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Thread: Academic and Professional Career Paths (and other old wives' tales)

  1. #1

    Academic and Professional Career Paths (and other old wives' tales)

    Hey all!
    I think many people -- particularly recent grads or people just thinking of getting into a new field -- have many questions relating to what they should do to get into the __blank__ discipline/field. (So, rather than bombard the forum with my own questions, I thought I'd start off with a more open-ended thread on people's own unique experiences. And I'll slowly bombard the forum later...~!)

    So, the topic is: Academic and Professional Career Paths.
    Tell us about your own academic and professional career experiences. Where did you start off at? What were the different steps and stages that you went through to finally get to where you are now?

    What was/(were) the most important decision(s) that you made getting into the profession? High school, university/college degree? The most important event(s)? When did you first/finally decide/realized of getting into your profession? Please feel free to give details and elaborate as required. Just give us some insight to your experiences and the process involved!


  2. #2
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
    Dec 1998
    I started college as a business administration major. It was never really my intent to go that route, but I was offered a partial scholarship in this particular major so I took it. After a couple of years and a death in my family, I decided to return home and finish college there. If I had stayed in business, I would have lost all of my credits as they were non-transferable in that major, so I switched to English (my first choice anyway) and graduated a year behind schedule. Since high school, I always knew that I would go to law school. However, by senior year in college, I began to doubt if that's what I really wanted to do. After graduating, I decided to take a year off to rethink law school. One thing led to another and I ended up in graduate school studying urban planning.

    Thinking about my true interests, I probably should have taken a completely different route than the one I'm on now. At times, I really do feel like I've missed my calling to be in the publishing (books or magazines) industry. However, I haven't completely given up on it. I have a 10 yr limit on my planning career. If I feel like I haven't accomplished what I wanted to in this career, then I'll move on to pursue my true interests. BTW, I'm now in Year 7.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  3. #3
    Jan 2004
    I started off undergrad with absolutely no idea what i was going to do with myself. After a couple of years, decided to be an english major, since I liked to read and hey, english classes were all about reading. After a year of that, i stumbled onto the anthropology/archaeology field, thoroughly enjoyed it, and put my nose to the grindstone to get the credits and experience to graduate on time. And I did.

    Promptly went to work as a contract archaeologist, traveling the country. A month here, two months there, six months here, a month there. Got pretty burned out- wanted a girlfriend, an apartment... you know, a life. Went back to grad school for archaeology.

    Did half a year in archaeology at grad school and decided that the life that awaited me after school was going to be more of the same. Began wandering the campus, attending seminars and lectures that other departments offered. Was lost.

    Stumbled onto the planning field. Felt excited because i'd always loved communities and places, and I suddenly felt like i'd found a profession that could make a difference. Also felt nervous, because i was afraid of what it meant to go work for local government.

    Did a lot of research, talked to a lot of people, lost a lot of sleep, spent a lot of time hanging out in public meetings, etc.. and decided to take the plunge. Took the plunge. Tossed myself into the academic program at my school (I was lucky, they had a little planning program there), attended lots of public meetings, got to know the local planners and worked an internship out, got another, better, internship, did everything i could to stay out of the academic ivory tower and be involved in local issues, go to conferences, get to know as many planners and what they were dealing with as I could. Graduated and got my current job two years ago.

    Feel pretty fulfilled, but also think that there are aspects of planning that I don't excel at (design, for example) and aspects that fit really well (facilitation, putting the right people in the room, working with people) and wonder sometimes if I could find a professional fit that would allow me to more completely do the things that i'm good at (mediation or facilitation, perhaps). Luckily, my community is growing like crazy and i think that, if i want to really commit and put down roots here, there's options. And working something that is fulfilling and works for you right now, and knowing that it's not a dead-end box but that you've got room and options to grow, is what keeps us all sane.

  4. #4
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub
    Key Career Path Points in High School:

    1. Thought I wanted to do architecture. I took an architecture & drafting course as an elective and found that I enjoyed site design far more than the actual building. I was also facinated with street layouts, etc.

    2. From there I started looking into civil engineering. I went to an engineer job shadow program and quickly found that it was entirely to math-y for my taste and lacked a lot of the conceptual stuff I enjoyed from architecture.

    3. I talked over my desires with my architecture & drafting teacher... He suggested that I look into urban planning or landscape architecture.

    Key Career Path Points in College:

    1. My now wife turned me on to Texas State University (she didn't want me going far away). I had no idea they had a program and had resigned myself to paying out-of-state tuition to find a decent undergrad planning program. TSU was cheaper, close to home, and, as it turns out, had a ton of successful planning grads. Sure, it wasn't PAB accredited, but that hasn't hampered me one bit.

    2. Getting to know a couple of professors really well. One of my professors snagged me a great internship working as a project manager for a city's comprehensive plan that he was consulting on. This eventually morphed into a full-time job after I graduated and I continued to work there for three years. It was a city of about 5,500 and I was a one-man department. This allowed me to gain a wealth of experience that allowed me to stand-out above other applicants for the city I am now with, even though they had more experience on paper.

    3. Opting for a MPA. At first I wasn't sure whether I wanted to stay in the public sector. After working in it for a while, I decided I was pretty happy in the public sector and went with a MPA rather than MLA.

    "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)

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