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Thread: Transitioning out of planning and using transferrable skills

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Transitioning out of planning and using transferrable skills

    What types of non-planning jobs need the same transferrable skills as an experienced planner? It doesn't need to even be anything related to planning or development. Maybe it might require a private conversation since each planner is different and each person brings different skills and experience to the table. I am delaying going back to school for a graduate or professional degree until I have exhausted all options, both planning and non-planning. I am not just interested in design, and the MLA/MArch are on hold indefinetely as I consider all other options. I am curious about finance, law, accounting, and other areas, so any and all ideas are welcome.

    I scheduled an initial consultation for career assessment at my alumni center downtown next week. I am not throwing in the towel with planning, but I am getting the ball rolling on contigency plans in case things don't work out.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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    Social policy research, health care planning, management consulting, nonprofit management, philanthropy (research, evaluation etc), journalism, community organizing, real estate or property management/development are a few I have commonly seen.

    Depends on your skill sets and interests.

    http://www.designnewhaven.org/

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    1) graphic design for sure is a transferable skill, especially if you know the adobe creative suite, cad, etc.

    2) Non-profit organizations are always seeking especially those specializing in housing and other "planning" related issues. I looked into this briefly.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Thanks for the reply. In terms of my interests I am very good with math and statistics, algebra, and calculus are all very easy. I also like to do problem solving by breaking down the problem and finding courses of actions and solutions to problems. I am very analytical and try to tap into as many cause and effect relationships. A friend suggested that I consider systems management or management consulting.

    On the finance side, I am curious about budgets and ensuring a company has a balanced ledger. I think I can use my skills in math and my understanding of CIPs to help everyday companies stay in line with their finances. Maybe it would require a degree in finance, accounting, or an MBA.

    Having worked in consulting, I am also interested in marketing and advertising. Not just the graphics presentation but trying to identify people's needs or what they think they might need. I pay close attention to what the competition is doing and how I can make my case better. I am also pro-active through networking, promoting the product, and earning as much face time with as many people as I can.

    On the research side, I try to dig into as much info about the subject or problem to base my arguments. I am very methodical in my arguments and have used my writing skills in planning (especially plan review) to stick to the main topic without going on to separate tangents. I try to answer the "question" in the research without introducing my personal bias. If I do introduce my own opinons they are solidly backed with cited sources to support my arguments.

    My sister is a journalist for the Chicago Tribune (she founded ChicagoNow). I also have a second cousin who works in broadcast journalism. From their experiences, journalism is on the out. My mom is a pyschotherapist with an LCSW, doctoral work in public health, and decades of experience working in the health care insurance area. Over the past couple of weeks I am more curious about working in health care planning, either on the advocacy or the health insurance side. Maybe working as an underwriter or an actuary might work.

    I think these skills can be utilized outside of the planning arena. I am sure I have several other areas that I am skilled in, but right now I am still in brainstorming mode. Keep the responses coming
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    A friend suggested that I consider systems management or management consulting.
    Poke around the career sections of the websites for some of the companies that do this type of work and see what interests you...or just submit your resume on-line to some of them, and see what bites you get. A general planning skill set transfers easily to a lot of different types of things that the large consulting firms do...
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I am currently reading through the Occupational Outlook Handbook on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. I am most interested in industries that are projected to have tremendous growth (far greater than planning or anything in the AEC industry) over the next few decades. In addition to the ones I already suggested I am also curious about tax preparation, data communications, teaching high school or junior high (math, science, social science, economics, business, speech communication), real estate (probably more on appraisal and possibly property management) and survey writing.

    Retirement planning is also high on my list. Obviously this is financial planning but I think there will be a huge demand for this type of work as the baby boomers retire and the future generations are going to have to figure out retirement plans without the aid of social security, medicare, and damaged 401ks and other retirement plans. Finally, as I mentioned before, I can also see myself passionately working in law, whether it be corporate, tax law, intellectual property, or tort reform.

