Urban planning community | #theplannerlife

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: What are my career options?

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    Mar 2010
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    21

    What are my career options?

    I'm in Northern California. I have a BA in Environmental Studies, MA in Urban Planning, and the following professional experience: public sector up to the Planning Director level, local government consulting, environmental consulting and most recently, consulting work/ permitting for a very large development. 20 years of work experience overall. AICP certified but my membership is not current.

    I've been looking for work anywhere in the country for the past three months. Very discouraging! I have applied about 60 places for about 80 positions. I've had four interviews (for a total of two positions) and I was recruited for two of those interviews. But I didn't get either job.

    It feels like my resume is too diverse. I am strongest in the realm of public sector land use planning, but I haven't done that for 6 years and the almost all the positions out there are for the top of the organization (planning director etc.). I am qualified to do that for a small community but otherwise I'm at the midlevel manager material.

    Most of the available jobs seem to be at large engineering firms that are looking for either transportation planners (not qualified) or environmental planner (qualified, but my most relevant experience was for less than two years in the mid 90s).

    So I wonder, does my experience and education have applicability in any other field? Has anyone had to switch careers to find work? What type of work did you turn to?

    There are some obvious areas to look into: public policy, research institute, politics/research, city management analyst. I look at the jobs in San Francisco where I live and there are thousands of places hiring... there must be some place that would be able to use my skill set. I have managed people, I know how to string a sentence together, I can make presentations, staff boards and commissions, read and make sense out of obtuse regulations, etc.

    Or maybe not. Maybe I'm looking at a career flipping burgers...

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    10,074
    Have faith. Many experienced planners like you are unemployed and have been searching, sometimes for more than a year. Things will eventually turn around. You have been getting interviews, and take that as a good sign.

    I was laid off from a good consulting position 13 months ago. I had my own part-time consulting business which I took full-time, and found that prior competitors of my previous employer now view me as an ideal subcontractor for specialized work. I am also getting work on my own. It has not been steady, but I made enough in 2009 to replace the salary I lost.

    With 20 years of experience and a diverse background, you are an attractive prospect to many consultants or communities. You are also willing to move, and that is great. You could probably even consider consulting on your own, starting by tapping your network to find out what projects may be coming up, or simply letting them know that you are available to contract out some of their current work load.

    In this economy, three months of searching is not nearly enough to get discouraged and start looking at other professions.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Have you been applying to federal planning or policy jobs?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,839
    How are you marketing yourself? Do you just have a resume and a cover letter? What about business cards, cut sheets (see previous posts), or an organized collection of writing samples/projects? Do you use a portfolio to market yourself? No, a portfolio does not need to be design-based.

    Fortunately you have experience in a range of planning specialties, not just land use planning. Here are some other suggestions:

    1. Put together a master job list of every project that you have ever worked on (see previous posts).

    2. Don't mention WHEN you worked on projects, and only provide that info if the potential employer asks you, and again, only as a last resort.

    3. Your most recent experience is consulting work/development permitting in No Cal. No one is building right now, so play this down as much as you can. Play up the environmental work. Is there anything that you have worked on that can be tied to something like transportation planning? What about working towards a transportation planning certificate?

    4. After you were turned down for a job, call the agency/firm and find out WHY you weren't chosen. You have nothing to lose. You can do this for any job you applied or interviewed for. Later on down the road find out who was hired for the position and check his/her credentials against yours. It can really open your eyes. I found out that one municipality in Chicagoland hired an out-of-state student fresh out of graduate school in Ohio with no relevant experience for a midlevel planner position because he was related to the mayor.

    5. How many states have you applied for jobs? Were the two positions you had interviews located in No Cal? Did you submit a salary history? The cost of living in the Bay area is MUCH higher than other areas and I don't think that employers in other geographic areas are easily aware of that. Some of them might think you are too expensive to hire so they go with the cheaper guy. You might want to use a cost of living calculator to determine the equivalent salary in the geographic area you are applying for and list this in parenthesis in the salary history. I don't think it will make or break you, but it's worth a shot.

