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Thread: No work, need help!

  1. #1

    No work, need help!

    Well, I graduated with my masters back in May and have had no luck finding employment in the planning field. In fact the only responses I've received were from internships; one putting me on the back burner, and another telling me they get more qualified candidates. I asked and "more qualified" ment people with 5-10 years experience with JDs and masters degrees. Needless to say I'm confronted with the reality that I must give up on planning, because I've exhausted every possible avenue I can; that includes people from my school, relatives, and any networking I've been able to accomplish. If people with those types of qualifications are taking up freakin internships then I'm definitely squeezed out of the job market. My question then is what else can I pursue with a masters in planning? I thought about getting into emergency management, since that also interests me, but it looks like I would have to go back to school for that, or at least get some sort of certification?

    I live in the D.C. area and while there are reports stating this region has the lowest unemployment in the country, it is still near impossible for recent grads to find steady work, unless they want to work for free. I started submitting applications to the federal government before I graduated, and I continue to do so, but its just not bearing anything. Please, any advice is welcome. I've also considered joining the peace corps, so if anyone has words of wisdom about that feel free to share them.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Getting started in a new profession is tough. Getting started in a new profession in the current economy is much tougher.

    When I started looking for my first full-time planning jobs the employment scene was much rosier and still it was nearly a year before I landed a planning job. I interviewed far and wide. I took a job that wasn't where I wanted to be, but it worked out. So don't lose hope.

    In the meantime, try to find something to tide you over. Work. Any work. Throw a wide net. You likely won't find a great job in an ideal location for you. You might have to take a job where you can find one. I ended up in a wet, grey borough of Alaska. It turned out to be a great opportunity and I learned a lot in my year and a half there.

    If the Peace Corps appeals to you, then try that. Besides being a great adventure, it pads a resume nicely.

    I really don't think more schooling is the answer, unless you are talking about some quick certification in floodplain adminstration, GIS, etc.

    Cowboy up! Don't give up!

    P.S. Welcome to Cyburbia. Post in the Introduction thread. That's where newbies get a hearty welcome from the Cyburbians.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  3. #3
    Cyburbian PrahaSMC's avatar
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    Best advice I could give you is 1) Reduce your stress/anxiety and 2) Take lemons, make lemonade. When I finished my Master's I went through a similar progression of fear, panic, and the whole spectrum of emotions that comes with being out of work; I know, it's really frustrating. The first thing you need to do is come to grips with your situation. For me, that meant accepting the reality that I did not have a job, the economic outlook was bleak, and I would likely not be able to find a career-level position for several years. Yikes

    So make lemonade... a tired cliche, I know, but if you are pinning your hopes on landing a dream job in an economy that shed 7 million jobs last year and 263,000 last month, you're going to be let down. I considered the Peace Corps also, but ultimately ended up taking a position in AmeriCorps, because the term of service is shorter and the commitment is less intense. When my position ends next spring, I'm looking at another year of AmeriCorps or taking a job that entails asking "Would you like fries with that?" Anyways, my overriding point is, once you free yourself of the expectation that things are going to turn around any day now, or that your very existence depends on that next interview, you'll free yourself of a lot of the anxiety that is probably driving you crazy . Peace Corp, Teach for America, AmeriCorps... hell, anything that gets you out of bed in the morning and doing something constructive will help ease your mind and keep you moving forward.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    First of all welcome to Cyburbia! I graduated with my Master's in December 2007, right at the beginning of this recession. I was very fortunate that I had 2 great internships, which gave me close to a year's worth of planning experience before I graduated.

    I began interviewing and applying for jobs in September 2007. I applied for jobs all over the country and had several interviews (applied for approx. 50 positions). I finally landed a position in March 2008. I had to move from Minnesota to Indiana to take the position.

    My goal, when I was applying for jobs, was to land in a pro-planning city like Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin, Portland, etc. I ended up in a suburb but have learned so much in the last year and a half. Planning can be a very transient profession, especially when you are first starting out. Many people on this site have moved across the country or even abroad to take positions. Hopefully as you gain experience you can settle down in a particular area, hopefully in your dream area. Moral of the story: you may have to take a job in a place that you may not want to end up at first, sadly it's all a part of paying your dues. Don't give, it's hard out there now, but IMO, planning is a very rewarding position.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Welcome to Cyburbia!

