Perhaps I am a bit naive, but I really do love my job, and would recommend it to those looking for a career. Planning totally fits my personality...a little bit (well, kind of a lot!) on the anal and controlling side, organized, nosy (hahhaah), love seeing improvement or trying to make it happen, love having a say in what happens around me. For those that don't give a crap, planning wouldn't be for them. There are some things I hate...being threatened with lawsuit, because I won't let some buttheads park their fleet of vehicles on the front lawn. Those just roll off my back - I'm doing my job, deal with it.
Maybe I just got lucky...after grad school I got a job in a rural community of 10,000. Entire population of county is 45,000. Lots of lakes and agriculture. There's politics, but you'll find that anywhere where you have to deal eith government. Surprisingly, my position is held in pretty high regard both at City and County level. Regardless of the bunch of yahoos in this county, people realize planning is important. My *professional opinion* is taken seriously and respected. ((not that that means they always go along with my suggestions))
Being the only planner, I technically *am* the planning dept. While pretty busy, I have do SO much, which has helped me learn so much. I get to be involved and have the ability to work with other departments (Building, Engineering, DDA, Economic Development......etc. etc. etc.) I've learned more here in the past three years, than I did in college.People know I am not into the BS, or politics type of thing, but it is hard to get away regardless of where you are at, or what position.
I think too that attitudes are important. If you (meaning anyone) come across "I hate this town, hate my job, hate the people, hate this profession", you will not be respected and others will not take you seriously, and not look forward to working with you. Not that you should have to kiss ass either though.
Sorry if this sounds all 'flowery', but I just wanted to reiterate that there are planners that like their job. I'm in Michigan, right by the Indiana and Ohio border.. not sure if there is a stereotype of planning in Michigan, but so far it works for me! Granted, this is my first job after grad school, but I know there is crap out there. I just think people have to be smart enough to either 1) try to change it their situation, or 2) get the hell out and find your niche somewhere else. Complaining won't get you anywhere.