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Thread: Three years and out?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Three years and out?

    Hello Cyburbians!

    Philosophical question: What do you think is the ideal amount of time to stay with an agency? Every planner I talk to seems to fall into one of these camps:

    1. I'm married. I have kids. I need a steady paycheck. I'd be oh so happy to have the same commute for the next 30 years--I'll just avoid rocking the boat and wait for those yearly pay increases. I'm not leaving unless they fire me.
    2. This is an office job -- no different than the rest. As long as it's halfway tolerable and I see an inkling of progress, I'll stick around. Otherwise, I'll look for another job in the area. If I absolutely have to I'll move to another city in the region or state.
    3. 3-5 years and I'm out! I'm not gonna stick around and go comatose like the rest of you guys! New environments will save me! New horizons will inspire me to my professional peak!

    What do you guys think?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus
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    # 1 - stick around for the benefits
    # 3 - start all over never gain senority

  3. #3
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hallstot View post
    Hello Cyburbians!

    Philosophical question: What do you think is the ideal amount of time to stay with an agency? Every planner I talk to seems to fall into one of these camps:

    1. I'm married. I have kids. I need a steady paycheck. I'd be oh so happy to have the same commute for the next 30 years--I'll just avoid rocking the boat and wait for those yearly pay increases. I'm not leaving unless they fire me.
    2. This is an office job -- no different than the rest. As long as it's halfway tolerable and I see an inkling of progress, I'll stick around. Otherwise, I'll look for another job in the area. If I absolutely have to I'll move to another city in the region or state.
    3. 3-5 years and I'm out! I'm not gonna stick around and go comatose like the rest of you guys! New environments will save me! New horizons will inspire me to my professional peak!

    What do you guys think?

    I don't think there is any particular ideal amount of time to stay with an agency. What if you get a dream job right out of school and you feel appreciated and appropriately compensated for the work you do throughout your entire time there? Some agencies do a good job providing opportunities to move up through the ranks, in that case it would be wise to stick around and gain more seniority. Other agencies don't do a very good job at this, in that case maybe 3-5 years is too long.

    I'll humor the proposition though based on my experience. Three years and out happens most often IMO because of larger economic forces at play. If I had not graduated in 2010 at the height of the recession, I very well may have found a planning job closer to my home town and perhaps would have weathered the storm and stayed in my home state. Instead, i moved for entry level work, and once a better opportunity came up I moved once again. I'd guess based on your description of the 3 options, the majority fall into #2 (although I would phrase it a little bit more optimistic than that). The best professionals have a variety of experiences, but have stuck around long enough to take a leadership role on a project of significant impact. Anyone who has worked in government for a while knows that change is slow, and working for the public is a messy process. The work can still be very rewarding.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ View post
    I don't think there is any particular ideal amount of time to stay with an agency. ...
    Yep, it all depends. I've stayed for six years and left because I was bored and wanted to go back to grad school. I've stayed for one year because of a family illness for which I needed to relocate.

    # 1 - stick around for the benefits
    # 3 - start all over never gain senority
    And while you may be able to move up while you're moving out, you may not. I've taken a Director position and then had to take lesser because of the needed relocation.

    I say -- if you like the job, stay. If you don't, leave.
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

  5. #5
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    If your job is enjoyable and provides you with the experience you desire, stick around. If you hate the environment or want greener pastures, move on.

    Personally, if I was given the opportunity for a jump that was worth it to me financially, was interesting, dynamic, and engaging, and allowed me additional experiences that I am not getting now I would take it.

    With that said, I like my job. I like what I am doing. If that changes I guess I might change my mind, but I certainly don't base my decisions on a certain number of years in this job.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  6. #6
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I would say not to leave a position if

    a. they are not asking you to do anything unethical, illegal or what you may define as immoral
    b. the pay is commensurate with the market
    c. there is either room for growth, or, the work you are doing is a great resume stuffer
    d. you generally like it there - co workers, managers, etc. (no one is happy all the time, so it's general contentment)

    I wouldn't leave for the sake of leaving, too many lateral moves on a resume are a red flag -

    It's okay to leave for

    a. personal relocation
    b. higher position
    c. significantly higher pay (more than 10%)

    If you are the type of person that sits well with #3 on your list, then you should be a consultant - you get to come in, help and move on to the next one