    This is the most difficult job market this country has seen in many decades. The job losses have hit the construction industry and professions around construction (landscape architecture, architecture, planning, engineers) worse than other fields. In the Atlanta market, 60% of all architects are unemployed. This is not just graduates, these are people with 10, 15, 30 years of experience. You have to understand what kind of economic turmoil the country is in right now. Due to these stresses, unfortunate as it may be, you are competing with people that are way overqualified for the positions that are out there. The only thing you can do is keep plugging away and you will get your break. Also, you will need to be prepared to move. In this market, mobility is one of the most important factors you can have. You will need to move to where the jobs are. Keep your head up and good luck!
    Satellite City Enabler

  6. #6
    Cyburbian jdplanner's avatar
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    I will chime and offer a "keep your head up and keep pluggin' away" response too!! I was laid off from my first job out of school in March, after only 6 months of employment their... I was fortunate and was able to find another job in less than two months. So, there is some hope out there . I had about a year and half of internship experience to piggy back on as well though. I feel there is very good advice in this forum about how to prepare employment applications, resumes, cover letters, as well as what to expect from interviews. I feel this info was very valuable in getting good responses from jobs I did apply to. Also, location was not an issue with me. I casted the net far and wide and took whatever I got. Good luck!!!
    Last edited by jdplanner; 08 Oct 2009 at 6:59 PM. Reason: grammer

  7. #7
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Dear DisgruntledGraduate-

    I know so many recent graduates in your same situation, it can be frustrating, but understand almost all sectors are having a tough time right now with unemployment right now. As for the feds (an obviously good option for you), I have a friend who just got a job with Homeland Security, not in planning, and from the time she applied to start date it was literally a whole year. Keep interning and keep your planning skills sharp while you wade through this tough time. Things will get better.

    Sincerely,

    A Spring '08 graduate that got really lucky 500 miles from home.
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  8. #8

    Thanks for the replys

    I really appreciate the feedback, and I'll definitely take the advice to heart. I am a bit discouraged though after reading a bunch of the threads on here. They mostly consist of people fed up with the profession, who are either severly underpaid, laid off, or searching for another career. I have no problems moving, but I just don't see it happening when I can't even land an internship in a highly populated area where the economy isn't completely destroyed. Why would a planning department, firm, or whomever else hire someone fresh out of grad school who doesn't live near them when there are tons of applicants in their area looking for work? From what I've seen on other threads, and job postings I may qualify for, I can expect to make little more than a fast food manager. I'm just not going to move to the middle of nowhere for that kind of wage and no guarantee of job security. My reality is that planning may never pan out, because the job market is too saturated with overqualified people, and it will take too long for there to be room for me. So, I need to figure out what else I can do with my degree. Also, if anyone knows where entry level jobs in planning, or jobs related to planning are posted anywhere in the country I would love to know, because I just don't see them. It seems like its a severly top-heavy profession right now. Any entry level positions I've seen are few and far between, or are internships. Sorry to depress everyone, I'm just trying to figure out what my options are.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian jdplanner's avatar
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    Click on your profile page. I sent you the name of three communities/organizations that have entry level job postings in the Carolina's!!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    I too am unemployed right now. Just heard back from an assistant position that required "highschool graduation" really meant at least masters if you have little experience. My advice is don't get too down reading the forums, as depressing as they may be. I've been through the same. Remember, when you are employed and have a family to run, you probably won't have time to post on the internet. So, perhaps a non representative sample here.
    Take care my friend.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by DisgruntledGraduate View post
    I really appreciate the feedback, and I'll definitely take the advice to heart. I am a bit discouraged though after reading a bunch of the threads on here. They mostly consist of people fed up with the profession, who are either severly underpaid, laid off, or searching for another career. I have no problems moving, but I just don't see it happening when I can't even land an internship in a highly populated area where the economy isn't completely destroyed. Why would a planning department, firm, or whomever else hire someone fresh out of grad school who doesn't live near them when there are tons of applicants in their area looking for work? From what I've seen on other threads, and job postings I may qualify for, I can expect to make little more than a fast food manager. I'm just not going to move to the middle of nowhere for that kind of wage and no guarantee of job security. My reality is that planning may never pan out, because the job market is too saturated with overqualified people, and it will take too long for there to be room for me. So, I need to figure out what else I can do with my degree. Also, if anyone knows where entry level jobs in planning, or jobs related to planning are posted anywhere in the country I would love to know, because I just don't see them. It seems like its a severly top-heavy profession right now. Any entry level positions I've seen are few and far between, or are internships. Sorry to depress everyone, I'm just trying to figure out what my options are.
    I'm somewhat in the same boat. I am fortunate to have a few years under my belt and am certified. I, too, live in a highly populated area and am coming up with an alternative.