    As for planning itself, I might have to moonlight contract work on the side while I work in another profession. When the AEC industry picks up again, I will reassess where I am with planning and see if I want to jump back in full time or move on.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 02 Oct 2009 at 3:24 PM.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I think law is more over rated than planning. Also if you work in construction/property law you are just as sensitive to any hiccup in the economy. Plenty of property lawyers were laid off in Sydney in late 2008 and have struggled with this specialisation. Nothing like being unemployed with 100k plus of law school debt to pay. Law is all about the "billable hour" and if you cant get that part of the job, you wont last very long at most firms. Firms could care less about winning or losing, just as long as clients keep coming in. Even if you are successful at law, you wont have any much time to spend your money. Not to mention "moral issues" that could possibly haunt you. I have friends that work in law and they constantly complain about these issues and how they want a career change. The reality is they cant lower their luxury lifestyle choice and more personal rewarding career options dont pay the same.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by expat123 View post
    I think law is more over rated than planning. Also if you work in construction/property law you are just as sensitive to any hiccup in the economy. Plenty of property lawyers were laid off in Sydney in late 2008 and have struggled with this specialisation. Nothing like being unemployed with 100k plus of law school debt to pay. Law is all about the "billable hour" and if you cant get that part of the job, you wont last very long at most firms. Firms could care less about winning or losing, just as long as clients keep coming in. Even if you are successful at law, you wont have any much time to spend your money. Not to mention "moral issues" that could possibly haunt you. I have friends that work in law and they constantly complain about these issues and how they want a career change. The reality is they cant lower their luxury lifestyle choice and more personal rewarding career options dont pay the same.
    I wrote in the last post:

    I can also see myself passionately working in law, whether it be corporate, tax law, intellectual property, or tort reform..

    In my first post:

    What types of non-planning jobs need the same transferrable skills as an experienced planner?

    I am putting my non-planning hat right now to gather feedback on otherfields. I have noticed on other threads that MBAs are somehow magically linked to real estate development. There are a million and one different uses for those degrees as well. I have also said on other threads that if, and when I choose to go back to school, whether it is law or something else, I will be spending a significant amount of time doing informational interviews with employers to find out exactly what I could be doing when I am done with school.

    I agree, lawyers are laid off by the truckload. One of the biggest firms in Chicago just axed all attorneys with less than 6 years of experience, regardless of their success or contributions. I need to be 200% convinced that there will be a place for me when I am done with school that can utilize my skills. So far I have not started on that path yet since I have not yet exhausted all other options.

    Not all attorneys work 90-100 hours a week. Lawyers come in all packages from the attorney doing work on the side, to the working wage lawyer putting in 50-60 hours a week. Most working attorneys earn much less than the 1-2% of top earners that are always in the news. Granted, the working wage of an attorney is still greater on average, regardless of geographic area, than a planner. However, that is a bi-product.

    If I decide to go into law, it is because I see a need, first of foremost, for earning the degree and applying my skills and work experience, whether it is directly related to planning or not. Even if I don't practice land use law, I could still use AICP as an indicator that I passed a rigorous set or requirements to advance in my career, and this could serve as a catapult into other areas of law that have nothing to do with planning.

    I hope this clears things up.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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  9. #9
    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I am finishing a Master of Public Policy along with my MCRP. It was a wise choice because it's the entry ticket to a lot of state level jobs. I work for the state housing finance agency currently half time (I have a very good chance at full time soon) and although it does not deal with classic municipal planning there are five planners and five policy people in our division. We produce the bulk of the research for the agency and are frequently called upon by other state offices for help in their research.

    I can say that the skills from planning I draw upon most are: research, graphic design, statistical analysis, and writing. That I can put it all into meaningful context for multiple parties (i.e. lawyers, engineers, financiers, politicians, planners, etc.) has been the greatest advantage I bring to the table.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  10. #10
    I'm also toying with other professions. I graduated in 08 with my Masters and am still looking for full-time employment. Since it looks like you're pretty open and interested in finance, you may want to consider the actuarial profession. You wouldn't have to go back to school for it but you would have to pass a few exams. You definitely seem like you have the work ethic for it.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    I'm also toying with other professions. I graduated in 08 with my Masters and am still looking for full-time employment
    You should. This industry doesn't look at "gaps" in employment favourably. Even when they know its a recession, 9 out of 10 employers will take someone with more experience in comparable candidates. In the private sector for those with less than 20 years experience they look for those that know local planning rules and report writing. They could care less about your "people" skills like other professions do. I switched to a developer role after being laid off in planning. The employer didnt really mind that i knew only a sliver about the industry, but emphasised how important business and negotiation skills were to the role. Since I had that, I could learn the industry as I go a long, Just emphasis your overall skills and forget all the BS you learned for your masters, mine never applied to the real world anyways. Just theories from professors that never worked in the industry. But I guess they are the few ones getting a paycheck in planning these days. Good luck

  12. #12

    "This industry doesn't look at "gaps" in employment favourably."

