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Thread: 20+ interviews, 8 months, no job. What do I do?

  1. #26
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by crazyblue View post
    I'm from MICHIGAN.
    Oops, sorry!! I had a few beers when I responded and must not have looked close enough. I saw Jackson, but didn't pay attention to the state.

  2. #27
    Cyburbian DrumLineKid's avatar
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    I was without work for a year after school, looking after my new son (now a Midshipman ) while Wife/Mom worked. Lots of resumes out, few offers. It was NY, after all. Ended up the Planner I worked for in my internship needed a PT Jr. Planner. Within six months of taking the position, I interviewed for and got (what I thought was) my dream job. The City heard from a subrecipient they worked with that I had interviewed with. They called me. Serendipity is an amazing and frequently unexpected thing (and sometimes a pretty girl ie DOGMA) Keep in touch with those who know your education and experience.

    Good Luck

    DLK

  3. #28
    Quote Originally posted by Rumpy Tunanator View post
    but I'm not sure why you list Florida as a place hard to get a job in. A mop and bucket could get a job at some of the places I've seen advertising.
    Hmmm, maybe I should start advertising myself as a highly skilled mop and bucket...
    In the beginning there was nothing...then Chuck Norris Roundhouse kicked that nothing in the face and said "Get a job". That is the story of the universe.

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    It took me about a year and a half to get two offers at the same time and I had somewhere between 20-25 interviews in that time. I later learned that I never really prepared for the interview until the very last two.
    What do you mean by that? I am interviewing for an entry-level job right now and feel like I'm not preparing enough for the interviews, but I don't know what else to do. Any tips?

  5. #30
    Cyburbian donk's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AU06grad View post
    What do you mean by that? I am interviewing for an entry-level job right now and feel like I'm not preparing enough for the interviews, but I don't know what else to do. Any tips?
    Read the Plan, understand the philosophy of the plan but don't memorize the plan, drive around the community to see the plan in action, use examples from your drive and reading during the interview, maybe attend a council meeting or committee meeting to see how things are done.
    Too lazy to beat myself up for being to lazy to beat myself up for being too lazy to... well you get the point....

  6. #31
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AU06grad View post
    What do you mean by that? I am interviewing for an entry-level job right now and feel like I'm not preparing enough for the interviews, but I don't know what else to do. Any tips?
    well, first question, what type of preparations are you doing?
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  7. #32
    Cyburbian
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    I agree pretty much what has been said. I had to know more about the planners needs than anything else. You can't find this on just one website, much of it comes from keeping abreast of the local issues (driving to sites, going to meetings, etc.). Yes, I agree it becomes much more challenging when you are looking for work everywhere to keep abreast of local issues for just one position. I got one offer this way.

    I got the other offer at the same time through networking (took alot longer and the results are predictable). I interned 4-5 years a go as a planning intern at a park district, later did some work on the side with a co-worker who left the park district to run his own business, who later told me that another firm was looking for a planner. So, it was based more on who I knew.

    IMO, I think the first approach is better for advertised jobs, and the second is better for unadvertised positions.

    ooops, should have rephrased...networking doesnt have predictable results.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 26 Mar 2007 at 3:06 PM. Reason: double reply

  8. #33
    Quote Originally posted by WouldBePlanner View post
    At least you are getting interviews! I have been looking for 4 months, sending out countless resumes and apps, and just got my FIRST interview last week. (And did not get it). Forget Michigan, the market sucks and the jobs that are available don't seem very appealing (at least to me). I have a masters degree in UP/GIS and a masters degree in Environmental Health. I have 6 years of county gov't experience. Not in planning, but a similar field that deals with the public, engineers, developers, contractors, etc on a daily basis. Of course, I am looking specifically in Fl which does make it tough. My frustration is at an all time high. Getting into this field is so hard, and I really don't understand why. Not to offend anyone on here, but planning is not rocket science. Its understanding politics, people, laws, and performing a balancing act between all of these elements to hopefully end up with a decent plan for your community.
    Most jobs do not require much talent at all. In areas where there is a shortage of jobs being smarter or more competent provides no advantage. The five applicants you are competing with are just as capable as you of doing the job. That means the interview process is really more about personal intuition, whether the interviewer feels he will enjoy working with you more than the others, or whether you pose the least risk of leaving the job, causing problems, etc. They can pick anyone they wish. That's why networking is so important. If they know you, they already have some trust in your personality.

    It's a sorry mess that the job pseudo-market works this way, but regardless I hope this advice helps someone.

