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Thread: Degreed and unemployed: need help

  1. #1
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    Degreed and unemployed: need help

    I earned my Masterís in Urban Planning from a respected APA accredited program. I went through it pretty fast, so only had one internship. Iíve now had 12 job interviews with no offers.

    I could be a very bad interviewee, or they may not like the fact that Iím older (switching careers). But it might help if someone could tell me how to cope with the competition or escape it. Is there a region that might have a higher demand for planners or a lower ratio of recent grads to jobs? Iím willing to relocate to most places at this point. However, it appears that most employers donít want to hire from another state for an entry level position. I thought about renting a room somewhere to get a local address.

    Is there training that I could get that would help with my employability? Iíve found that classes only carry limited weight in job interviews, but perhaps there are exceptions. Would taking a job as a zoning inspector translate into a real planner position? Many of these only require a high school diploma, so it might be a mistake. Iíve had to take out a loan just to pay the bills, so canít stay unemployed forever. Needless to say that Iím disappointed in my career choice right now.

  2. #2
    Zoning Lord Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Where would you like to live? Decide that and focus on that/those area(s). Go to the state chapter APA web sites. Most have jobs available listings. Employment opportunities vary from state to state. http://www.planning.org/Chapters/links.html

    I'd try to avoid positions that only require a HS diploma.

    Be confident and good luck!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Florida always seems to have openings. California does as well, but I understand that California's planning laws are faily involved. Echoing what RJ said, visit the APA website and look at the state chapter website under publications. Finally, be ready to take some scrub jobs or jobs in less desirable places at first. We all have had to pay our dues and good luck.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Guy905 View post
    Iíve now had 12 job interviews with no offers.
    It might be worthwhile to touch base with the people you interviewed with to see what suggestions they may have. Ask them some direct questions about your resume, cover letter and interview skils, and you may get a direct and helpful critique in response.
    All these years the people said heís actiní like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  5. #5
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    tough market

    Hey...I am about to graduate, I have experience from before grad school and I am having a tough time getting interviews...I think the market is tough right now with the housing crisis and all those layed off people from the private sector have filled all usually open public sector jobs. I may not be the best person to give advice, but I understand what you are going through.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Unfortunately, it is a tough time to be a planner here in California. The public sector is closing off pretty quick as large cities such as LA, SF, Sacramento are closing budget deficits by freezing hiring, not filling in vacant positions, or even worse laying off staff. There are a few openings, but they have been for planning directors or managers positions within the last month or so. The private sector is no help either (my company however bucked the trend and finally posted position openings for our bay area office). Positions that do become open will have a flood of applicants, so my advice is have a solid resume, practice interviewing, and try to set yourself apart from the sea of applicants.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

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    I graduated with a master's in planning last May. I started applying for jobs like crazy a couple of months before graduation. I took a job in the city where I received my degree. (The job offer was made about a month before I graduated.)

    I got more calls back from cities and towns in Texas than any other place. I'm not from Texas. I didn't go to school in Texas. I don't know anyone in Texas. I just happened to apply for jobs there. Apparently, the planning schools down there are not producing anywhere near enough planners to handle the growth in and around the major cities.

    If you're willing to move, you might check out the Texas APA site and see what's available. The DFW area is particularly hot right now. Pay is pretty good down there compared to the cost of living.

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    Thanks everyone for the great advice. I was curious, how far from Texas were you when you applied for jobs there? I had two interviews in another state, but it was only about three hours away.

    It sounds like in need good info on which markets are best. I can do research, but there's nothing like hearing from real people. I'm also wondering how rural areas might stack up. Younger people, as in recent graduates, tend to prefer urban areas, so maybe the competition would be less.

    I noticed that no one suggested more training. This fits what I suspected. Training is nice, but doesn't seem to cut much in job interviews. It's also expensive and time consuming.

