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Thread: Beginning to lose the faith in the job hunt

  1. #26
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    The more I read these threads, the more I see I've been pretty lucky in my life. But I guess there are even some lessons in my career roll of luck.

    I graduated from UC Davis with a bachelor's degree in Dec. 1990. The snowballing recession in California was about to go to 7.7% unemployment in 1991 and on to the low- to mid- 9% in the next two years. Planners were getting fired in N. Cal. left and right.

    But because I lucked into a job with the City of St. Helena in 1989 to write the Parks & Rec Element of their General Plan, I ended up getting a paying internship with the City of Davis in the summer of 1990 when I was still in University. I think it was $7.25/hr. I wrangled for night meetings to get time and half. I took anything they threw at me, even took projects regularly to subdivision committee and ended up taking some projects to PC/council. It was desperation on my part to make money out of a 24 hour/week job. And Davis, despite being a small town, was incredibly expensive to live in.

    So in 1991, there was this huge political battle within the Department, which was really hard because I was friends with all of the various 'bosses', and there were a lot of them. When one of them got fired, he ended up giving me a part time job where he landed: at the California Coastal Commission. I got a great intership two days a week at the Sacto office reading proposed legislation all day long and writing little blurbs on each of the various bills with a note of support//non-support to pass on to the Commission's lobbyist. The best part was that it was at the top of a beautiful old 12-story building on J St. in Sacto, and often I was the only one there for days at a time because the main office is in SF and the lobbyist and policy writer were in the City a lot. Reading hundreds of bills was mind numbing, but after awhile it became like playing 'where's waldo?' with legislation, looking for bizarre riders that would compromise some wetland or shoreline in the midst of OSHA legislation or health bills or something. I almost sneared at this job, since once again it was without benefits, was called 'intern' in the title and was only two days a week. But the thought of having such great responsibility in a job was really appealing, and it ended up being such a great experience. Oh yeah, and it paid $11.25 an hour.

    So I went about a year on the two interships, scraping by. I did all kinds of night meetings to get time during the day to make jaunts to various recruitment interviews throughout California. In the end, after 25 interviews or so, I ended up landing a job with Siskiyou County in N. Cali. A few weeks before, one of the Assistant Planners left the City of Davis, where I was interning. Because I had unsucessfully went through a recruitment with them a few months before (which was difficult to go through), they were able to offer me a position on the spot when Siskiyou called for a reference. By that time, I had made myself invaluable. I worked with the biggest weenie of a developer on a regular basis, the one that nobody wanted to deal with. I took the crap of the crap when it came to projects to make them keep me... and I guess it worked.

    I stayed there and moved up the ladder a bit, for five years or so. I've landed all but two jobs I've ever interviewed for since, as those two interships started me off so well.

    So I guess this is what I've learned: 1) if you can't find a job, get a temporary internship: it's experience, not titles; 2) don't get all hung up about being underpaid/overworked and take anything they throw your way; 3) night meetings have important people (well, for landing a job at least), learn the players and the dynamics of the community you want to work for and make sure you work it into your interview answers.

    I've seen a number of junior planners walk in and out of my department in recent years. All very talented. All very bitter in a way where it comes across that we all owe them something for being there. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it seems like the mentality of the junior planner has shifted from trying to please the employers to making sure that the employers please them (and being quite vocal if they aren't pleased). There are a couple of planners & technicians I've worked with that were quite talented, who I would give a shining reference, but who I wouldn't hire back just for that difficult attitude. So the last thing I'll say is, to the greatest extent possible, try to keep a good attitude about things. Because when there are so many people to choose from, "fit" and "personality" do make a difference.

    By the way, I'm not implying that you have an attitude or anything... I just know from experience how brutal the interview system is when you have to do them on a regular basis and how it can affect your attitude after awhile.

    So best of luck! I wish I knew more about Texas... I'd love to help.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian
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    Interesting story, Nerudite! We may have crossed paths at some point, as I worked for El Dorado County from '87 to '96, and was in Davis a lot for some of the continuing ed classes. I, too, started at the bottom of the barrel. I think I got $9.42 an hour to start. But we had such a high turnover rate, they did a class and comp study to increase pay. Between that, and being promoted to Associate Planner as soon as I was eligible, my check increased an average of 10%+ every year I was there.

    As to not being able to find work, I guess I am unable to relate. I got four of the six jobs I've applied for in my career. When I took my present job, I had one employee. I now have three. None have any planning experience, nor do they have college degrees. But they are bright, energetic, and willing to learn. Needless to say, the starting wage is low, even for Idaho. But I will be requesting significant increases in our next budget, and will send them to as many training classes/conferences as I can afford. When I was with the county, we had numerous job openings, but were unable to get many out-of-state applicants. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps Idaho has a negative reputation. Altogether undeserved, I might add.

    I guess this is a roundabout way of saying don't give up, but you may have to reduce your expectations a bit to break in. I think that I was extremely fortunate in my career, as I got (mostly) jobs I wanted, and wasn't affected by downturns in the economy or the capricious nature of politics.

  3. #28
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by andreplanner
    Well I have tried applying with the private development side and with municipalities as a jr planner or even counter help. No one is willing to hire me w/o land use planning experience. I have 2 degrees in public admin and in planning so they kind of go hand in hand but most of my focus has been in policy, especially in transportation and housing. I have sent different cover letters for different positions no matter where they were located.
    Have you considered contacting some of the ratepayer's assocations or BIA's? I'm sure they'd jump at the chance to get some planning support - of course, they likely wouldn't be paying you, but the experience would be good.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by andreplanner
    But did you have experience? I have yet to gain any experience even though I am part of a non-profit housing board, transportation advocacy group, OPPI & APA. I don't know what industry your in. I don't have experience in planning/zoning. I have studied more with respect to policy.

