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Thread: Trouble getting interviews

  1. #1
    Cyburbian joshking2's avatar
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    Trouble getting interviews

    Either my phone is broken or I must be doing something wrong. I have been applying for hundreds of jobs for entry level planning positions throughout NC and SC. I had one phone interview.
    I have a BS in Urban and Regional planning with a minor in US History. A 6 month internship, 3 years of volunteer service with a community group focused on planning. 4 years of active duty military, and 6 more of reserve service. Can someone tell me if I'm doing something wrong?
    I custom tailor each resume and cover letter to include words they used in the job description. I only use black pen, printed on $15.99 resume paper with matching envelopes and standard stamps. I really can't think of anything I might be missing. Please let me know if anyone has suggestions. Thanks

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I was in the army several years ago (though not as long as you were). Personally, I didn't think they looked too favorably at veteran's (including those on IRR status) because planning positions are difficult to hire and they want to be sure you won't be called up.

    You had mentioned you custom tailor your resume to match the words in the ad's. THAT IS NOT ENOUGH!!!! It is basically one step up from sending out a generic form letter and resume to EVERYONE. You are regurgitating what they have already written.

    There are fa few things that I want you to consider:

    1. Network, Network, Network. Get involved in your local APA chapter. Schmooze with local planners and get to know them. Don't just show up at the next meeting and say you need a job (althought that might work, I wouldn't encourage it). You build up a network from the ground up, and you hold on to that network long after you have moved on to the next position. Most jobs are not advertised. However, if you apply for a posted job where you know someone personally (who is in the planning department), give them a call and go to them, NOT through HR.

    2. Identify the real problems that the community is facing. This will take some time. Read the newspapers, go to plan commission or ZBA meetings if you are able. Find out why they need a planner (this is not written out in the ad, and you will have to do some guess work). For example, let's say the ad wants someone to do code enforcement (a very typical entry level job). Find out why they need this position: is it becuase there is a lot of development going on and they are short staffed (bring up specific projects that are currently being reviewed the need extra manpower). Do they need this planner because the last person left the position, etc. ***You need to know more about their problems than they do. Yes, this means it will take a longer time for each coverletter and resume.

    3. You might need to move outside of your two states when searching. Many planners have to move across the country when they earn their first job. If you live in a larger metro area, it might be easier to stay put.

    4. Think of your military experience like any other job. I am sure that alot of planning agencies and communities are patriotic and supportive of veterans. THIS IS NOT WWII. The army is a job like everything else nowadays. If you spent the last 10 years branched in field artillary, how will those skills relate to planning? My military occupational speciality (MOS) was 12B, which at the time was a combat engineer (I don't know what that MOS is today). I was also set to commission as a engineering officer, and learned alot about pathfinding and GPS (I had wanted to work one time as a planner for the Army Corps of Engineers, but is done by civillians not military personnel). I don't do mapmaking that much anymore, but with my military experience, it was a step in the right direction. Downplay your time in service as much as possible (that might be difficult when you have put in 10 years). Focus on how your past experience throught your planning jobs relate directly to the job you are applying for, and this needs to be stated directly within the coverletter.

    5. When you send out out your tailored resume and coverletter (and unless otherwise required, don't send out an e-mail) wait a week and call back to check on the status. If they are not considering you, find out why.

    6. When you do get an interview, go to the library and get a CURRENT book on interview prepping. You will need to have several questions memorized, and you need to practice, practice, practice. I did it so damn much for this one job that I looked forward to the interivew so that I could stop memorizing (turns out I got the offer because I was so prepared). Search through previous threads on cyburbia and planetizen for typical questions. ***And remember, just becuase you had one interview, do not wait by the phone for the answer. Get right back to the job search. Otherwise you are going to set yourself up for disspointment.

    Finally, you only have a bachelors in planning (as do I). There are a lot of communities who look disfavorably at that, and prefer graduate students. I don't really think there is that much difference between most, not all, between freshly minted grad school or graduates (with zero years of REAL planning). However, many communities would prefer a masters, and you are going to have to really try hard at convincing the community that you and only you can meet their needs. I am glad that you are trying to tough it out and work now rather than going straight back to school (I think alot of people end up delaying the job search process this way).

