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Thread: Disgruntled Planner Seeks Career Advice

  1. #1

    Disgruntled Planner Seeks Career Advice

    Help!
    I am new to these forums. My primary reason for joining was to ask for help.

    My problem is this: I am very frusturated with the planning profession in general. (I received my Masters Degree from UF in 2001). I have held three jobs since then, each with larger A&E firms. I do not have my AICP yet. My main complaint with each job is that I am majorly stuck behind my desk and chained to my computer. I became a planner in the first place because I thought I WOULDN'T be stuck at my desk. I wanted to get out and help people by making their cities a better place to live. I am passionate about planning, particularly CPTED. It seems though that planning, at least at the private firm level, is more about money, time, and meeting deadlines. I know there are nuisances like these to any job but I can't seem to find the silver lining. I refuse to believe that I spent 6 years in college and a lot of money to be worrying about billing my time to the correct project and not worrying about the neighborhood pocket park that needs more lighting for people to use it.

    I think I need a mentor also. I am a woman planner that knows no other women in the profession. At my job I work with all men.

    I have comtemplated going back for my PhD. This certainly appeals to me in many regards, especially the flexible schedule and the interaction with students and peers. I am want to explore my other options though. Which is why I am seeking the group's advice.

    So the questions are these:
    1. Should I stick it out since I relatively new to the field?
    2. Should I change jobs, find that perfect firm?
    3. Go back to school?
    4. Change careers altogether?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    I had the same complaint when I was working in the private sector (here in FL) right out of my MSP program. I then switched to the public sector and found that all those things you want were there... of course there is still bureaucracy, but overall it was much more rewarding. I suggest you try that.. and see what you think.

    I am now in a PhD program and happy, but I am personally VERY glad I worked in the public sector a while before pursuing my doctoral degree...

    So don’t quit, go public!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    I too am disgruntle at the moment. (no I really am)





    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    I think I need a mentor also. I am a woman planner that knows no other women in the profession. At my job I work with all men.
    I can be your mentor. Confide with me......



    How long have you been at your most recent job?
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I think you would do good in a neighborhood planning type of environment. That involves lots of getting out and talking to people and creating neighborhood level plans for improvements.

    Go towards the light (public sector), grasshopper!

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    My main complaint with each job is that I am majorly stuck behind my desk and chained to my computer. I became a planner in the first place because I thought I WOULDN'T be stuck at my desk.
    I think it still largely depends on what your job scope is. When I was working in the cellular business I spent 50% of my time in the field.

    It seems though that planning, at least at the private firm level, is more about money, time, and meeting deadlines. I know there are nuisances like these to any job but I can't seem to find the silver lining. I refuse to believe that I spent 6 years in college and a lot of money to be worrying about billing my time to the correct project and not worrying about the neighborhood pocket park that needs more lighting for people to use it.
    If you have contracts with clients it is the nature of the beast. If you bill your client for time and materials, you are stuck with the time card. Even if you don't bill hourly, your boss likely wants to know if the project made money.....

    1. Should I stick it out since I relatively new to the field?
    2. Should I change jobs, find that perfect firm?
    3. Go back to school?
    4. Change careers altogether?
    My answers:
    1. Planning can be very rewarding. Don't give up. There are many facets of this job. CPTED like you mentioned, economic development, redevelopment, neighborhoods, long range, environmental, historic, etc.
    2. Try a stint in the public sector, you may find more of the things you are looking for. If you need the money the private sector has, explore the job's duties when you are interviewing.
    3. If you want to teach or change careers, go back to school. If you want to be in planning you don't need more school. AICP can benefit you depending on where you are looking (cities here like it), but AICP is not thought very highly of by this group.
    4. You sound like you enjoy the dream of planning. FInd a job that more closely matches your dream.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    You've received some great comments. I've considered some lucrative ($!) offers from the private sector, but stay in the public area for exactly the reasons that you mention. If you haven't already been to floridaplanning.org, check out the jobs there. There's not much there right now in the Tampa/Orlando area, but some should open up soon enough. No one is going to come up to you and thank them for helping them and/or the neighborhood/city/county (at least it is extremely rare!), but you can go to sleep at night knowing that you did exactly that.

    I'm not personally thrilled with the AICP process, but have it and know that some employers (including my own) pay a slightly higher rate with that credential. I don't see any benefit to a Ph.D. unless you want to teach planning rather than be a planner.

    As for a mentor, if you get into any jurisdiction that has more than a few planners I'm sure there will be some candidates. You can also, as always, get some great comments/feedback through this site.

  7. #7
    Thank you all so much for your insights. (I already like this board a lot )

    I have thought about moving towards the public sector. Especially since I jumped right into private after college. The neighborhood planning, that was already mentioned, appeals to me the most. I like talking to people, meeting with neighborhoods, and talking to large groups. I may be able to accomplish these better in the public realm.

    Rumpy, I would like to confide in you! It's nice to know that there is someone else out there going through the same thing. I have only been at this job for about 6 months. I know that it probably isn't enough time to make an adequate decision regarding the job and company.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian GISgal's avatar
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    Keep at it. I, too, am a new female planner. I graduated May 2003, but have worked in Planning offices for about 8 years. Just recieved my AICP. Without the influence of some really great women planner friends I would never have gone into this field.

