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Thread: Questions about re-entering the job market

  1. #1
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    Questions about re-entering the job market

    I have enjoyed reading many of the comments in this forum and I hope that the posters can help answer some questions for me. I have been working for a non-profit agency as an urban planner for eleven years. However, the agency is undergoing a change in direction and directors, leading me to the conclusion that my time here is soon to end. Faced with the possibility of aggressively seeking a new job, I need to determine how difficult it would be. Thus, I am seeking answers to the following questions:

    1) I have been working with ArcView GIS 3.3 for the past four years. Should I consider taking classes to become familiar with the latest GIS software or will my current understanding of the program be enough for consideration in a future job search?

    2) I have eleven years of planning experience, focusing mostly on socioeconomic research, writing land use plans for neighborhoods, and generating GIS maps for non-profit agencies. Should I try seeking entry-level positions (and compete with recent graduates) or aim for mid-level positions (and risk rejection for not having any counter experience)?

    3) Having turned 40 last year, will my age be an asset (experience / maturity) or a liability (seeking fresh faces)?

    4) My current job (eleven years) has also been my only planning job. Will this been seen as a liability (not enough experience or diversity in planning)?

    Any help that you can provide in answering these questions for me will be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  2. #2
    maudit anglais
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    I think you need to decide what sort of planning job you want to go after, and then figure out what your strengths/weaknesses in that particular area are. I wouldn't think you would be seeking entry-level positions with 11 years experience. I'm sure there are agencies looking for people with your skill set for intermediate or even senior positions.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I agree. Look for a mid-level job first. If you want to keep doing GIS, I would recommend taking a couple of courses on ArcGIS (including GIS programming). Fewer workplaces use ArcView, and more places are putting an empahsis on programming in addition to mapmaking.

  4. #4
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    Thanks for some of the advise I've received so far.

    My decision about seeking an entry-level position was based on a) finding the first available job if my current one vanishes, and b) concerns about other planners on staff feeling I was jumping into a mid-level position without first having any experience as an entry-level planner in a local governmental agency.

    As for the GIS, maybe the question I should ask is if I would be better off spending the time and money to study the latest GIS programs in class or if I would be able to grasp an understanding of the program on my own through trial and error.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    My impression of GIS is that it's pretty much entry-level, tech-level, not get up in front of the public level.

    I wouldn't worry about what incumbents on the staff think. Most co-workers welcome a newcomer and don't pick at the submitted resume unless there's a blatant issue (cronyism comes to mind).

  6. #6
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    Thanks again for the answers you have provided so far. However I still do have a pending concern about by job experience. I've only had one professional urban planning job and I have been at that position for the past eleven years. Will potential employers hold that against me (i.e. maybe he doesn't have the skills since no one else has tried to hire him for another opening).

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Earning a different job depends mostly on transferable skills. Have you moved up within the ranks at your current job, or have you been doing the same job for the past 11 years? What new skills have you learned? Do you have managerial experience? There is nothing wrong with staying at the same job, but you either run the risk of being pigeonholed (from specializing in one area of planning) or being passed over (because your skills are not what the employer wants).

    In addition to transferable skills, I think people can earn jobs by convincing the employer that they have the ability to learn new skills quickly. I think this becomes more difficult the older the applicant is, but it is not impossible.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dthorny7 View post
    Will potential employers hold that against me (i.e. maybe he doesn't have the skills since no one else has tried to hire him for another opening).
    If you don't have it, you might want to pick up a copy of "What color is your parachute?" One point the book makes is that everyone has some issue they feel is The Reason no one would want to hire them -- age, lack of experience, over qualified, gender...etc -- and it doesn't matter. You only need one employer to conclude that you are worth hiring. Someone, somewhere will not have an issue with whatever you think your thing is. You just need to find them.

    FWIW: I'm seriously medically handicapped and was a homemaker for about 2 decades. I job hunted on and off for several years while withdrawing from prescription medication (thus tanking in every interview for a time) and going through a divorce. I eventually got a job and it's something that most folks where I live see as very status-y.

    Good luck.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for your responses. At least I have been able to participate in a few telephone interviews during this job search. However, I do have a question in my mind.

    Late last year I had filled out an application for an open planning position out-of-state. I was able to participate in a telephone interview but haven't received a response about being accepted or rejected. Now the same agency has posted a job opening for the same position I had interviewed for. My question, stupid as it may be, is should I apply for the job opening once again (maybe they couldn't find any suitable applicants) or should I skip it (if they didn't want me then why would they want me now?)

  10. #10
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    dthorny 7, people may disagree with me, but I think you should skip on that one. Frequently, if the same job appears several times, it was filled but the person left. This can be a sure sign of high turnover. On the other hand, if you have inside knowledge or are not as mobile, things may be different. In planning, directors sometimes are there for only a brief period. Around election time, depending on how the city charter is worded, reorganization always follows. This may not be the norm, but it does happen in some localities.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    By any chance, is it for a county near me?

    Skip it. Move on. It can be entertaining to keep track of how often it appears, and you might make inquiries locally. (The WWW makes this easy.)

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