    Hope this helps-

  3. #3
    Cyburbian joshking2's avatar
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    Wow. Alot to read but very useful. I also was a 12b in the Army. funny how us combat engineers always stick together huh?
    Thanks again.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    You might also consider your resume. Obviously, I haven't seen it, but my boss was showing me some resumes he had received for an intern position. Several of them had misspellings, were on cheap paper, badly organized, etc. Have some people look at it, provide you some feedback.
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    That first planning job can be very hard to get. You wrote in your post that you've sent in many (hundreds was the word I believe you used) applications to places in the Carolinas.

    You perhaps should seriously consider sending resumes and applications to places where the applicant pool is shallower. I tried without success for jobs where I wanted to work (the Northwest) and finally got a job in a town in Alaska where the only applicants were me and another guy (who wasn't trained as a planner).

    Cast your net wider and you might have better success. If you end up somewhere that isn't your cup of tea, put in a year or two then apply for jobs in the Carolinas. With some experience under your belt, you will land higher on the pile of applications.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I'd cast the net wider than the Carolinas and also consider volunteering at the right place or doing another internship. There are a lot of basically qualified entry-level people out there- we always like to have some first-hand knowledge of how the person works out in the position.

    As for the military issue, I think it would generally be looked at positively since it theoretically shows some discipline. I might be a little nervous as an employer about a reserve being called up given the current situation. Not enough not to hire a good person, though.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    I sent out about 40 job applications before I got my first planning job interview way back when. Then they all seemed to come at once. Cities and counties are notoriously slow at processing applications. I had a call back one time 9 months after I had sent an application in (I had forgotten I had even applied)!

    Have several other people look at your resume and cover letter(s) and make suggestions, especially someone who is already in planning (or hires planners), but not a professor (academics usually do not have any/much practical experience in the private/public sectors <ducking flying books now>). Emphasize what makes you valuable to the organization...good graphics skills, GIS training/use, public facilitiation skills, etc...i.e. what sets you apart from the other candidates.

    At cities/counties, the first cut on applications is usually done by someone in human resources that probably doesn't know that much about planning and is just looking for the right degree, the requested amount of experience, and any particular certifications (I always laugh when I see places that want AICP for entry level planners!). Since the HR person will probably only be looking at your actual application, it is very important that it is accurate and as closely as possible mirrors your resume (it takes practice to fit good descriptions in those tiny blanks). With very few exceptions, type your application (unless you have superb handwriting and it is a graphics heavy job), otherwise it gives the impression that you didn't spend much time on it.

    Finally, don't give up, just keep sending out applications!
    "Future events such as these will affect you in the future."

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Hmmm.....

    Quote Originally posted by joshking2 View post
    Either my phone is broken or I must be doing something wrong. I have been applying for hundreds of jobs for entry level planning positions throughout NC and SC. I had one phone interview.
    I have a BS in Urban and Regional planning with a minor in US History. A 6 month internship, 3 years of volunteer service with a community group focused on planning. 4 years of active duty military, and 6 more of reserve service. Can someone tell me if I'm doing something wrong?
    I custom tailor each resume and cover letter to include words they used in the job description. I only use black pen, printed on $15.99 resume paper with matching envelopes and standard stamps. I really can't think of anything I might be missing. Please let me know if anyone has suggestions. Thanks
    Wanna move to Western Arizona? PM me your resume if interested.........
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Big Owl's avatar
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    Working in North Carolina i would be interested in what you are defining as an entry level position. I that the Charlotte region just recently had a glut of positions advertised that were for planners but most were wanting at a minimum 2 years of experience. Most entry level jobs in my neck of the woods are planner positions with a emphasis on code enforcement, not exactly every new grads ideal job but it gets the foot in the door and then they move on to a position that is more in line with their long term goals. Another thing is that local governments are notorious for having stringent hiring practices that include requiring applications as opposed to accepting resumes. Our HR department will not forward resumes to be considered that are not submitted with a complete application.

    PM me i will be more than happy to answer any questions about the planning practice in NC.

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