    6. If you haven't already, tailor EVERYTHING to the job you are applying for : resume, cover letter, writing samples, portfolio, answers to interview questions, etc. (see previous posts).

    Hope this helps-
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    The Cheese State
    Posts
    10,074
    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    ...Put together a master job list of every project that you have ever worked on...
    As a consultant I have done this. I have a one-page resume which consists of a short summary of my background, skills and experience, my education and credentials, work history with nothing more than employer, location, and years, and then my professional affiliations and involvement. The next three pages list all of the projects I have completed, sorted by type. There are more than 120 of them in 21 states.

    I have not been looking for a job, but applied for one particularly appealing one and was interviewed yesterday. One of the interviewers commented that they had never seen that before, it was impressive, and really spoke to the diversity of my experience. It strikes me that your list would be similarly influential.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered
    Mar 2010
    Location
    San Francisco
    Posts
    21
    Thanks everyone. I have to say, I've been speculating about how bad the job market is for planners right now based only on my own experience. When I joined cyburbia last night and saw all the dire posts on the topic it freaked me out a bit.

    You know the phrase "the fine line between hope and despair"? I've been riding that line. Last night, despair. Today, hope.

    In response to some of the comments:

    + Federal jobs. I tried using GovCentral to find work about 9 months ago (before I started to look anywhere else) but I got discouraged and gave up when, upon applying for a position, it prompted me for some kind of proof of my degrees. I need to look at that again. I suppose there's some process for getting electronically verified by UCLA and UCSC. It's the first time since 1996 that I've had to actively seek employment, everything since then either fell in my lap or came to me with a little bit of networking.

    +Writing Samples. In my last gig, I hardly did any writing. I have to go back to 2001-2004 and the city I worked for at the time to find something. This was actually an issue with one of the jobs I interviewed for because, on the morning of the interview, they asked for writing samples. I scrambled some items together, but the only staff report I could get my hands on was from the early 1990s (!!!). I feel that staff reports are probably the best illustration of my capabilities as a writer.

    +States. I've applied for jobs in VA, MA, DC, CA, AK, GA, IN, etc. It's true about local government salaries, we are completely spoiled in the urban areas of CA. I was also making a very comfortable hourly as a development consultant. I'm prepared to throw all that out the window, but it's still difficult to gauge what to put down when I am required to submit "salary expectations" in an application.

    +Project List. Very good idea! I'm going to do that this afternoon.

    +Tailoring my submittals. I have to admit, I was cavalier about this at first. As I mentioned above, the OJ trial was fresh on everyone's minds last time I formally applied for jobs. Electronic applications make it so easy to apply using previously-generated material. I've gotten much better about this lately but the reminder helps.

    +Transportation planning certificate is a really good idea. I need to look into that. One of the positions I got turned down for involved environmental planning on the high speed rail corridor between SF and San Jose. Would have been sweet, and some transportation planning on my resume may have made the difference.

    +Environmental work. I am trying to play it up, including my role working on the development project, which involved review of environmental docs and resource agency permits.

    +Part time consulting. I'm pessimistic about this. Basically, I've been a consultant for 10 of the last 13 years, first to public agencies and then to the private sector. One of my concerns is taking on an assignment and then getting hired for a full-time job in a different part of the country before I've completed the assignment. Mostly, however, it doesn't seem like local government is spending money on consultants right now, especially one who spent the last 6 years working on the opposite side of the counter.

    Thanks again, I've got a few things to do now!

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Need advice: grad school and career options
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 9
    Last post: 19 Feb 2012, 8:30 PM
  2. Mid-career Ph.D. options
    Student Commons
    Replies: 9
    Last post: 07 Feb 2008, 1:56 PM
  3. Cul de sac options
    Transportation Planning
    Replies: 32
    Last post: 10 Aug 2006, 9:47 AM
  4. Replies: 1
    Last post: 16 Jun 2006, 3:13 AM
  5. Career Options
    Student Commons
    Replies: 3
    Last post: 03 May 2005, 6:30 PM