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus dvdneal's avatar
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    I would tend to fall into the 2nd category, but I have a career plan. You know when they ask what you'll be doing in 5 years? I already know.
    I had 6 years as a planner in my 1st job. The job sucked and it looked bleak at the time. Bleaker when I was laid off, but today, if I had survived, I would have been a senior planner for the place which met up with my plan.
    Instead I was able to jump my plan by getting hired as a director at my current job. I've had this job 3 years now, but I would like more management experience before I try for the next step. At the same time, I keep my eyes open for lateral moves that would make me happier or a slight step up. That's only because my family would rather live in Arizona than Kansas. I'm ignoring the immoral politics that are happening around me right now because I know I'll have a different set of politics in about a year. So the plan right now is 5 years in a crap management job in Kansas so I can move to a slightly high management job in Arizona or a choice senior planner job. Right now I actually have a shot at a job for planning manager in another Arizona city. It would jump my plan by a couple years and I would expect to give that city about 5 years at least before I could get a job at one of the bigger Phoenix area cities. You'll notice part of my plan is getting back to Arizona and part is stepping up my management skills so I'm building my resume to make that happen.

    For new people, here is a very basic plan that you have to adjust for opportunity. I base it on 5 year increments fully expecting to require twice that for certain steps. Also remember your personal goals and how they change. My personal goal is to see the family happy. Career is secondary. So I'll sacrifice advancement for the right location, good working hours, good working environment, but that's just me.

    5 years as a planner
    5 years as a senior planner
    5 years as a planning manager
    then on to director.

    If you look at my path, I have 6 years at the planner level and 3 years at the manager level, but as a small county manager so experience wise it might count as senior planner time with a management bonus. If I'm given this latest job I'll go from small county director to small city (100k) manger which continues to build my management cred on the resume. I'm always looking at my end result to work as a director for one of the Phoenix suburbs which means I need 10 years management at least.

    Long story short, I'll agree with what LP says. Figure out your goals, put them down on paper, and determine if the job you have or are applying for will help meet those goals. Are you still getting good planning experience? Are you getting or could get the chance to get some management experience or some other specialty experience? Generally ignore the politics, both office and elected, unless they are affecting your home life.

    For those that like to job hop, you need to provide at least 2 years to a job. It takes that long for an employer to recover from advertising, hiring, and training a person and if all you have are 2-3 year jobs I'll probably toss you aside for a resume that looks more stable.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I'm somewhere between the #1 and #2 camp. I'm not married, and no (human) kids, but my family is from this general area and I have no real desire to move. Every now and then a higher level position will open up within an hour of me, and sometimes I'll seriously consider applying, but I don't feel unsatisfied at my job.

    I've been with my county for 7 years. I spent four as a Planner, and am going on four as Senior Planner (County Planner is my official job title). At this time, I don't technically have advancement opportunities at my current locality, but my boss has made it very clear that he's preparing me for a management role. That could involve a department reorganization, or that could involve taking his position if he's able to move into a higher level position, which he's also indicated is a distinct possibility.

    I'm in the position now where if I wait it out long enough, I'm all but guaranteed a career advancement. The question just becomes how long I'm willing to wait. The things that keep me here are that I find the politics challenging and frustrating, but also interesting. I love my co-workers, our administration is very supportive, and my boss trusts us to do our jobs and will back us up to the Board and the county citizens that get angry. The main things that could make me want to leave is if the Board starts laying into me personally during presentations (half our management team is already scared to make presentations to the Board and I get to do it more frequently than pretty much anyone else) and if the advancement opportunities don't pan out in a reasonable time. I don't know what that time frame is, but I feel like I'll know when it's arrived.

    As a side note, I don't know about the rest of y'all, but our pay raises aren't really pay raises. Lately, we've gotten 2% raises maybe for the last 2-3 years, but they also coincide with an increase in our insurance premiums. The days of annual merit pay increases are in the past.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    I'm in the camp that says if I'm happy and I like my job and my co-workers then I'm staying as long as it seems like they treat me fairly. If it doesn't seem that way then you can bet I'll be looking at other opportunities. I was in my first job in ED/planning for 9 years. One year as an intern and just over 8 in a full-time position. Problem was that while I liked my job, etc, the pay wasn't great and there was no room for advancement as long as my boss was sticking around. It was a small community so it's not like there were a ton of other jobs in the field to go around. I finally left after a divorce and decided to go back to school in a related but different field. It was a good move. I got a 20% pay bump at my next gig, but hated it. Luckily I was able to get another job in my preferred field and get another 25% pay bump. I liked that job and stayed for 2 1/2 years. I only left to move back to AZ for family reasons. I would have stayed in that job but they couldn't accommodate me moving back and working remotely. That's fine. After a few months of contract work I found another, even better job with a Manager title, plus another 20% pay bump. Only in it a few months but liking it so far. I have great co-workers and a good team. A lot of the skills I learned at my previous gig I've been really able to put to good use in the new role. I have no plans to leave here for a long while as they treat their employees well and the pay and bennies are good. I just hope the industry does well as it's pretty tied to the very cyclical housing market.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  10. #10
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I think that the 5 5 5 progression is not a bad one, but not positions are equal. I took a step down in position, but I make more money and there is a ton more activity here. It is a much bigger org and in 5 years I should have a reasonable idea if I am going to be advancing up, but I doubt that there will be that opportunity in the next 5 to 10 years. In years if it looks like I will be in the same spot for an additional 10 years (position and salary, I would either seek to amend my current position to include new things to keep me interested, or open the door to other possibilities. I don't think I would actively go looking but as I have learned with communities, no community sustains high levels of development forever and the political cycles can have a serious impact on them.