    I have worked since I graduated just not in planning. First I did temporary work for 8 months in an unrelated industry and then had two internships that were related. But unfortunately I'm stuck in one city and planning is pretty difficult to break into here even during good times. I have to admit I feel that employers are pretty understanding about the economy right now so I'm not too worried about "gaps." I've been looking for non-planning jobs as well, mainly in policy related jobs. It's a little better but still really competitive. I'm not too stressed yet. My two internships were great experiences so I feel like I've made some forward progress.

  13. #13
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I have a friend who transitioned into a public relations firm - but he just got his hours halved due to the economy too - but the skills are similar, spinning...

    I also knew someone who went into journalism but again, that industry has suffered due to other reasons...

  14. #14
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    You might look for jobs in technical writing. Probably a bit dull, but it pays well and probably gives you time in evenings, etc. to pursue other passions or be active in the community (I know a lot of planners have trouble completely checking out of public service).

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Thank you everyone for your replies. I really appreciate the insight. Right now, I am working with at least one career coach to assess my abilities and transferable skills to determine which path I want to take. On another thread, I laid out a process to transition from planning into other fields that consists of

    1.Identifying ones strengths, skills, and personality.
    2.Discovering different career paths, including ones unrelated to planning, that could capitalize on these assets.
    3.Quickly building up a network of professionals in these fields and finding out if there are available positions, or if they require more training, degrees, or credentials.
    4. Crafting my resume, cover letter, and projects to align with job descriptions in these paths.
    5. Earning interviews and
    6. Most importantly, convincing the potential employer to take a chance.

    I haven't had the time to follow through with this process yet. I think it is going to be a tough sell without related experience or credentials but it can be done. One career counselor said that this recession is so much different than the early 1980s or 1992 because this is the first economic downtown where there are many well-educated people out of work. My benefits are going to expire by next May. Despite my skills and experience in many different areas of planning and design, I don't think 7 months is long enough to find a new career AND earn a job offer that pays the same or more than I was earning in planning. In this bad economy, it might take even longer than that to just build up the network, even if I do it aggressively.

    Fortunately I have earned 3 phone interviews (including 1 next week) and 2 face-to-face interviews for planning jobs since I started the job search in August. I am still very skeptical about my future role in the planning profession. At this point, it's just a numbers game to me, and despite my skepticism I think I still stand a better chance of earning a job offer as a planner for right now. At the advice of my family and some of the career counselors, I am going to spend my time split 50/50 with applying for planning jobs and figuring out another career should planning not work out.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  16. #16
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post

    I haven't had the time to follow through with this process yet. I think it is going to be a tough sell without related experience or credentials but it can be done. One career counselor said that this recession is so much different than the early 1980s or 1992 because this is the first economic downtown where there are many well-educated people out of work. My benefits are going to expire by next May. Despite my skills and experience in many different areas of planning and design, I don't think 7 months is long enough to find a new career AND earn a job offer that pays the same or more than I was earning in planning. In this bad economy, it might take even longer than that to just build up the network, even if I do it aggressively.

    Fortunately I have earned 3 phone interviews (including 1 next week) and 2 face-to-face interviews for planning jobs since I started the job search in August. I am still very skeptical about my future role in the planning profession. At this point, it's just a numbers game to me, and despite my skepticism I think I still stand a better chance of earning a job offer as a planner for right now. At the advice of my family and some of the career counselors, I am going to spend my time split 50/50 with applying for planning jobs and figuring out another career should planning not work out.
    Yes, it is a tough grind and best of luck to you; I'm sure there are many on this board who are contemplating another career, and with the evidence on the ground who can blame them? I came into planning from a systems analyst career and the skillset is very, very similar - the only difference is what is being analyzed. Same mental processes. And as we enter a possible new societal paradigm, we all must be as flexible as possible.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally posted by kjelsadek View post
    I am finishing a Master of Public Policy along with my MCRP. It was a wise choice because it's the entry ticket to a lot of state level jobs. I work for the state housing finance agency currently half time (I have a very good chance at full time soon) and although it does not deal with classic municipal planning there are five planners and five policy people in our division. We produce the bulk of the research for the agency and are frequently called upon by other state offices for help in their research.

    I can say that the skills from planning I draw upon most are: research, graphic design, statistical analysis, and writing. That I can put it all into meaningful context for multiple parties (i.e. lawyers, engineers, financiers, politicians, planners, etc.) has been the greatest advantage I bring to the table.

    I've thought about getting a Master's of Public Policy degree as well. Good to know that the degree works even in tough times.