    As others have stated you should look at planning in the public sector or find a not for profit. I have worked only in the public sector during my internships and now that I am full-time. The type of things it sounds like you want to do are in those areas.

    I too spend a lot of time at my desk, probably 75%. But I do have the option of getting out to look at development -- erosion control, architecture, landscaping, etc.
    But you do real community planning. Especially when a developer applies for a rezoning or a comprehensive plan amendment. For me it is very fulfilling to see something I have reviewed built in a way the community can be proud of.

    There are pitfalls to public sector work as well. Complaints and code enforcement and babysitting developers. But the parts of the job I do enjoy make up for it. Just remember to keep lines of communication open.

    If you want to talk more PM me. Don't give up your career!
    “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” - Thomas Edison

  9. #9
    I thought the same thinga about the private sector...that I would be out in the field a lot. I was disappointed to find that most of my time was also spend behind a desk.

    Keep your eye open for some public jobs. You get a better chance to get out in the field, deal with different people and not be beholden to billable hours.
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  10. #10
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    Rumpy, I would like to confide in you! It's nice to know that there is someone else out there going through the same thing. I have only been at this job for about 6 months. I know that it probably isn't enough time to make an adequate decision regarding the job and company.
    Caution will robinson, caution. only confide in rumpy if you are looking for advice on what not to do.

    On career disatisfaction, I think that is part of being a "grownup". From your description I'd also echo moving towards an office environment that matches your desires. Working for a municipality is not the only thing you could do. Look into Land Trusts, Historic Preservation Groups, State offices, public housing agencies.....

    You came to the right place to hear about the horrors and joys of planning.


    From another disgruntled planner(hopefully for not much longer)
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Most of my career has been in the public sector, focused on economic development. Half of my days are spent in meetings, at development sites, with people in the community, with businesses, and with other staff/consultants. All of it, though, is a job that requires me to get out and "walk the ground." I will even take time to shop or to visit a coffee shop in a neighborhood to see how it works. People will approach me when they are thinking of doing a project, or if they have a need of some sort. I then marshall the resources in the city, or at a regional level, or at the state, or even at the federal level to try to deal with the issue. I do find it very rewarding.

    I don't think working in the private sector would offer much of that. My career will stay in the public sector until I can either start my own firm (non-profit?) or move into a firm that wants me for what I do, rather than wanting me to do their work.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  12. #12
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    Rumpy, I would like to confide in you!
    Here's what happened last time people confessed to Rumpy.

    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showthread.php?t=14061
    Currently, he is under indictment in three states for impersonating a priest and in five others for practicing psychiatry without a license.

    Concerning your career dissatisfaction, I don't think I'd bail from the field so quickly. As others have already pointed out, there are a number of different branches within the field that are sufficiently different as to make it worthwhile to explore some of these related paths. Since you like talking to groups of people and exposure to the public in general it seems like you'd be well equipped to operate in a variety of public admin roles.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    Rumpy, I would like to confide in you! It's nice to know that there is someone else out there going through the same thing. I have only been at this job for about 6 months. I know that it probably isn't enough time to make an adequate decision regarding the job and company.
    Anytime you want. Although my digruntleness may be ending soon, hopefully .

    So far everybody has given good advise, although the public sector can have its moments too. For instance, I am currently listening to 2 people yack about carbs and diets, and other nonsense that reveals that they are afraid of dying young. Now they're talking about reality shows.


    Don't listen to Donk or Maister, they're just trying to scare you.

    And Maister, there was a disclaimer before that thread
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Breed's avatar
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    My experience is fairly limited... but I know that I get more "out in the field" when I'm dealing with the small town planning aspects of my job. Unfortunately, pay is usually commisurate with the size of the locale that you are in.

    If you are AICP and fairly dedicated, you could always go out on your own in the private sector. Offering to provide planning assistance to small towns that really can't afford to pay a planner, but could use the expertise. Of course, it may be a tough transition if most of your career has been in the private sector.
    Every time I look at a Yankees hat I see a swastika tilted just a little off kilter.
    Bill "Spaceman" Lee

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Tom R's avatar
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    grunt

    I was disgruntled at my last job but I'm pretty gruntled with where I'm at now. Move around to another job/location every couple of years and you might find at least some of the satisfaction you are looking for.
    Last edited by Tom R; 08 Dec 2004 at 3:48 PM. Reason: typo
    WALSTIB

  16. #16
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Half of my days are spent in meetings, at development sites, with people in the community, with businesses, and with other staff/consultants. All of it, though, is a job that requires me to get out and "walk the ground." I will even take time to shop or to visit a coffee shop in a neighborhood to see how it works. People will approach me when they are thinking of doing a project, or if they have a need of some sort. I then marshall the resources in the city, or at a regional level, or at the state, or even at the federal level to try to deal with the issue. I do find it very rewarding.
    .

    Wow, sounds like your job is right up my alley!