    My suggestion is to focus on where you are and what you need to do right now and you will know if the time is right to move up or move out.
    "The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism." - George Washington

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    My decision is often also attached to vesting of retirement accounts. If I need five to get my share and the city's share - I'm not looking to leave four years in unless it's a bad situation. That said, stability is nice for me.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by Habanero View post
    My decision is often also attached to vesting of retirement accounts. If I need five to get my share and the city's share - I'm not looking to leave four years in unless it's a bad situation. That said, stability is nice for me.
    In my fair community vesting is at 10 yrs and also at 10 yrs I got 4 weeks vacation. At 20 yrs I got 6 weeks vacation.

  13. #13
    I think it depends on the person and the job. If it's a good job and stability is key for you, then stay. Finding a good, stable job in planning is rare and there is nothing wrong in being a lifer. If the job sucks or the political winds are starting the shift, then start looking around. I've been at my current gig over 8 years and haven't sent out as much as a resume in that time. Fair warning if you are looking at a PD job. With the increased pay and advancement comes a lot more responsibilities and headaches. Plus, your life expectancy at the job can become shorter.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Your #3 strikes me as kind of odd - I don't know why anyone would impose an artificial maximum time limit on a job, regardless of other factors like working conditions, advancement potential, pay, stability, etc.

    I've often heard people refer to 2-3 years as a minimum amount of time for each job (unless conditions are really horrible), in order to avoid the appearance of job hopping.

    Anecdotally, I've been at my current position for 4.5 years and only one planner has left the agency during that time - but that person had a strong personality clash with management and was gone in less than a year.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally posted by bentobox34 View post

    I've often heard people refer to 2-3 years as a minimum amount of time for each job (unless conditions are really horrible), in order to avoid the appearance of job hopping.

    .
    That's pretty much the rule on thumb unless it's the job from Hell.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  16. #16
    The flip to this is if a position has had a lot of turnover, there is normally a reason. Back when I interviewed I really tried to avoid jobs where there had been a lot of turnover.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    The flip to this is if a position has had a lot of turnover, there is normally a reason. Back when I interviewed I really tried to avoid jobs where there had been a lot of turnover.
    Looking at the APA job listings there have been several places that seem to advertise every 1 to 2 years.
    We had a thread about turnover -
    http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showt...ion#post687328
    Last edited by JNA; 18 Feb 2016 at 3:12 PM.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    In my fair community vesting is at 10 yrs and also at 10 yrs I got 4 weeks vacation. At 20 yrs I got 6 weeks vacation.
    Did you leave tracks when you left? The norm around here is five to keep the city's portion, and now with only five to go until I've got my 20, it makes a difference.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by Habanero View post
    Did you leave tracks when you left? The norm around here is five to keep the city's portion, and now with only five to go until I've got my 20, it makes a difference.
    Have not left - still here in my first planning job going on 24 yrs now.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    Somewhat regrettably, I've made an entire career of three-and-out. Being a journeyman / hired gun is fun for a while, but then it gets exhausting.

    I'd recommend avoiding option #3 if at all possible.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    It depends on your age and family situation. Nowadays, trends are changing - people tend to move across the country much more frequently. People have long distance relationships. As a personal example, I am from Illinois and went to school in Iowa and upstate NY, and currently live/work in Pennsylvania. My family is in Chicagoland area, my boyfriend is in South Carolina, and friends are scattered all over the country. People in their twenties (like me) may have uncertain futures and will go where opportunities, personal necessities or family obligations take them. Outside of the world of planning, the economy in general is also changing to favor a shorter turnover rate. It makes me think that the 3 year per job stay may be outdated.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    4 years with each organization (not counting my internship of 9 months) seems to be the norm for me. This is certainly not by design, but just worked out that way.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

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