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Thread: Confused/Advice? Considering switch to private sector

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Confused/Advice? Considering switch to private sector

    Okay, here is my situation. I graduated with an undergrad in planning about a year and a half ago and currently work in the public sector in an entry-level position. While in school, I worked as an intern in planning departments for two different cities also. But I am beginning to wonder if planning in the public sector is what I really want to do. I mean sometimes it's okay and rewarding and all of those things, but I'm just not sure if I'm governement worker material. I'm more interested in the private side of development while still providing good projects for communities. Or maybe even another industry that is realted to planning that I can use my skills that I learned in the public sector. Problem is it seems like my degree is so focused it's hard to switch over into anything else besides public sector planning. Any advice?

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    go back to school and get an MBA if you want to go into development - you'll have a good leg up professionally in a development corporation

    or give private sector planning a whirl and look for work there

    what is it about government work that you don't like - is it the particular job you are in or is it what you are doing? it's hard sometimes to discern the difference

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    When you say the private side of development what do you exactly mean? Real estate? Design? You have also mentioned that your degree is to specialized. Did you specialize in a certain area of planning in college? Keep in mind that each community is different. Some planners in both the public and private sector work in a particular area of planning, whereas some planners work in many different areas.

    After college, I was offered a job in a large community to do code enforcement (bascially site plan review). It was a very interesting job and it paid a good salary, but I wanted to gain valuable experience in many other areas of planning. I interviewed at a consulting firm where I would be doing many different types of projects (site plan review, landscape plan review, comprehensive planning, transportation planning, urban design) and I took a pay cut because I wanted to strengthen my portfolio for later work.

    Before looking for another job or even going back to school, I would highly recommend looking for other types of work within your office that you can do as side jobs to learn skills and to prove to your boss/decision makers that you possess other important skills as a planner (I stress side jobs because you should first focus on the tasks you have been hired to do as a planner). For example, in addition to my skills as a staff planner, I am taking a class in a few weeks on winter tree identification and next year I am going to try to get work to pay for a master gardeners certificate because I intend to go back in a few years to work on a double masters in planning and LA.

    I have always believed that there is a ton of great work to be done in planning, and there are people who are knowledgeable and patient enough to help you excel in those areas. The best working relationship is one in which the employer and the employee bring skills to the table but also bring recognizes each other's professional needs. Provided that you have at least met the required job tasks that your employer asks of you, you have every right to politely ask for further career development in other areas of planning. If your employer is not able to offer you additional work or suggest alternatives, then your next option is to start looking for another job that is requesting job skills that you would like to learn.

    Personally, I stress this route before going back to school. I think school is important, but it should be done after you have exhausted all other possible options. You already have some type of planning experience, and you have many different alternatives to consider before going back to school

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Carlsbad, CA
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    Reply

    I mean the real estate side of the private sector. I like design and everything but I took an AutoCad class and it's interesting and all but it just not my thing and I'm not entirely creative. I've always been interested in taking a piece of land (preferrably an in-fill site in a redevelopment area) and figuring out how wmany units or sq. ft. of whatever space (office/retail) you can get on it while maximizing your profit and still providing a good product for a community/neighborhood. I say focused because a lot of private development companies look for business/real estate experience with transactions and such or even construction management experience. Maybe a combination of both. But if I could combine those two things with my planning knowledge, I think I would be a great asset to a company. I guess you could say my ultimate goal is to eventually develop my on my own. But I feel the best way to do that is to get hands on experience in a smaller company. Obviously some classes or some kind of certificate program wouldn't hurt.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ssc's avatar
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    Back to school?

    There are several masters programs in real estate development that would help if you want to go back to school. On the east coast, Columbia, NYU and MIT (I think) have such programs. Not sure about out west but there must be a couple. I know Columbia's is only one year, and it would definitely put you right where you want to be. (Here I am giving career advice when I am in a career crisis )

    Good luck.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    look into an MS in real estate. from what you're describing, that's what you're looking for. i'm in one right now, email me for further info.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Jess's avatar
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    If you have the fear to start your own now, Seek employment first for a developer. You can start as planner in their design team. If you are already inside the organization, grasp all those things you can learn at the shortest time. Do not limit your exposure to planning alone. Get out of the office, go to the job site. Talk to the engineers, builders, construction managers, even the skilled workers. Exposure to this area will enhance your const management skills. You can expand your knowledge in profitability/feasibility studies by attending conferences with marketing officers, brand managers, financial officers and even lawyers. Ask them how they do their business plans.
    Take short courses in MBA while you're employed in a developer. The battle ground in the developer's arena is a best place to test your trainings in MBA. Then little by little, you can start your own small realty firm. GOOD LUCK.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian RubberStamp Man's avatar
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    I agree with Jess - try and get some experience first - use any contacts you already with the private sector in your current position. As you are relatively new to the game chances are you won't be a project manager to start. try approaching firms that are particularly busy as a project coordinator - this is can be enticing if current project managers are handling a large volume of work. You would also learn the particlarly important aspects of pro forma, investment capital, client relations and negotiation.

    Bone up on first contact skills (books from library, bookstore, web, etc.) for any handy advice.

  9. #9
    Member
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    May 2005
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    New York, NY
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    Learn RE Finance

    You're probably already more valuable than you think to a private developer/consulting firm. As you're surely aware, those guys are routinely responding to RFPs or seeking approval for land use plans. In many cases, they're also looking for public subsidies, especially for affordable housing deals or projects where there might be a social or environmental benefit. In all cases though, you need good knowledge of real estate finance. I think your public sector experience and even just a rudimentary understanding of RE finance concepts would open doors. If you don't have the latter, then just take a course or two, but don't go after a masters degree.

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