a larger firm. I am not sure what is going to happen with consulting but I am happy having the little bit of planning work and taking on another part time job elsewhere to supplement the income.

  25. #25
    I had an internship while in grad school. When I graduated, they hired me full time.

    Decades later, some of the people I met on that first job are sill friends and colleagues and I still work with them from time to time.

    Be nice and helpful to everyone. Even if they don't hire you today, they may in the future.

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