  18. #18
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    This is a bit old, but if you enjoy math/statistics/finance, and you're looking for a career change, I would highly recommend Quantity Surveying. It can be an exceptionally lucrative career that offers the chance of international travel to boot.

    There are many one year MSc Quantity Surveying programs in the UK (almost all MA/MSc programs in the UK are one year), and you can use Federal Stafford loans for the programs, as well.

    Here are a couple programs:

    http://www.kingston.ac.uk/postgradua...nsultancy-msc/
    http://prospectus.lsbu.ac.uk/courses...&CourseID=5831

    A general overview of QS: http://www.rics.org/site/download_fe...eExtension=PDF
    Last edited by Lux Lisbon; 20 May 2010 at 8:56 PM.

  19. #19
    Quote Originally posted by Lux Lisbon View post
    This is a bit old, but if you enjoy math/statistics/finance, and you're looking for a career change, I would highly recommend Quantity Surveying. It can be an exceptionally lucrative career that offers the chance of international travel to boot.

    There are many one year MSc Quantity Surveying programs in the UK (almost all MA/MSc programs in the UK are one year), and you can use Federal Stafford loans for the programs, as well.

    Here are a couple programs:

    http://www.kingston.ac.uk/postgradua...nsultancy-msc/
    http://prospectus.lsbu.ac.uk/courses...&CourseID=5831

    A general overview of QS: http://www.rics.org/site/download_fe...eExtension=PDF


    Interesting post. I read the RICS website info. Is this what you do? Is the UK the only place where you can obtain RICS certfication? I want to hear more about this, but I'd like to hear personal testimony if you can.

    I will be enrolled in a MURP program here in the U.S. in the fall but this sounds interesting.

  20. #20
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    There are over a dozen fields within surveying. Take a look at this link for a brief rundown on the most popular fields: http://www.rics.org/site/scripts/doc...documentID=282

    You can also do a search based on location, specialization, degree type, etc. here: http://www.ricscourses.org/Pages/Home.aspx

    The following US Universities have RICS accredited programs in the various specializations:

    Clemson University
    Department of Construction Science and Management

    Columbia University
    Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

    Cornell University
    Department of City and Regional Planning

    Georgia Institute of Technology
    Building Construction Program

    Georgia State University
    J. Mack Robinson College of Business

    Johns Hopkins University
    Edward St John Department of Real Estate

    MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
    MIT Center for Real Estate

    New York University
    The Real Estate Institute

    Texas A + M
    Department of Construction Science

    University of Florida
    Warrington College of Business

    University of Southern California
    School of Policy, Planning, and Development

  21. #21
    Quote Originally posted by Lux Lisbon View post
    There are over a dozen fields within surveying. Take a look at this link for a brief rundown on the most popular fields: http://www.rics.org/site/scripts/doc...documentID=282

    You can also do a search based on location, specialization, degree type, etc. here: http://www.ricscourses.org/Pages/Home.aspx

    The following US Universities have RICS accredited programs in the various specializations:

    Clemson University
    Department of Construction Science and Management

    Columbia University
    Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

    Cornell University
    Department of City and Regional Planning

    Georgia Institute of Technology
    Building Construction Program

    Georgia State University
    J. Mack Robinson College of Business

    Johns Hopkins University
    Edward St John Department of Real Estate

    MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
    MIT Center for Real Estate

    New York University
    The Real Estate Institute

    Texas A + M
    Department of Construction Science

    University of Florida
    Warrington College of Business

    University of Southern California
    School of Policy, Planning, and Development


    Wow. You know if this planning thing doesn't work, I definitely will know where to look. Thanks a lot man. It really sounds interesting and fun. Anything else you care to share? Feel free.

  22. #22
    What do you guys think about hopping over to the dark side (i.e. becoming a developer)? How many planners have become real estate developers? How difficult would be it to break into the real estate development industry with an MCRP/MURP, as opposed to a MBA or Master of Real Estate Development degree?

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    I worked in investment banking for a while so might be able to help you a little bit with that. One way you could utilize your planning experience would be to work as an analyst at an i-bank (research side)/ PE fund/ or any other investment firm that specializes in/has a solid group in real estate investments and management. For this kind of role you would require excellent analytical and mathematical skills as well as a background in finance (an MBA, MFIN or your CFA -> i considered doing my CFA briefly, little investment, study on your own time, great way to get into the industry). Not sure how this sector is doing in the US. In Canada you can still find jobs in this sector. The pay is relatively high for entry level but the workload can add up. While the housing sector may be going belly-up real estate is still a great investment for the larger funds.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian rover's avatar
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