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Thread: Public or Private?

  1. #1
    Member Bucky alum's avatar
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    Jul 2002
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    Public or Private?

    It seems to me that many of the people on this board work for some sort of government entity. My questions are as follows:

    1. When you started in planning (either before or after your education) is this what you wanted to do?

    2. Why do you work where you do?
    (ex. I chose for the city of Sacramento because its where I want to live, although its not my ideal job, or I wanted to focus on the decline of suburbia so I live in So Cal)

    3. Would you rather be working for the public (dealing with a lot of cr@p) or selling out to the devil (working for a private company)?

    4. Would you recommend your career to an 18 year old college freshman?
    Last edited by Bucky alum; 22 Aug 2002 at 8:25 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Feb 1998
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    Greensburg, Kansas
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    3,002
    1. I really like my work (except for those one or two times a month). When I first started in planning, I thought I would have more influence on the way cities developed than is true.

    2. I like the small town, full of challenges environment. When things go right, you can see the results in your lifetime.

    3. From my experiences with them, I do not believe I could ever be a consultant.

    4. Yes and no. Study cities, urban affairs, whatever you want to call it. But at 18, I would not pigeon-hole into a single career track.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Aug 2001
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    The Cheese State
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    10,062
    1. Let's see, I started college majoring in economics/finance, switched to economics/political science, switched to political science/history, switched to public administration/geography, thought I wanted to go into city management, got an internship in planning and found out I loved it. I've been doing it, mostly economic development, almost continuously since 1989.

    2. There are three reasons I like where I am: a) I really enjoy small town planning; b) it is in a location I love (well, I could be closer to Madison); and c) the job offered a number of challenges which I have enjoyed meeting.

    3. I've worked for a private firm doing site selection, and did not like it at all. Non-profit work was ok, but carried with it the need to worry about funding - no good. I've had plenty of experience in local government and have found it to be very rewarding, but am also starting to feel the itch to move on. Perhaps I will end up in a regional agency, but more than likely it will be consulting. I agree, some of what I have seen in consultants has been very unattractive - I could only do it after making a commitment to myself to make a difference in the communities I work for.

    4. I'd certainly recommend it as a worthy career, provided it was the job the person felt called to.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Feb 2002
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    Townville
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    1. Political Science undergrad, not much to do with that, so I thought grad school would be the thing. Not sure where the initial thought to attend grad school came from. Originally I thought I would become a planner to rebuild our crumbling cities.

    2. I work for a major dc area developer (the devil? we'll get to that in a second) because I needed a break from the incompetant bureaucracy of local government. I was tired of reacting and the culture of "saying no" and the anti-business climate premeating local planning departments.

    3. Lose the stereotype that the private sector is evil. Ofcourse, if you continue that uniformed notion, you will probably fit right in to the planning profession. I love the private sector. Remember this, the private sector is creates the jobs and places to live and play and shop. Sure some do it well and some don't, but you will find that in every profession. So its not selling out and to think so is dishonest.

    4. Absolutely. Real estate Development is a dynamic industry.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    Mar 2002
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    Va
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    1) Political Science & Geography with a focus on law - I wanted to do something law related to help the community, it was not till i landed an intern at City Hall that I even knew what "urban planning" was. I fell in love with it ASAP

    2) I started out in Greensboro NC and enjoyed the size and flexability of a larger city *just over 200,000 people*. Now im in Fairfax Va and working for a City of 20,000 is-diffrent. Not to mention Va laws related to planning confuse the hell out of me. Im not at all happy

    3) Im all for selling out to the Devil, and im not so sure after working 7 years in the public sector that the priv is "the devil" Im tired of the double standards, BS, and "typical gov workers" that disgust me. sorry rant there. I pray to whatever god i can find that i find a priv sector job soon, living in this part of the country requires more income than the gov can give.

    4) Id not encurage any college freshman to pick any field right away but take a myrid of classes and see what appeals to them.

    Danie
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  6. #6
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    New Hampshire
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    1. I went to college expecting to become an architect, found out I couldn't draw, and fortunately for my program (Ball State), I took a common first year program that exposed me to Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. I fell in love with planning in my intro course and haven't looked back since.

    2. I work where I do because I love New England (Northern New England in particular). I've always thought that being in local government was the best choice for me, as I never really wanted to work private sector. The town I work for now created my position 2+ years ago. I interned here while I was in college, and have always wanted to come back.

    3. As I said above, I've never desired working in the private sector. I'd never rule it out entirely, but I think if I do ever pursue consulting, it will be later in my career.

    4. I would not recommend any career choice to an 18 year old until they've had a chance to experience a variety of things.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
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    South Milwaukee
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    8,935
    1. My undergrad degree is in Public Affairs & Urban Studies (yeah yeah "liberal arts"). I had changed majors twice getting to that point and was extremely lucky to land an internship. From that point I knew I made the right choice.

