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Thread: Will taking a zoning inspector position set my career back?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Will taking a zoning inspector position set my career back?

    So as the budget picture is looking bleaker here, I have begun looking at different positions around the Country. I am currently an assistant planner and code enforcement supervisor. I recently applied for a zoning inspector position. The position pays about 15% more and seems more secure. I guess they liked my experience because I got a call for a phone interview. I am concerned that this position may set my career back a bit since it is not directly related to planning. I would be using similar skills as I am now and have some simlar duties.

    Should I be concerned about this?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by rcgplanner View post
    So as the budget picture is looking bleaker here, I have begun looking at different positions around the Country. I am currently an assistant planner and code enforcement supervisor. I recently applied for a zoning inspector position. The position pays about 15% more and seems more secure. I guess they liked my experience because I got a call for a phone interview. I am concerned that this position may set my career back a bit since it is not directly related to planning. I would be using similar skills as I am now and have some simlar duties.

    Should I be concerned about this?
    No.
    Depending on the muni size, ZA could be a higher-level spot than CE. And you can make it related to planning (zoning) by interpreting the ordinance, helping the citizenry navigate the bureaucratic maze, and being a positive human face for City Hall.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    It depends.

    As Veloise mentioned, it depends on the size of the municipality. And more importantly, how the new position may translate into further job opportunities.

    Not knowing anything about your personal life, or your current or prospective employer, I say take the job.

    But again, you might want to provide some more detail for a more thorough "review" by us Cybs.

  4. #4
    No, it won't as long as you don't stay as a zi too long. It's how I started out and I've been a planning director for 11 years now. Look to keep your fingers in planning related projects and continue to grow as a planner. Being a zi will give you an entirely different perspective on planning. It will teach what does and does not work in the real world. Further, it will give you valuable people skills. Plus, it teaches you to duck and cover.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    It depends.

    As Veloise mentioned, it depends on the size of the municipality. And more importantly, how the new position may translate into further job opportunities.

    Not knowing anything about your personal life, or your current or prospective employer, I say take the job.

    But again, you might want to provide some more detail for a more thorough "review" by us Cybs.
    The current muni. I am in is about 11,000, the new community has a population of about 65,000.

    My current position is as an assistant planner and code enforcement coordinator. My duties include development plan review, Zoning Appeals review, staff to BZA and PC, community education (newsletter, department website, educational materials about the ZO), inspections (development compliance). I also supervise the Code Enforcement officer and handle complex CE cases. This is my first job out of school and I have been with the Town for about 7.5 months. I am looking to take another position because the pay is not enough for what I do and the budget picture is looking very rough for the next few years, I would rather find something before things turn for the worse.

    The new position is in the City that I got my B.A. in. The pay is about 15% higher and the City's financial picture is a lot more secure. The duties of this new position are development compliance inspections, assisting the building inspectors as needed, customer assistance, meet w/ interested parties regarding regualtions, community education,some BZA, PC and Board of Historic Review assistance. The duties sound pretty similar to what I am doing now, the only difference seems like I wouldn't be doing any plan review and preparing recommendations to the Boards and Commissions.

    I don't want to screw myself over later on down the road. But at the same time, the reviewers must have liked my experience because I did get a phone interview. I am just worried how this will look on a resume, since I will be getting away from some of the planning duties.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Dude, don't worry about how it will look on a resume in the future. When that time comes, omit what is unnecessary, and beef up what is relevant.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    After hearing more about your background (your first job, being there only 7 1/2 months).I would leave after your one year anniversary, or at least until your first annual review, whichever comes first. Couple of things to consider:

    1. Employment at any job for less than a year raises eyebrows. I think it could be a bigger setback down the road, especially if you want to move back into current planning at a later date.
    2. What don't you like about your salary? Does the cost of living exceed your disposable income, or do you just want to make a very high salary? Give it time. Keep in mind that planners with just a college degree are more likely to earn a lower salary at their first job than someone with a masters.
    3. If you plan on taking the AICP exam down the road, they discourage against having multiple (more than 2 jobs) to define your planning experience. Just to be on the safe side, I have stayed at my current job in consulting for 3 years, have been approved to take the exam in November, and will look for a job AFTER that. It works for me, but it may not work for you.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    After hearing more about your background (your first job, being there only 7 1/2 months).I would leave after your one year anniversary, or at least until your first annual review, whichever comes first. Couple of things to consider:

    1. Employment at any job for less than a year raises eyebrows. I think it could be a bigger setback down the road, especially if you want to move back into current planning at a later date.
    2. What don't you like about your salary? Does the cost of living exceed your disposable income, or do you just want to make a very high salary? Give it time. Keep in mind that planners with just a college degree are more likely to earn a lower salary at their first job than someone with a masters.
    3. If you plan on taking the AICP exam down the road, they discourage against having multiple (more than 2 jobs) to define your planning experience. Just to be on the safe side, I have stayed at my current job in consulting for 3 years, have been approved to take the exam in November, and will look for a job AFTER that. It works for me, but it may not work for you.
    Thank you for your insight on this. I have been fortunate enough to already receive my first review, it was a very good one. Actually out of all the assistant planners the Town has had (I am the 3rd one) I have been there the longest. The high work load and low pay tends to drive planners away. I took this job at a lower rate to get my foot in the door, but it stings a bit when I see a lot of starting positions are making $5,000 or more over my current salary. I do have a Masters btw, and I feel 35,500 is a bit low. I am planning on taking the AICP in about 2 years.

    The AICP question is actually a good one, if I got the ZI position and I decide to take it, will the lack of not actually being a 'planner' hurt my AICP application?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    The AICP question is actually a good one, if I got the ZI position and I decide to take it, will the lack of not actually being a 'planner' hurt my AICP application?[/QUOTE]

    I agree, 35k is a little low for an entry-level with a MUP. When are you elligible for a raise? You could ask for a peformance-based review which would tie in merit based increases based on performance. Planning jobs are very hard to find in this market (read other threads). Are you comparing your salary to other planners who (1) are doing similar work, (2) have the same level of experience and (3) are living in an area with the SAME cost of living? If any of these are a no, then there is a reason they are earning 5k more than you. How long did it take you to earn this job?

    You need four crtieria to define professional planning experience. As someone stated earlier, you can carefully craft your application based on your planning and code enforcement experience.

  10. #10
    I spent a couple of years as a zoning inspector between jobs as a Planner. It was still related to planning because I interpreted ordinances, provided advice on codes, and assisted with writing and revising ordinances. It did not hinder me at all, since I was able to work so closely with the issues that were being worked on in the planning department at that time. I eventually transitioned back to being a planner and then moved up to the management level, where I'm responsible for the planning department and code enforcement, so my time as zoning inspector turned out to be a huge advantage.

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