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Thread: Bay Area internship: tips on getting a chance?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Signature's avatar
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    Bay Area internship: tips on getting a chance?

    Hi there! I need some MENTORSHIP...please, wise and kind people....

    How did I get my first planning internship in 2005? I came dressed nicely. I asked. And boom. There it was. A paid position. I was in the Central Valley, and it was there at my asking. I found my dream job helping the community, interpreting the landscape, advising city council, and facilitating the planning process.

    Returning to the Bay Area in 2005, I was turned away the few times I approached planning offices as I did in the Central Valley. "Alright," I said, "I will go back to school and get a graduate degree in this field." Now after a year of graduate school and after a summer of environmental planning/consulting work, I am getting turned down from volunteering positions (albeit at uber competitive Walnut Creek, CA, an Orange County in Northern California for you SoCalers and TV watchers.) I feel like other positions are taking their sweet time responding to applicants. They aren't nearly as communicative as Walnut Creek.

    I have excellent grades and everyone (profs, classmates, coworkers) know me as someone who does great work (school and work), has a spine and a wealth of compassion, and is accomplished. I was even treated to free tuition this year because I was such a desirable candidate at my school.

    I've only started applying again (I know, but honestly I had good reason to wait) and I am feeling gloomy.

    LEADS, TIPS, and WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT appreciated, fellow cyburbians.

    ~
    Miss Signature
    "Believe. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit."

    ~ Helen Keller

  2. #2
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    when marketing yourself, focus on your experience, not on your degree--the degree is typically just a benchmark, which you'll have to exceed through your experience. i only say that because your post seems to focus on your education.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Signature View post
    I have excellent grades and everyone (profs, classmates, coworkers) know me as someone who does great work (school and work), has a spine and a wealth of compassion, and is accomplished. I was even treated to free tuition this year because I was such a desirable candidate at my school.


    ~
    Miss Signature
    "Miss Signature". I assume that means you are a woman. Women who are extremely competent and know it face a little problem. It's okay if a man tells you he's competent and he knows it. Women generally don't do that. Typically, men will tell you how hard they worked to accomplish X. Women will say they couldn't have done it without the support of a great team, their loving husband, the faithful encouragement of their parents...blah blah blah. Or they attribute it to "luck". When a woman talks like a man and owns her own accomplishments, it sounds odd to people and they don't even know why. It seems to get interpreted as "ego" when a woman knows she is competent and says things that would be perfectly acceptable for a man to say. Strike one against you. If you really are far more competent than average, male or female, it's hard to tell people that. They think you are blowing smoke up their arse, trying too hard, and so on. Strike two against you. If you are used to the people around you treating you like you have a brain, you are very valuable, etc. and you go into a new situation where people don't know you at all, you can behave in a way that really does come across as "ego" as you just assume people will take your "nutty" (unconventional, non-mainstream) views and remarks seriously and gush over how great they are just like everyone else does. Strike three against you.

    I am still working on figuring out how a woman can own her competence without it being wildly misinterpreted. One issue is that there are few available models for doing this. Studies have shown that traits that get viewed as "authoritative" are male traits: tall, deep voice, etc. Tall women do tend to do better at selling themselves. Business clothes for women tends to be modeled after male attire. The problem with this is it loudly screams that men still have all the power and women are trying to mimic that. Mimicking it screams "I'm still a second class citizen." If all standards for competence and authority are male standards, then a woman who is trying to advertise her competence and authority is in a double-bind.

    For being wildly more competent than other people, I find that it helps to avoid talking about yourself and just put really good work out there and let your ability be judged on the basis of your work. You might try bringing a portfolio with you to share examples of your work.

    For the last issue, well, you basically need to get over yourself. (This is not an accusation. It comes from first-hand experience.) So everyone you have known in the past thinks you are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Are any of these people offering you a job? If not, who flippin cares? With new people, you will have to show them you have value and not act like they are just supposed to value you because well the entire world knows you are wonderful. No, the entire world does not know you are wonderful. A few dozen or maybe a few hundred people know you are wonderful. Heck, maybe a million people know you are wonderful. Last time I checked, there are 6 billion people on planet earth. So even a million is far from a majority. A wise person is humble, especially when dealing with new folks who don't know you. Expect to have to prove yourself by the merits of your work, your behavior and so on. And behaving egomaniacally is not proof you are wonderful. It is proof you are the jerk they thought you were.