    2. I work where I do because:

    a. At the time the position was posted, I hated my job (see #3 below).
    b. It's 10 minutes from where I grew up and all my family is here
    c. The organization is progressive and the politicians do not micormanage (I know, this can change...)
    d. I would snap at an opportunity to relocate to the southwest.

    3. I'll stay public. I working for the devil for a little over one year (sad thing is, I was good at it and made a fortune). In the end, ethics and burnout combined and I mustered out. I had an opportunity earlier this year to try again, and after alot of deliberation , stayed where I am. Money isn't eveything.

    4. Absolutely.

  8. #8
    Member
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    Oct 2001
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    Delmarva
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    123
    1. I started college with an interest in art, music and culture in general. I picked up a course that revealed Mumford's belief that cities are where culture is incubated and exchanged. It's a long way from there to being a bureaucrat in a city planning department, but here I am.

    2. I work for a central city not too different from where I grew up. I refused to apply for positions with sprawling bedroom communities where my job would consist of approving development plans to pave more open space. I could do with a better climate but I probably couldn't afford to live in one anyway.

    3. I would prefer to be working for the public than for the politicians and pencil pushers who claim to represent the public. My dissapointment is that government does little real planning. It's all regulating and reporting. On the other hand I haven't seen much private sector work that involves implementation. Doing studies and drafting plans for a random assortment of cities and towns with no connection to the actual outcome doesn't interest me. At least in government it's not a constant hustle for new contracts.

    4. No, I'd recommend Urban Studies classes and travel. Freshmen shouldn't have to choose a career at 18.
    Last edited by adaptor; 23 Aug 2002 at 9:37 AM.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Dec 2001
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    Rant

    I started out working for a county government agency because it isn't that easy to land a private sector job right out of college around here. I got thoroughly disgusted with the job as my eyes were opened more and more to the fact that the people with the most time in their positions had the least amount of work to do, got frustrated with the fact that people who did good work were rewarded by getting assigned the tasks of those who were incompetent in their positions, and I was generally frustrated with the fact that in PA planning agencies are advisory bodies. Seldom did I feel that I ever made a difference in the way communities developed.

    Went to work for "the devil" as an engineering designer about 7 months ago and love it. In my old job there was never anything new to learn. Reviewing plans and writing reviews that nobody ever read gets old. Here, I learn something new every day, stuff that most planners may never get the opportunity to experience. I love doing grading plans, it really is an art the way you design people's yards, and every lot is a new challenge. I Design roadways, sewer, and storm systems. How many planners ever get the opportunity to do that? At my old job, when reviewing plans, they were the plans (utilities and grading) that nobody ever looked at. We looked at the footprints of the houses and how the site was laid out. There is so much more to development than that, and I would have never had the opportunity to experience it if I didn't work for "the devil." And like Danie said, I am just so sick of this tree hugging we hate development attitude from alot of planners. If you zone it, someone will build it. Planners are the ones who write all the ordinances, comprehensive plans, etc. Don't blame the developer for following them.

    And no, I wouldn't recommend a college freshman persue a planning degree. If it is land use, development, etc. they are interested in, I would recommend they persue Civil Engineering.

    Did I mention government work pay sucks too. I made almost a 50% salary increase (with overtime (not too much either)) by making the move to the private sector.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    68
    1. I wanted to do a little bit of everything. Some neighborhood planning work, some economic development, some work on the Comp Plan... In practice, I make maps, I try to straighten out our list of streets and an ancient mylar basemap, I do a little bit of demographic research, and I'm a dogsbody for our Grants Program...every social service project they need some research or maps for, they turn to me.

    I had hoped, we would be addressing issues "comprehensively" instead of taking what appears to be a piecemeal approach. But times change, and there is plenty of potential here.

    2. My wife decided that she wanted to live in my hometown, and no place else. That keeps me within about an hours drive of where I grew up. The city I work for has a very competitive wage, and I enjoy the people I work with. While I am frustrated at the moment, things change. If I were to leave, I would either take a paycut, or a promotion. The paycut is no good, and a promotion would most likely require that I work several evenings a month...something I'm not interested in right now.

    3. I like the public sector. Its a little more secure, provides good benefits, and if you stay in one place as long as I plan to, you will have the chance to see the fruits of your labor.

    Private Sector might be okay, depending on what I was doing and who I was working with. I have a couple of colleagues who I would be willing to go in with on a private venture. The nice thing about that would be the ability to take on different sorts of contracts, and to work in a variety of different locations.