    1. Keep on looking for planning jobs. Just don't devote your whole time looking for that type work. Experienced or not, they are few and far between. I am lucky to still be lining up interviews (must be doing something right) but I am drastically cutting back the planning job search from 50-60 hours a week down to 10-15. Adjust accordingly. Don't use my numbers as an example.
    2. Identify those skills and strengths that are transferable. Are you good with numbers? Are you a people person? Can you think analytically? Do you consider various courses of action?
    3. Meet with career counselorssssssssssssssss to discuss different career choices. See previous posts on here about other types of jobs you could do with a planning degree.
    4. Thumb through the Occupational Outlook Handbook and identify those industries that best utilize your skills. Personally, I look for those careers that only utilize my skills but have the following components:

    A. Steady job growth or exploding job growth.
    B. Don't require any additional schooling to get into, apart from passing some exams or earning a certification.
    C. Are not saturated with job seekers. Planning, law, architecture, etc. are saturated with tons of out of work people all looking for jobs. I would rather focus my energy in areas that have far less competition in both good times and bad.

    5. Once you have identified some careers that you are curious about, start networking. Facebook, linkedin, alumni groups, and professional associations all have tons of people who are willing to offer advice. I am curious about being an actuary, so this week I already have leads through SOA. Set up informational interviews with these people as soon as you have an idea where you want to go. The more people you talk to the more accurate picture you will have of the profession. I am sure there are plenty of vbulletin forums like cyburbia for other professions. The informational interviews are not necessarily to help get you a job but to learn more about the profession. My goal is to set up informational interviews with several dozen professionals in other career paths over the next few months to determine where my strenghts are and how I fit into other careers.

    I think the biggest challenge once you have identified a set of desired professions is to draw connections between your planning experience and training with the training and experience required for the job. I honestly think that there are several professions that are not nearly as nitpicky as planning, who have the resources and are doing average during this economy, but are not always the most glamorous jobs.

    6. If you do have to go back to school for another degree, get someone else to pay for it. Companies still offer tuition reimbursement even in terrible recessions (although planning is an area that probably never will on a large scale).

    7. Do planning consulting work on the side. If I go into a different profession and moonlight as a planner, I will probably put my entire digital portfolio on the internet and slap it on my business card. There is no rule that says you have to give up planning.

    8. There is no law that says you have to stay in this new career forever. Personally, I want to make enough money in one profession or another to become independently wealthy and then go back to school down the road. I think that is my best bet for doing architecture or landscape architecture at this point. Hopefully, I will have a much bigger safety net when I return to work as a designer and will be better insulated when the next rollar coaster mess comes along in 20-30 years.

    9. Don't waste time, whatever you do. Have backup plans in case things don't work. I haven't worked for a dime since early May (although I had an enjoyable summer for the most part). Granted, I still worked 50-60 hours a week on the job search though. However, now it's crunch time for me. It may take weeks, months, or even longer to identify a different career path. Be pro-active. I am sure that there is an alter-ego where you can be delusionally happy doing a different career path.

    Hope this helps-
    Last edited by nrschmid; 08 Oct 2009 at 11:36 PM.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Washington DC is one of the most educated areas of the country. People have Phds coming out their asses in that demographic. Same with LA, SF, Chicago, NYC, Boston, etc. Dont get discouraged there is probably some baby boomer working that entry level position that has 30 years experience right now. As said before in this thread be prepared to move out of an urban area.

    There are overseas options as well. Local governments in the UK and rural Australia all have a shortage of planners. Whether they have the budget to pay one in this climate is another issue. Americans 18-30 can get working holiday visas to Oz for 1 year.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    Alaska still has jobs. The recession has barely hit up here and we have to import all of our talent.

    otterpop did it and just look at him now.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by chupacabra View post
    Alaska still has jobs. The recession has barely hit up here and we have to import all of our talent.

    otterpop did it and just look at him now.

    His blog says he lives in Montana.

  15. #15
    maudit anglais
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    Quote Originally posted by Seana View post

    His blog says he lives in Montana.
    And yet his earlier post in this very thread says:
    Quote Originally posted by otterpop
    I ended up in a wet, grey borough of Alaska. It turned out to be a great opportunity and I learned a lot in my year and a half there.
    Strange that, eh?

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by Tranplanner View post
    And yet his earlier post in this very thread says:
    Quote Originally posted by otterpop
    I ended up in a wet, grey borough of Alaska. It turned out to be a great opportunity and I learned a lot in my year and a half there.
    Strange that, eh?
    Aye, thine words ring true!

    Searched I teh blog of otterpop for "Alaska" ... naught!

    But mine eyes... in this very thread, assaulted with teh "wet, grey"--sufficiently so as to be blinded and not see "Alaska" any more than can Mother Russia.

    Apologies, Tranplanner and chupacabra, from this humble damsel who hast laddered not nary first rung of Teh Clube.


    And yet, this Alaska of otterpop...
    'Twas sufficiently long ago as to not make fair comparison to teh Alaska of to-day. Strange that, eh?

  17. #17
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seana View post
    Aye, thine words ring true!

    Searched I teh blog of otterpop for "Alaska" ... naught!