  9. #34
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    Quote Originally posted by dandy_warhol View post
    well, first question, what type of preparations are you doing?
    Since my interviews so far have been with cities, I've been studying the history of the cities, their development ordinances, comprehensive plans, zoning maps, etc. When possible, I like to drive through various parts of the city to actually see it and become more familiar with it. I'm not studying in great detail, since I've got several applications out, but I'm picking up on the main points. I've prepared for some of the tougher common questions (i.e. "what are your strengths and weaknesses," "how would your former boss describe you," "give an example of a time when...," etc.). There have been some good tips in this thread that I think I will use for my next interview (in a couple of days). I think my main problem is that I'm not as quick on my feet as most people, so if they ask me something unexpected or that I just didn't think about enough, I don't answer as well as I should (for example, I never know what to say about what salary I'm expecting). I'm not sure what to do about that besides prepare for as many different questions as I can think of. I know they'd like me if they hired me, but I'm not sure how well that's coming across in the interviews. Any advice would be appreciated!

  10. #35
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by AU06grad View post
    Since my interviews so far have been with cities, I've been studying the history of the cities, their development ordinances, comprehensive plans, zoning maps, etc. When possible, I like to drive through various parts of the city to actually see it and become more familiar with it. I'm not studying in great detail, since I've got several applications out, but I'm picking up on the main points. I've prepared for some of the tougher common questions (i.e. "what are your strengths and weaknesses," "how would your former boss describe you," "give an example of a time when...," etc.). There have been some good tips in this thread that I think I will use for my next interview (in a couple of days). I think my main problem is that I'm not as quick on my feet as most people, so if they ask me something unexpected or that I just didn't think about enough, I don't answer as well as I should (for example, I never know what to say about what salary I'm expecting). I'm not sure what to do about that besides prepare for as many different questions as I can think of. I know they'd like me if they hired me, but I'm not sure how well that's coming across in the interviews. Any advice would be appreciated!
    I found there are a couple questions every potential employer is going to ask a prospective planning candidate:

    1) How do you work under pressure and deadlines?
    Answer: give examples of how you have in the past worked under deadlines, outline your organizational skills. Use examples from college projects you've done, or internships, etc.

    2) How do you deal with people who are difficult (the public, coworkers, government officials)?
    Answer: give an example of how you have worked with someone who was a pain-in-the-a$$. Emphasize conflict resolution skills or classes you have had. Tell them the important thing is to hear them out, let them know you've heard their concerns and seek resolution, if resolution is not possible, refer them to someone who can better help them. Something like that.

    3) What are the most effective tools for problem solving and consensus building?
    Answer: a more full explanation of what was discussed in Number 2. Listen, seek to understand and then to be understood, etc.

    4) Working in a Planning office requires cooperation and coordination among the staff, please describe past work experience where you have worked with coworkers to complete the tasks, goals and objectives of the organization.
    Answer: give an example of a project, in work or school that outlines your skills for working with others

    5) Describe your experience in making oral and written presentations to governing officials, citizen boards and the general public. Include the tools and equipment used in those presentations.
    Answer: just explain what you've done when you've done presentations and the skills and tools used. Pretty simple, but one you can really nail well if you don't have a lot of work experience to sell to them.

    6) Then they always ask why you want to work here and what you wish to gain from employment.
    Answer: to get experience, to become better at your job, learn, and anything else you can think of.

    I too am a person who doesn't always think well on my feet. My advice is keep your answers short and say what you are comfortable in saying. When I have interviewed people for jobs, it is the person who babbles on that always hurts himself or herself.

    Don't try to sell yourself as something you are not, because chances are they will see that.

    If they ask you something that you aren't prepared for, take a moment to think about it. If you can't answer the question as they asked it, then answer it in a way that you can answer it. And if you admit you do not know, that is not necessarily a interview killer.

    One more thing, apply for jobs where you don't think there will be as much competition. My first planning job was in a place few people wanted to work. When the decision to hire came down, it was between me with a little planning intern experience and a landscape architect with no experience. I got it. Apply for jobs in West Bumf**k, and, if you get it, do your year to two years in purgatory and go to work somewhere better.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  11. #36
    Cyburbian
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    dont rush your answers, i found when they even asked me a question like describe your weaknesses, i took a deep breath, focused, and carefully phrased my answer (i don't think there is anything wrong with that, and most employers would rather wait 15 seconds for a well-crafted response than an immediate poorly worded one).

  12. #37
    Cyburbian dandy_warhol's avatar
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    before my interviews i would also check out the local newspaper online. there is usually something planning related in the paper and it is a great way to show the interviewing entity that you've done some research on the local planning issues. plus, everyone likes to talk about themselves, asking them about X, Y, Z project allows them to talk about themselves/their project and allows you to pick up some hints on what is important to them or can give you a common idea to discuss.

    as for what salary do you want, never answer with a direct number. say something like, "it is negotiable, but i would like to be compensated fairly" or something along those lines.

    and if they ask you a question that you need to think about, don't just sit there blinking at the person, acknowledge the question with something like, "hmm, interesting question. i've never really thought about that." that gives your brain a little time to scramble and come up with an appropriate response.
    In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King Jr.