    FWIW and all that. And if you're male, oops.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    The District is pretty spot on. In 2005 the market was blazing and firm/munis couldn't hire fast enough. Well 2009, everyone is looking for a job, including internships. You might even be competing with folks with several years of experience just looking to find work. To make matters worst, this state is very hard hit due to the downturn in the housing market and state budget woes. Your accomplishments don't mean squat just through a resume and pretty cover letter. Crank out cut-sheets, work samples, etc and doll them up. If this is just a summer internship than you are more than likely out of luck as organizations mainly hired in early spring and already have those set up by now.

    Have you thought about going to cities that may not be as glamorous as Walnut Creek but relatively in the same are to volunteer at (many east bay that aren't Pleasanto, Almo, Danville, Orinda, or Dublin but more working class one's like Richmond, Vallejo, etc)? Approach the Planning Director or Senior Planner on staff and inquire about potential volunteer internship opportunities running nitty grity work such as code research, code compliance, etc. Ask what work is backlogged since the boom and if they need help. Seek out those munis that have cut back on staff (i hate to say it, but be an "ambulance" chaser).

    Third, have you sought non-profits like LGC? They are still booming helping many communities doing community based planning and could probably use some good interns (albeit not paid).

    Finally like 2pac said, keep ya head up. It is rough out there, more so for entry level positions and everything else across the board. Just don't get discouraged and keep trying and network. Attend local APA functions (northern section is very happening). Good luck!
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
    Registered
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    Los Angeles, CA
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    Don't count out the private sector either if you are willing to work on an unpaid basis. While many consulting firms have trimmed back their formal internship programs due to the slumping economy, that doesn't mean that they don't need intelligent, motivated folks to do "grunt" work and research for them. The Bay Area is flush with planning, environmental, and architecture consulting firms of all shapes and sizes. I would recommend looking into the smaller "boutique" firms as they tend to operate on a more informal basis and may be willing to take on a part time volunteer intern. PM me if you want a list of some of the smaller firms up there that I am familiar with. Since the hiring process in the private sector tends to be a bit more relaxed and is usually based on who you know, getting your foot in the door by volunteering over the summer may lead to a full time job opportunity once you graduate.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Allow me to draw your attention to the position I just posted in the Jobs thread; it contains the word unpaid in its title. It's not you; it's the times we live in. Not suggesting you leave your region/state to apply for this gig.

    When I was at another Big City, we had paid Americorps interns. I could go off about how the other one -- notoriously mis-managed -- can get Federal funding for an intern and how can this one expect this volunteer position to provide his/her own vehicle and it looks to me like they are wanting to "hire" someone to groom for their next paid opening so if you can camp with mom and dad you might eventually get to work for the department.
    But I won't.
    Last edited by Veloise; 09 May 2009 at 9:10 AM.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Signature's avatar
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    Thanks for taking the time to reply, all!

    I have a couple things that look possible... even an interview. YAY! Even if I don't get it, its okay, I have hope, and I'm still hopeful that opportunities are where you make them.

    Thanks for the Richmond and such suggestion, I'm adding it to my list. In case it came across that way, I was not looking on basis of "swank/posh" but commute distance. BTW, I am doing my hazards project on Richmond, and I did my quarter-long study on Oakland.

    However, I definitely also know what would be worth driving to -- substantive work.

    Anyhow, I know its a really, really rough time for all the planners out there, and I wish the best for everybody! Keep your heads up!! Come out and vent on cyburbia if you need to, that's what its here for.

    What a smorgasboard of good ideas! Thanks!
    Last edited by Gedunker; 21 May 2009 at 10:08 AM. Reason: seq. posts
    "Believe. No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit."

    ~ Helen Keller

  8. #8
    Member
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    Well I am not sure if this helps or not

    But I am getting no response for internships that gave me and interview last summer when I had an inferior resume.

    Same damn internship in a few cases!

    In fact last summer I applied to 4 internships, I interviewed with 2 with a call from a third for an interview and took the first offer. It paid 22/hr

    This summer I got one interview and blew it with a private firm.

    I am trying to remind myself that it isn't just me to keep my confidence high and I am working every contact I have. I am considering something unpaid this summer if I can get it to be productive.

    Of course this must be part time as I need to have some income even if working at Round Table Pizza

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