    But mine eyes... in this very thread, assaulted with teh "wet, grey"--sufficiently so as to be blinded and not see "Alaska" any more than can Mother Russia.

    Apologies, Tranplanner and chupacabra, from this humble damsel who hast laddered not nary first rung of Teh Clube.


    And yet, this Alaska of otterpop...
    'Twas sufficiently long ago as to not make fair comparison to teh Alaska of to-day. Strange that, eh?
    OT

    For those not aware of the strange, yet fascinating backstory of The Otterpop, a life full of twists and turns worthy of a Dickens novel, enough intrigue and mystery worthy of Dan Brown and with more sex and downright dirtiness than a Henry Miller novel, let me explain.

    In those desolate days following by completing my studies at the University of Montana and an internship at the MT Dept. of Commerce, I suffered a prolonged employment setback. In desperation I combed this wonderful country, from Sioux City to the Pacific Coast in search of a planning job. I was disappointed time and again.

    I was literally a couple weeks from having to swallow my pride and move back to Louisiana to live with my parents . I was applied for a job with the Ketchikan Gateway Borough (The KGB). I got the job and went to live in Alaska. I spent a year and a half on a beautiful, but grey and rainy island. It was a good place to work. Not my cup of tea as a place to live.

    After the year and a half I started looking for work in Montana. Soon I was hired by Lewis and Clark County, where I have blissfully resided these past nine years.

    Alaska is a wonderful, beautiful raw land. Truly our Last Frontier. Skagway and Sitka are lovely. Juneau, in my opinion, is an uninspiring city among great beauty. I never saw Alaska beyond the coastal rattail. I have friends in Anchorage and Fairbanks, both who speak highly of their communities.

    Ketchikan had good qualities. Very good people. It was the only place I have ever lived that seemed empty of prejudice. The seafood was great. I stuck around long enough to see two salmon runs - everyone should see that.

    Back on topic: Chupacabra is right. It seems like every other person I met in Alaska was from somewhere else originally. Alaska is a great place to start or begin again. It is beautiful and fresh. The people are as good as anywhere and I found them to be quite welcoming.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  18. #18
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    Right now there are jobs advertised in:

    Barrow
    Fairbanks
    Palmer
    Unalaska
    King Salmon/Naknek
    Anchorage (federal, state, local, and private sector)

    I grew up in Fairbanks so it was no big deal to move back home to wait out the recession. If somebody approached it like a well paying peace corps gig, they would do fine.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  19. #19
    Alaska sounds good, but I don't think I could handle six months of darkness and living in isolation. Its funny too that several posts suggest moving out of urban areas. Maybe I'm wrong, but isn't that where urban planning takes place? I'll try the best I can to apply for jobs outside of D.C., but again I don't want to waste too much time looking for and applying to jobs elsewhere that I have no shot of getting. Right now I'm trying to strategically apply for jobs in planning and other professions that I may have a chance with. Again, I'm not going to uproot my life for 25k a year.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    You know what sounds better than Alaska? Hawaii!
    http://www.co.maui.hi.us/jobs.aspx?jobID=187

  21. #21
    Cyburbian kltoomians's avatar
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    Hawaii sounds nice, but I didn't get much response when I applied for some jobs a while back... At least you'll be in a place in which most people will want to 'visit' you as an excuse

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    [QUOTE=kltoomians;514612At least you'll be in a place in which most people will want to 'visit' you as an excuse [/QUOTE]

    Hey, I get that, and I live in south Mississippi. Probably because we don't have winter, as compared to back home in Northern Indiana.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  23. #23
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    The way to go in Hawai'i right now is to hook into the firms that do work for the military. There's a huge series of projects starting up right now related to base realignments. Basically, the DoD is moving thousands of marines from Okinawa to Guam. It's 10+ years of work and billions of dollars to do it. I had two offers last spring with firms doing that work, but picked Alaska due to personal reasons.

    It helps big time if you have a real connection with Hawai'i (I lived there for 5 years and did my undergrad at UH). Everybody thinks they would love to live there but many people end up hating it.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    One more thing about Hawai'i vs. Alaska...

    Hawai'i's economy is in the can and the state and local govs have laid off some folks so competition is high. NEPA people will have the best odds.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Hawaii is extraordinary expensive. Local government planning positions in the US have fierce competition and many only prefer locals with experience and knowledge of the issues. Not many are open to outsiders and you pretty much have to know somebody to get your application on the desk of the hiring manager. Add to this baby boomers with depleted retirement funds and they could care less about someone with a masters.

    Young planners have to outside the "traditional" planning roles. A good place to start is attending local ULI events. Although commercial real estate and development isnt really going off either, its much better than government planning and private consultants. Seriously I would never move to a hole in the wall town just for a planning role, unless it was in management or offered some serious dough. Its the same political BS for low pay and social networks.

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