    4. Which 18 year old college freshman?

  11. #11
    1. I never even considered Planning as a career. I knew I wanted to go to Grad School, I just didn't know what I wanted to go for. I decided on Public Administration and while looking through the course listings, I saw that they offered a joint degree with Urban Planning. After I looked at the Urban Planning courses, I decided that was a lot more interesting so I applied to UW-Milwaukee and that was basically my first exposure to Urban Planning. There is still a part of me that wants to go to Law School and bail on this Planning stuff.

    2. I work where I do because it was a job that was available after I graduated. I had one other offer but decided, after talking to a friend of the person who left that position, to take the job where I am at. I also enjoy the fact that it is close to where I live (5-10 minute commute). The city where I work has also gained some recognition for some big redevelopment projects, so that was also a factor.

    3. I left my current place of employment last year to join the private sector at an Engineering firm (with a planning division) because I didn't think there was any room for advancement here. I really enjoyed some aspects of the private sector, especially the fact that I didn't have to deal with the day-to-day annoyance of the public. There were other things that I didn't like including billing clients (its a pain to track everything you do all day in 15 minute increments), and the uncertanty about finding work. Plus, the place I worked didn't seem too interested in their planning division. I was lured back to my original City when the guy above me surprised a lot of people and left. That being said, I enjoy the public sector more because of the variety of things that I get to work on. I think I could work in the private sector again, but it would have to be at a firm that focused on Planning instead of Engineering.

    4. I guess I would recommend this career to an 18 year old. After all, most cities need planners, so there are lots of opportunities out there. You can work virtually anywhere in the US (or Canada).
    "I'm a white male, age 18 to 49. Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions are."

    - Homer Simpson

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus PlannerGirl's avatar
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    Yes eventualy I will go to law school and do the land use law tract

    eventualy
    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin

    Remember this motto to live by: "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO- HOO what a ride!'"

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    NOLA
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    My undergraduate degree is in English. I had every intention of going to law school and becoming the blood-sucking attorney that my family craved me to be. After doing miserably on the LSAT, I decided to take a year off, regroup and try again. I was out of work and school and with student loans repayment looming in the distance, I decided to take a couple of graduate level classes to maintain my sanity (and keep Sallie Mae off my back for a while). I "discovered" the urban planning track in the university catelog and was immediately drawn to it. I enrolled and 3 yrs later, I graduated with a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning.

    I worked for the Chamber of Commerce for a little over a year and absolutely HATED it!!!! Then I took a considerable pay cut to work for the City Planning Commission. I decided that it was better to work directly in my field and gain relevant experience than cater to a bunch of spoiled businessmen.

    I worked in the Land Use (aka Current) Section at the CPC and did everything from conditional use reviews to moratorium waivers and appeals. There were times when the job was challenging, but the longer I worked there, those times became more infrequent. The most frustrating thing about working for the city was the ignorant City Council and their near constant rejection of the CPC's recommendations.

    Changes in upper management as well as boredom and a growing need to be challenged prompted me to seek employment elsewhere. I was going to leave New Orleans to work for another city when I received a call from a local private firm. I interviewed with them and eventually accepted their offer.

    The majority of the private (engineering/planning) firms in this area work primarily with the local MPO, and many of these firms team together for those MPO contracts. In the past 9 months, I've done more proactive planning that I ever would have done in a lifetime of work at the city. I've written a land use plan, a transportation plan, and managed brownfields projects. I'm presently working on a light rail project and another transportation plan and will be involved in airport plannng in the upcoming months.

    I don't consider working in the private sector "evil." In fact, the private sector exits to augment and support the local planning agencies in most of their long range comprehensive planning efforts. Working for a developer is another story - one of which I have no experience of which to speak.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Dec 2001
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    Texas
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    2,677

    Re: Public or Private?

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by Bucky alum
    [B]It seems to me that many of the people on this board work for some sort of government entity. My questions are as follows:

    1. When you started in planning (either before or after your education) is this what you wanted to do?

    Well, I've wanted to do this since my Mom made me color my first land use map, so when it came time to pick a major, it was my first and last choice.

    2. Why do you work where you do?

    I chose the city I currently work for for a few reasons:
    a) my last city went into budget contingency and I didn't want to get laid off, so I bolted-
    b) Arizona is beautiful and there were great oppourtunities out here
    c) had to move after the boy moved out here, I'm not into the long-distance relationship thing.
    d) different perspective than working in Texas.

    3. Would you rather be working for the public (dealing with a lot of cr@p) or selling out to the devil (working for a private company)?

    I was brought up in the public sector, I can't imagine doing anything else.

    4. Would you recommend your career to an 18 year old college freshman?

    It depends on who they are.. someone who knew how to have fun but also buckle down when it came time, of course.. but this field isn't for everyone.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

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