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Thread: Non-planning jobs with planning degree (OR: what to do in this job market)

  1. #1
    Member
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    St. Louis, MO
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    Non-planning jobs with planning degree (OR: what to do in this job market)

    So I finished a planning degree in May of last year here in Chicago. Finding the first job was tough as nails. I finally did, working for a very small CDC on a retail revitalization program--the situation was significantly different than I'd been led to believe and I quit after about two months out of stress and discomfort. It was the right decision, this place was a horror story.

    Since mid-December I'm on my second job search and I'm really frustrated. I've had very few leads. There doesn't seem to be much out there. And following up on any job in a market I've targeted I've learned that there are hundreds of applicants!

    (As an extreme example, I received a letter from Portland OR saying that 151 applicants had *qualified* for the position...I know it's Portland, but still)

    The few leads I've had have also been with CDCs and other small organizations, something I've been wary of repeating unless the organization has at least five people (especially for relocating). I do have a rounded set of skills that includes GIS, development finance, some other ED stuff...but nobody's biting on this part of my resume.

    I don't know if anybody else is facing this dearth of jobs but it has really put me in crisis mode.

    So my question is this: are there any other careers or jobs you'd think would be worth exploring, perhaps to kick my tires around for a few years until the market improves?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Your profile location is St Louis. Are you there or in Chicago?

    I've been exploring the local neighborhood assns. The executive director positions seem to have churn (just re-applied for one from last year) and the duties, while not strictly planning, would fit my skill set much better than would code enforcement. And unlike downtown, they are getting things accomplished on a short-term basis. Another plus: there are more of them than there are desks at city hall.

    And there's always the ever-popular and mercurial wireless industry...the various carriers need zoning specialists to explain to podunk backwater townships why they need a big ol' cell tower smack in the middle of the open field which their long-range master plan has slated for recreation fields five years hence.

    HTH

  3. #3
    Member
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    I'm in Chicago these days...I just can't figure out how to edit my profile!

    Thanks for the advice. I am wary of any kind of neighborhood assn personally...I had a horrible experience with a CDC and I left to find something more structured with a different set of personalities.

    As for the wireless carriers, that's something I haven't explored...how would you pursue something like that?

    Thanks for your help!

  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Welcome to Cyburbia, kyleobie!

    Planning-oriented vacancies in the Cleveland area seem to ask for far more ED skills and experience than what I've seen elsewhere in the country. I've seen several recently advertised vacancies for "planning director" positions for various Cleveland suburbs, but when I read the job description, it's usually something like this:

    The successful applicant will be responsible for all aspects of attracting and maintaining business and industry with focus on expanding the city’s business base and providing administration of the local business incentive programs. The position will require developing and managing targeted marketing programs, site assessments, project development, corporate relations, retention activities and related technical assistance. Candidates should have a comprehensive understanding of the operation of a local government as it applies to economic development plus sophisticated skills in finance, marketing, communications and problem solving.
    My advice, as I've offered to many others: look beyond Chicago. If you want to stay in the Midwest, the best prospects for planning-related positions seem to be in the Kansas City area. Otherwise, expand your search to an area hasn't been hit hard by the housing bubble, where there is still a high demand for planners. Right now, that means Texas. Many young planners also get their start on Indian reservations, where your ED skills will not be taken for granted.

    Wireless: the pay is very good, but in many zoning specialist positions, its not just due diligence and zoning/permit expediting; you may also be expected to negotiate with property owners for site acquisition and lease rates. "Planner planners" that cross over to this part of the dark side usually have no problem with expediting, but they often find themselves struggling with site acquisition.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by kyleobie View post
    I'm in Chicago these days...I just can't figure out how to edit my profile!...
    As for the wireless carriers, that's something I haven't explored...how would you pursue something like that?
    Thanks for your help!
    http://www.telecomcareers.net/

    Since I do not know you, I can't provide a referral to one of my vendor companies based in Chicago. (I am providing a significant part of their business these days.)

    Posting the following, rather than PMming, so that others can enjoy it too.

    When I was a zoning specialist consultant, my duties included:
    -- figuring out what jurisdiction a proposed cell site was in
    -- contacting said jurisdiction for zoning regs
    -- providing that info and recommendations to the site acquisition agent (who handled lease negotiating)
    -- submitting site plans and applications
    -- attending/speaking at zoning hearings
    -- weekly deployment calls/meetings to carrier

    First and only time thus far that I have "earned my age." Carrier projects typically claim to be 8-month or 12-month builds, but a few months into it they change their little minds and suddenly you're back on the street. Still, it can pay the bills.

    Pluses: no office to check in at, company-issued laptop and other equipment, flexible hours.

    Minuses: besides the unreliability, many evening meetings. Sometimes the consultant firm pulls bizarre nonsense. (A project I worked in early 2001: we had meetings on Tuesday nights, sometimes lasting until 10 pm. We worked on President's Day in the carrier's building, although they had the day off; the heat was turned off. Sometimes a carrier is populated with oddball characters who pull childish pranks on their vendors...oh heck, check the "drives you crazy at work" thread.) Sometimes you don't get benefits. Sometimes you don't get paid holidays (for one of my gigs, a tiny firm, my boss took Christmas week off, so I had to as well...no pay that week).

    HTH

  6. #6
    Cyburbian transguy's avatar
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    Make sure that you are tailoring your resume and cover letter to the position you are applying for. I'm not sure if you are trying to find something with a strong ED side to the work or not. If not, make sure that you are not overly stressing this part of your resume/cover letter. Look at the job requirements and duties and make your resume fit that. If you use a boiler plate submittal, you will have more difficultly finding a job without the ED focus. You can look at your experience and pull out generalities to make your experience fit other positions.

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