  13. #38
    Cyburbian tsc's avatar
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    Someone with 1 masters and 1 bachelors might have an edge if you are applying for civil service jobs. I know we give credit for a masters as if it were a year of experience.

    Your resume must be fairly decent if you are getting the interviews... so I would say there may be something with your interview style. Maybe you could go to an employment agency and see if they do any mock interviews... or maybe a cyburbian who has done a bunch of interviews may be willing to give you a mock phone interview and an honest opinion.

    It could just be a tight job market... I know the NYmetro market is open...but that is because the cost of living is high. You really have to put a high value of living in the area to be happy.
    "Yeehaw!" is not a foreign policy

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  14. #39
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    Three areas of focus, and California is not that difficult

    1. Go Brooks Brothers-Drop all jewelry and conceal Tatoos if possible.
    2. Now the hard one. Think about the first time you decided that you wanted to be a planner and develope an interesting story and deliver it with passion where ever possible during the interview. Relate when possible the non-school activities related to planning that you were involve in while going to school, i.e. any volunteer work you did regardless how remotely connected. Examples, I served on a committee in my dorm that planned the annual ----------- Day, and we received an award for that activity or I , as a volunteer,served holiday dinners for 4 years at the downtown soup kitchen.
    3. Read everything that you can about the Agency, especially minutes of meetings and plans that have been completed. Attend meeting, if possible. Even talk to the person that had the job before, and especially talk to whom ever answers the phone at the Agency. They love to talk about the workload and personalities in the office. Make them your best new friend.And you will be amazed that they often have a say in who is hired, especially in small agencies.Talking to staff at adjacent agencies is a good Idea. You might find a person from that agency setting on the interview panel. Talk about what you found out about them during the interview.Then apply what you found out during the interview. It also helps you determine if you even want to work there.

    Newv planners can get a job in California. Focus on entry level jobs in newly incorporated cities,4-10 new ones every year. Look for planning jobs at colleges, or State and local Park systems. Non-profit conservation organizations are big there too. Also, popping up throughout the western states.

  15. #40
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Correction on California Incorporations & Go west!

    There is a correction on incorporated communities here in California (New Cities). Since 2000, there has only been 2 newly incorporated cities (both in Sacramento County: Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova, respectively) and a number of other communities that a stating the process, or are going to vote on incorporation during the next general election in 2008. In general, incorporations in this state is never easy, so its not like cities spring up overnight like our houses (rumor has it that houses in this state just need a little bit of TLC to spring up and sprawl overnight).

    That being aside, there are a number of firms that are in essence "contract" planners that work for smaller cities and counties that perform the duties of planning staff. They are always hiring entry level planners (having a master's is a plus). My firm is also in the hunt for good planners with design, writing, and "team player" skills however if you want more info, just drop me a line outside of this forum. For jobs in california, check out http://www.calapa.org

    The key is keep applying and keep your locations open. Just like real estate, location, location, location! You never know where that two-horse town might take you in elevating your career quickly.

  16. #41
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    It has now been about a year since I finished college. Still applying non-stop for jobs across the county. The interview number has inched closer to 30. Nothing has happened. I AM AT WITS END. I have tried everything possible to get an urban planning job. But i can't seem to get passed the first interview. I feel that i have done everything needed in order to prepare. However, any concrete results are still eluding me. Is this just not my time to be a planner? This isn't a conclusion that I want to embrace, but maybe its the truth. Any thoughts?

  17. #42
    Quote Originally posted by crazyblue View post
    It has now been about a year since I finished college. Still applying non-stop for jobs across the county. The interview number has inched closer to 30. Nothing has happened. I AM AT WITS END. I have tried everything possible to get an urban planning job. But i can't seem to get passed the first interview. I feel that i have done everything needed in order to prepare. However, any concrete results are still eluding me. Is this just not my time to be a planner? This isn't a conclusion that I want to embrace, but maybe its the truth. Any thoughts?
    Can I ask what you've been doing in the meantime? Hopefully something planning-related? The only concern I'd have is that interviewers would start to have issues with the gap.

    If you haven't already, it may be time to consider more aggressive approaches. For example, you might find a list (through your local APA chapter's web site) of all of the consulting firms in your area, and email or mail a resume/cover letter to each of them. In my experience, consulting firms will consider hiring people they like (even without advertising a position) if they think they can take on enough additional work to justify your salary.

    If you're looking public sector, options are more limited. Have you done the 'informational interview' thing?

  18. #43
    Cyburbian Dashboard's avatar
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    I know you said you did a GIS-related internship. It may be time to think about seeking an actual planning internship to get you even more experience and its something to do to fill in the gap. It will also open up new contacts and may even lead to a position down the road. You may think it is a "step back," but it may be a slightly different avenue to get where you ultimately want to be.