    Sometimes, life experience is enough. I had absolutely no experience in land use/zoning and had only taken one class in it in college. I looked for a job for almost 9 months and have one now where I do primarily land use/zoning work.

    What I did have was non-related work experience and the ability to draw the similarities back to planning. I also had a great list of references of people through school and internships that could see my potential.

    One thing I found extremely useful: Contact professors or people you've met in the field and give them a copy of your resume. Don't ask them for a job; instead ask them to look over your resume and see what you could improve on.
    For me, it opened up opportunities for interviews, as well as built/kept relationships with people that will be useful in the future. A boss at an internship gave my name to several others in the field and gave my (current) boss a glowing review that he still remembers about 6 months later.
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

  5. #30
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Slightly off-topic

    On a slightly off-topic note, one of my biggest pet peeves is people that get a degree and don't ever use it! It's one thing to go into your chosen field and later decide to try something else. But I just think it's so important to stand firm with your career decision unless it has been proven (by you) to not be the right fit!

    Several of my college classmates have given up the fight and are working in a totally unrelated field - just a year after we graduated. And it makes me angry! Maybe it's because I waited a bit before going back to college and because I paid for it all myself (me and my college loans, mind you). But I just see it as so wasteful.

    LET'S NOT GO TO COLLEGE JUST FOR THE SAKE OF GOING TO COLLEGE!

    (moral - you have your degree, now do what it takes to get into the field!) (meant to be encouraging, not deroggatory to those who haven't gotten there yet)
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

  6. #31
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RandomPlanner...
    A boss at an internship gave my name to several others in the field and gave my (current) boss a glowing review that he still remembers about 6 months later.
    This is advice from a college professor of mine: A student of his asked him for a letter of recommendation. He wrote a glowing, lovely letter. The student came back a week later and asked for another. He wrote a lovely letter, but not quite as long. This went on all summer. By the end of the summer, it was a 3 sentence "Good student. Hard worker. I reccomend her." type thing.

    The moral: If you do get a letter of recommendation, keep the original and make photocopies to hand out.

  7. #32
         
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    Quote Originally posted by nerudite
    By the way, I'm not implying that you have an attitude or anything... I just know from experience how brutal the interview system is when you have to do them on a regular basis and how it can affect your attitude after awhile. .
    I did not take it any way but as a suggestion. I know there have been several times where I did not want to talk to ANYONE about planning because it just set me off. I anyone that has called customer service for anything can instantly hear if a person is bitter or angry. I like to think that now I am more mature and can handle the rejection better as I try and get into the field. I am reminded of advice I got from a district sales manager ( I an an independent insurance agent part time). He said: " Be happy for the 'no's' because that means you are one step closer to a 'yes' .'" I am lucky because I have a suppoetive spouse and can draw unemployment for a while.

  8. #33
    Cyburbian andreplanner's avatar
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    Edmonton via T-Dot & LA
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner
    Have you considered contacting some of the ratepayer's assocations or BIA's? I'm sure they'd jump at the chance to get some planning support - of course, they likely wouldn't be paying you, but the experience would be good.
    Actually you know what? Funny you mentioned it. I did that last week. I contacted the head of the Toronto BIAs and of course I didn't even receive a response back.

    I am heading to the planning workshop on June 8th discussing the PPS and Greenbelt plan. So let's see if that leads to any networking opportunities. It'll look good, or at least I hope, on my resume.

    Quote Originally posted by RandomPlanner...
    On a slightly off-topic note, one of my biggest pet peeves is people that get a degree and don't ever use it! It's one thing to go into your chosen field and later decide to try something else. But I just think it's so important to stand firm with your career decision unless it has been proven (by you) to not be the right fit!

    Several of my college classmates have given up the fight and are working in a totally unrelated field - just a year after we graduated. And it makes me angry! Maybe it's because I waited a bit before going back to college and because I paid for it all myself (me and my college loans, mind you). But I just see it as so wasteful.

    LET'S NOT GO TO COLLEGE JUST FOR THE SAKE OF GOING TO COLLEGE!

    (moral - you have your degree, now do what it takes to get into the field!) (meant to be encouraging, not deroggatory to those who haven't gotten there yet)
    I agree wholeheartedly. After my first degree in public administration, I ended up working for various investment firms. Then I went back to school to get my urban planning degree. Of course it has yet to get my somewhere but I plan to stick to it no matter what it takes. Although it's frustrating to see how much you have to go through just to even get a bloody interview, my time will come. Don't know when but it's all about perseverance, connecting with the right people and making people stand up and take notice all you're worth. Even though at my age I think I shouldn't have to resort to that.
    Last edited by Tranplanner; 01 Jun 2005 at 10:50 AM.

  9. #34
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by andreplanner
    Actually you know what? Funny you mentioned it. I did that last week. I contacted the head of the Toronto BIAs and of course I didn't even receive a response back.
    You mean the person at the City in charge of the BIAs? I don't think they'd be able to help you directly - I was thinking more along the lines of contacting individual BIAs and ratepayers groups to see if they need any volunteer help. I know you're looking for paid work, but experience looks good.

    Quote Originally posted by andreplanner
    I am heading to the planning workshop on June 8th discussing the PPS and Greenbelt plan. So let's see if that leads to any networking opportunities. It'll look good, or at least I hope, on my resume.
    You should make some good contacts, but most of the people there probably won't be in a position to make hiring decisions.

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