    I appreciate all the words of wisdom and will try to curtail my disgruntled attitude towards the planning profession. It probably is not wise to give up on being an urban planner just yet. I will take all of your suggestions to heart and research the various jobs that, luckily, planning does have to offer.

    I am now officially "on-guard" when it comes to Rumpy!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    Wow, sounds like your job is right up my alley!

    I appreciate all the words of wisdom and will try to curtail my disgruntled attitude towards the planning profession. It probably is not wise to give up on being an urban planner just yet. I will take all of your suggestions to heart and research the various jobs that, luckily, planning does have to offer.

    I am now officially "on-guard" when it comes to Rumpy!
    While I should just edit my previous psot, I'd recomend that if you are not happy now and don't think that planning will make you happy in the near future, cut your losses and do something else. Potential employers don't seem to care about what you have to offer, only what they want to take from you.

    super disgruntled planner(not a planner for much longer)
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    I am now officially "on-guard" when it comes to Rumpy!
    Now to fill you in on Budgie...

    But seriously, you might want to take a little time and speak with people who do economic development or redevelopment work. Not many economic developers come from a planning background, but those that do seem to be the best ones. I think it has to do with planner's ability to see the big picture.

    An example of a project I am working on:

    There is an aging industrial district with vacancy rates of about 30%. I have been meeting with businesses to discuss their plans, and to see what issues they have with their location. I have formed a panel of real estate and development people to provide insight and ideas as we consider what actions to take. We are considering things like changing land uses to bring more commercial activity close into the area, relocating a transit stop to better serve employees, improving the infrastructure, addressing appearance issues, redeveloping sites, etc. As the project moves forward I will be continually working with planning, public works, and transit staff, property owners, businesses in the district, restaurants and others we want to bring into the district, developers, etc. Definitely a "big picture" job, requiring as much coordination and negotiation as it does behind-the-desk planning. (I often describe economic development as the implementation phase of planning.)
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Rumpy Tunanator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    I am now officially "on-guard" when it comes to Rumpy!

    But I'm just an ordinary 9 foot fish who's just being friendly.


    Seriously, watch out for anybody with ducks (i.e. Maister & Cardinal)
    A guy once told me, "Do not have any attachments, do not have anything in your life you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner."


    Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro): Heat 1995

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    sisterceleste and I are both in Central FL, with lots of diverse experience, maybe could help you out. She has more private sector experience but between us, we've worked a bit around the state and in different areas of planning (zoning, land use, transportation, trails, etc.). For instance, I worked many years in zoning/land use and switched to trails planning 2 years ago; went from suits and night hearings to jeans and field trips. Just gotta find a niche. Maybe what I'm doing isn't as exciting, but it's definitely less stressful (good when you have a kid).

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Grownsup
    So the questions are these:
    1. Should I stick it out since I relatively new to the field?
    2. Should I change jobs, find that perfect firm?
    3. Go back to school?
    4. Change careers altogether?
    Or:
    5. Do something else for money and get involved in a planning project that you are passionate about through pro bono means?

    That is likely to be what I end up doing. I have never been successful in a conventional way but I have been wildly successful in a number of unconventional ways. Most likely, that will continue to be the short description of my lifestyle. You could go to a library and pick up a few books like "Do what you love, the money will follow" and "Do what you are" (which is about careers as related to your Meyers-Briggs personality type and is an excellent book).

    Also, before you make any decisions regarding a major career change, I suggest that you do some research on what your next career is REALLY like. When I was 17, I considered becoming a physical therapist because I am good at massage and I liked it. My older sister had a friend who was a physical therapist and she arranged an interview for me with him. It turns out that physical therapy is not what I thought it was and I put down "geology" for the major I wanted when I applied to school. Years later, I considered going to massage school to get the credentials to work as a masseuse but never did. But, really, a massage therapist is probably closer to what I had in mind: someone who does massage to heal people. I have used massage to heal people in life and that is extremely satisfying work -- which is why I was interested in the first place in becoming a physical therapist.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally posted by Zoning Goddess
    Maybe what I'm doing isn't as exciting, but it's definitely less stressful (good when you have a kid).
    I could use all the help I can get! Thanks for the offer. And to be perfectly honest, in the next few years, I will be getting married and maybe raising kids. I worry that all the time and energy I am putting into my career will be wasted when I become a mom.

    Michele - Those are great book recommendations. I definitely will check out the Briggs Meyers book, because someone else had mentioned it to me.

    I am glad that I stumbled on to this forum to know that there are people, planners and women out there who are experiencing similar life situations. I hope to benefit from your experiences and knowledge.

  23. #23
    Grownsup, never give up. I have crashed a farm, a trucking business, a good sales position, and a marriage. Yet I am still here bothering people. It all comes together sooner or later. { I hope}

  24. #24
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    hey grownsup, you're not alone, i'm pretty much in the same boat as you. well, except for the whole woman thing. i'm at a private engineering firm and i'm trying to get a job with a municipality. there's definitely the type of work you're looking for in the private sector, especially if you land municipalities as clients. but it seems to me that for the type of work you want public would be the best way to go. just be prepared to deal with the politics!

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