  19. #44
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Stupid question

    Why all the degrees? As someone who has sat in on interviews of newly minted college candidates, i would surely ask why? How is your resume structured? Are you sending the same old tired resume that is exactly the same to each place you apply? I would structure your resume specifically to the places you are going to apply to. Are you even considering private firms? If so, do you have a portfolio put together, that includes some of your gis work and writing. How is your writing? Believe it or not, writing is probably one of the most important thing a planner does. If you don't know how to communicate ideas and sell yourself (which is evident through your resume) you may want to touch up on those skills.

    During your interview, how is your body language? Do you have a coach for interviews? Also, do you show confidence in your answers. As each interview you do and ends up being a dead one pass by, i am sure your confidence in the next one gets sucked lower and lower. Finally, does your local APA do any mixers? Ours does a monthly mixer, so maybe try attending one of those outside the pressure cooker interview setting. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. Finding that first job is tough, trust me i was there and i criss-cross this state to find a job, and when you are finally offered that job, take what you can get.

  20. #45
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    Quote Originally posted by crazyblue View post
    It has now been about a year since I finished college. Still applying non-stop for jobs across the county. The interview number has inched closer to 30. Nothing has happened. I AM AT WITS END. I have tried everything possible to get an urban planning job. But i can't seem to get passed the first interview. I feel that i have done everything needed in order to prepare. However, any concrete results are still eluding me. Is this just not my time to be a planner? This isn't a conclusion that I want to embrace, but maybe its the truth. Any thoughts?
    Hang in there. I know how tough it is to get that first job--I'm still looking, too. I've gotten lots of interviews and several second interviews, and even been told I interview well, yet I always come in second. After months of interviewing and waiting, I get the "It was a close decision--you're very talented and obviously have a bright future ahead of you, but ultimately we chose another candidate" calls. What's the deal? Why's it so tough? I see some of my friends struggle like I am, and some of them have jobs lined up well before they graduate. The ones who have the jobs were willing to move anywhere, though, whereas those of us who don't have that luxury are having a hard time. Anyway, my point is that you're not alone in your struggle, so don't be hard on yourself. It's just apparently very tough to get started in this profession. But if planning is your calling, don't give up on it. If you do, and you're anything like me, you'll always be wondering "what if I'd just kept trying a little bit longer?"

    And to those of you who have been providing the helpful advice, if I've got the brains and talent for planning, and there are places interested in me, what can I do to give myself that extra edge so I can stop coming in second and come in first for a change?

  21. #46
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    Quote Originally posted by AU06grad View post
    Hang in there. I know how tough it is to get that first job--I'm still looking, too. I've gotten lots of interviews and several second interviews, and even been told I interview well, yet I always come in second. After months of interviewing and waiting, I get the "It was a close decision--you're very talented and obviously have a bright future ahead of you, but ultimately we chose another candidate" calls. What's the deal? Why's it so tough? I see some of my friends struggle like I am, and some of them have jobs lined up well before they graduate. The ones who have the jobs were willing to move anywhere, though, whereas those of us who don't have that luxury are having a hard time. Anyway, my point is that you're not alone in your struggle, so don't be hard on yourself. It's just apparently very tough to get started in this profession. But if planning is your calling, don't give up on it. If you do, and you're anything like me, you'll always be wondering "what if I'd just kept trying a little bit longer?"

    And to those of you who have been providing the helpful advice, if I've got the brains and talent for planning, and there are places interested in me, what can I do to give myself that extra edge so I can stop coming in second and come in first for a change?
    thanks for the encouragement. however, i am willing to move anywhere. unfortunately, keeping my options open has not delivered any results.

    i guess hard work doesn't pay off.....

  22. #47
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Crazyblue and AU06grad, I don't know how many jobs you've been applying for. But keep in mind that even if the position description says that they want 1-3 years of experience, or whatever it may be, they will probably waive that requirement if they feel you are the right fit. For my first two jobs I didn't have the number of years of experience they had said they wanted, but I got the jobs anyway. Also, during the interview make it clear just how much you want the job, as if you haven't even applied for others. And lastly, I assume you are checking the apa website for jobs, but a lot of state apa websites list some jobs that aren't on the national website. Good luck.

  23. #48
    I would be willing to critique your resume/cover letter via email if you're interested. If so, PM me.

  24. #49
    Cyburbian
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    Same here. My firm isn't looking for planning staff right now, but I could look over what you have prepared and give some input, so PM as well.

  25. #50
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Will also take a look at resume

    Crazyblue & AU06grad:

    My firm is looking for planners, and i will be happy to provide you critiques of your resume, cover letter and info from my firm via private message.

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