  9. #9

    Bad time

    I think you are stuck in a situation without much fault of your own. It's just a bad time to be in the market for graduating classes. I think Texas is a good option. I don't know how the situation is right now, but historically (from the 3 yrs i've been following job opportunities) Texas has had good opportunities with good pay. Depeding on your classes and expertise, you could take up allied positions like GIS etc. Also check with your professors if someone has a research position for a few months while things might get better. I would not recommend additional training at this point. Good luck..!!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    colorado

    I have found alot of positions in Colorado and out West in general. Its hard to be an entry or mid level right now when it seems most of the postings are for upper and management level! You are not alone my friend.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  11. #11
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    My experience is that some people really interview poorly or have a huge personal flaw that no one has ever honestly told them about. I hate to say it but your 12 interviews tell me you get in the door on your credentials and you lose it once they interview you. My advice is to get an interview coach. get one who doesn't hold back. A Simon Cowell if you will. Pay them if you have too. It will be money well spent. Ideally, find someone who holds a senior professional planning job that isn't hiring and ask them to give you their typical interview and then critique the heck out of your performance. Offer to give them something in writting absolving them of anyand all liability. HR people tell us managers to never give any feedback lest we be sued. Sounds stupid, but it is a fact of life. Wear your interview clothing an take it seriously. If you suck in the interview and don't get a coach you'll never get that planner job you desire. Good Luck.

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    Thanks. I will get a coach. I think I'll just pay someone so that it will really happen and then glean what information I can from planners as I go. It doesn't help that our APA chapter isn't active despite it's location in a major metro area, so I haven't found ways to network very well. It's a case of the poor get poorer.

    At least last year, the problem wasn't with the availability of jobs, but my loss the the competition for whatever reason. A coach would be one way to help me get an idea of what they are saying about me after the interview. I also want to follow up on who's been getting the jobs that I don't. It's a little nosy, but I need all the info I can get at this point.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I think there is a possibility of age discrimination being a factor here, but probably not the only factor. The fact is that planning jobs are very cyclical, and right now it seems to be a slow time.

    An interview coach seems to be a good idea. I'd also look at interning 1-2 more times, esp. at places that are large enough to have periodic openings. Usually the interns get first dibs on the jobs if we like them.

    Good luck. I wouldn't rule out zoning inspector types of jobs at all - any related experience is good experience, esp. if it pays the bills.

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    The more I think about it, the more I bet that you're right. I've been walking the earth for a while and haven't always been a bad job interviewer. I graduated with a BA right when the nasty recession of 1990 hit. I only had about two job interviews and found a job. Talk about a tight market and low job skills. It was always like that. I'd have about a 1:2 or 1:3 hire rate for interviews.

    Someone posted on this board earlier that if he received a resume for an entry level position more than one page that he'd throw it away. I suspect that people have an image of who they want to hire (a go-getting young person for example) and if you don't fit it, you might have problems. Maybe someone could correct me on this.

    I'm stripping off my earlier jobs and years for degrees. Sometimes it drives people crazy when they can't see the year that you graduated. (I removed the year a while back just for stylistic reasons but put it back in). It's like, "why"? You have to think that they really want to find out how old you are.

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    Guy --

    If you're interested in Texas, the best place to start is with a map of the DFW area. Most of the suburbs have planning offices and are frequently hiring. Plano, Frisco, and Denton are ones that come to mind right away. Also, check out the cities of Dallas and Ft. Worth. (BTW, I graduated from the U of Memphis, so I was seven hours or so from the DFW area.)

    Whether it's Texas or any other place, do not rely on the APA website or even the state chapter websites for job postings. Some towns do not advertise on either site. Memphis-Shelby Co. does not usually advertise on the APA or TNAPA sites, for example.Keep a list of towns you're interested in and visit each town's website on a regular basis. That's how I found out about the Ft. Worth opening, as well as one in Denton. (Both called me.)

