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Thread: Planning as a career

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
    Registered
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    Planning as a career

    This may sound quite controversial but having graduated with my planning masters nearly three years ago and working since then, I am completely disillusioned with urban planning. Reading policies, writing vague sentences, dealing with incompetent designers and getting low pay is really just not my thing...

    Is it me or is it just boring as hell? I worked with a large American masterplanning firm and now I'm in the doing property consulting and getting much higher pay....

    To me, real estate development is really a lot more interesting....I've just gotten into Harvard for the real estate program and I think I want to do a slight career change towards that.

    Hate to say this but I kind of regret spending all that money on my planning masters even though the course was very interesting....but I wish I had known what EXACTLY planners do on a day-to-day basis before getting into it. I was just too idealistic I guess thinking I can change the world. Maybe this is a word of caution to others applying....What do other people think???

  2. #2
    The opportunities to make an immediate impact are indeed rare and the planner does need a healthy dose of patience to see the benefit of our work.

    I wouldn't characterize the job as total drudgery, however. Have you been pigeonholed, perhaps?

  3. #3
    Member
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    You tried planning, decided it wasn't for you and are moving on. And it's great that you believe you've found a career path more suited to your skills and interests.

    And it's generally good advice to know EXACTY what a vocation entails before entering it.

    But I'm sure you would find similar words of regret, and subsequent warnings of caution, on any other type of career board. People go into career fields, find that it doesn't suit them, and decide to change paths. Career trajectories are rarely linear. And I'm sure there are many people in real estate development who find the field as equally as boring and unfulfilling as you find planning (actually, I know quite a few).

    But I agree one shouldn't enter a career path, or educational program, without great thought.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    The opportunities to make an immediate impact are indeed rare and the planner does need a healthy dose of patience to see the benefit of our work.

    I wouldn't characterize the job as total drudgery, however. Have you been pigeonholed, perhaps?
    I don't think I have been pigeon-holed at work....the firm that I used to work for were involved in many high-profile projects....this was a post that I had posted in another forum about the same topic. I just wanted to put the question on there and see if anyone else thought this way as well....

    ***

    Well, I'm an American currently working in London. I used to work at the London office for a really prestigious American masterplanning firm. My job description is to provide planning advice in producing illustrative masterplans, area action plans, local policies, etc etc. Looks great on the resume but in reality, it was so boring. Me and the other planners laugh about it all the time. Planners and urban designers have a very distinct role in the UK. I have heard that it's a bit different back home in the States. But anyway, all we did all day long was read policies and summarise them in reports. Also, telling designers where to put the bloody arrows on the masterplans. We wrote a few development briefs but it was all so boring and vague. Because policies have to be flexible, language has to be written in a vague way, e.g. "Houses must be built of the highest design quality....." or like "Techniques to ensure sustainability must be undertaken..." Anyhow, most of our masterplans never got built. Strategies were hardly implemented...and the company I worked for is a pretty prestigious firm. I attended meetings with clients but I guess working with mostly public sector clients, it moved slowly and briefs got trimmed down all the time. It just seemed so unreal. Everything was CUT and PASTE. Some public consultation events were interesting but honestly, we never went in to events thinking that we actually gave a crap about what the general public thought. I was sick and tired of sitting in shopping malls getting b*tched out by senile senior citizens telling me that I didn't care about what they thought. Also, it seems that 'good' planners are those who are constantly talking all the time and stating the obvious. There is no reward for being creative and innovative in this job. It's like whether you know the policies or not off the top of your head....

    I'm not saying that my new job as a property consultant is so much more interesting but for instance, I'm actually directly providing advice to property developers on major mixed use schemes in London. Like what kind of planning strategy to use to get consent. And also a big part of it is to undertake financial viability apprasials to help them assess whether a development is justifiable. Normally, planners wouldn't be able to get involved in something like that but I have a Finance degree as an undergrad....I don't know, it just seems more real to be dealing directly with private developers and investment funds. Working with local governemnt takes forever and to see the fruits of your labour on the built environment in 15 years time is not my cup of tea. Also, I think we should give private developers more credit as well. Not all of them are about big box developments keen on maximising the floorspace as much as possible. At least in London, all the major players have designers, planners on board in-house and the developers themselevs know the value of good design adn sustainable solutions.

    I agree with DRJB that planning is a good start to understanding the development process and I don't know if I FULLY regret doing the masters in planning and then working in planning subsequently. In fact, it's given me an good overall feel for the industry. But I think now I just really need to get down to it and stitch everything I know and MAKE MONEY in development, as well as knowing that I'm actually helping to bring about REAL CHANGE in the built environment.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    It's a difficult situation- I myself regret my planning degree and wish I'd become a social worker. Yet, it's hard to justify going back to school to get even more in debt that I am to make less money. Sometimes you just get stuck. I am so tempted to just say "**** it all!" and go work in a trendy liquor store.
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by KSharpe View post
    It's a difficult situation- I myself regret my planning degree and wish I'd become a social worker. Yet, it's hard to justify going back to school to get even more in debt that I am to make less money. Sometimes you just get stuck. I am so tempted to just say "**** it all!" and go work in a trendy liquor store.
    KSharpe - do you currently work as a planner? I'd be interested in hearing why you're unhappy - I feel like I was going crazy because maybe planners in the UK have different job descriptions?? what's it like back home in the states? i would have thought if one was a planner working for a private planning firm, even in the US, then what I had written above about my day-to-day would be similar.....???

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