    Best wishes.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Guy905 View post

    Someone posted on this board earlier that if he received a resume for an entry level position more than one page that he'd throw it away. I suspect that people have an image of who they want to hire (a go-getting young person for example) and if you don't fit it, you might have problems.
    For companies or municipalities, it isn't necessarily looking for a go-getting young person, but a person who fits the current and future needs of an organization. It is just that plain and simple. Let's just use one of my companies' job openings for an assistant planner. If you don't have CAD, GIS, somewhat knowledgeable with adobe indesign or other software and the writing sample you submit isn't really up to par, than more than likely you wouldn't be hired. This is also true if you applied for an assistant designer position, but had no design skills whatsoever be it free hand or CAD. In addition, when you have many applicants to one job, you have to set yourself apart, whether be highlighting past project experience, internships, public presentations, whatever it takes, but if it takes more than 2 pages to do it, you pretty much loose interest and move on to the next candidate that could better surmise their qualifications with more precision. I am sure some cyburbians, including myself would be happy to critique your resume if you would like. Good Luck!
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

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    Thanks for the offer. I'll e-mail my resume to you. I would certainly be appreciative to anyone who might offer to look at it.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Guy905 View post
    Thanks for the offer. I'll e-mail my resume to you. I would certainly be appreciative to anyone who might offer to look at it.
    Guy, how old are you exactly? Another poster mentioned age discrimination for an entry level job. Could be true. I myself had a career change as well from Finance. I'm now 29 but I've had to work my way up from the bottom too. Kind of sucks but glad I did it I suppose.

    If it doesn't work out for you in the US, you may want to consider the UK. There is a SERIOUS shortage of planners in the UK. We get paid not bad here, but I heard more than the States.

  19. #19
    Sounds like a heck of a conundrum, I was hired in Florida while living in Michigan for an entry level position so I guess if they like you enough they'll do it. As other have mentioned the sunbelt and out west are hot for planners right now...good luck.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    Are you applying for jobs in more rural, unexciting areas of the country? That is what worked for me. I had this notion that once I graduated I was gonna go live and work in a big city. I ended up getting my first planning job in my small hometown. And the only interviews I had were in pretty boring rural areas. But, that isn't a bad thing. Small rural towns usually have small staffs, so you get to handle a lot of planning tasks = resume builder for the next job.

    And my best interview tip is to act as though each job you are interviewing for is the one and only job you want. Don't be afraid to act excited about it... but not to the point of being creepy, of course.

    Once when I didn't get a job I was interviewing a couple months before I would actually be able to start, because I wasn't done with school yet. The director called me himself to tell me that they would have offered me the job, but they weren't convinced that I wouldn't change my mind and accept a different job in the 2 months time, because I seemed a little too ho-hum about it. It was true, the job was really far from family and friends and I wasn't entirely sure I even wanted it. But, I shouldn't have let that show through.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by danthonyjr View post
    ...Apparently, the planning schools down there are not producing anywhere near enough planners to handle the growth in and around the major cities.

    If you're willing to move, you might check out the Texas APA site and see what's available. The DFW area is particularly hot right now. Pay is pretty good down there compared to the cost of living.
    All of these statements are true. DFW and Austin are both particularly hot right now, but in general I too received more calls from Texas than anywhere else, and I eventually took one of the offers. Pay/cost of living ratio is quite favorable, but more so in DFW than in Austin, and perhaps even more so in Houston or San Antonio than DFW. While DFW and AUS are hot, the state as a whole is still experiencing large growth, despite recessions and downturns happening in other areas of the US.

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    Thanks everyone for the great information on locations with job opportunities. I've started applying in some of the suggested areas. BTW, how do you apply for jobs in the UK? Do you just go to a website and fill out a form, or do you need to get a work permit, etc. first?

    Since my earlier posts I have been asking how people have been getting hired. One person who took a job that I interviewed for was genuinely more qualified. Other people (not necessarily interviewing for the jobs that I was) have been taking part-time or no-benefit jobs and then finding employment with those agencies. Some of these folks don't have their planning degrees yet, and one I suspect never will.

    Thanks again for the help.

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