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Thread: Unemployed/underemployed planning opportunity (DC area)

  1. #1
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    Unemployed/underemployed planning opportunity (DC area)

    I recently moved to Washington, DC and similarly to many other planners I am unemployed. While trying to figure out the best way to land a job, I've been filling my days with informational interviews, volunteering, and all of that fun stuff. A thought came to my mind yesterday and I'm trying to see if anyone else would be interested or tried something along these lines.

    While we're unemployed its important to continue learning and network, which leads me to my point. I'd like to get a group of unemployed/underemployed planners together to form some type of consulting team. The purposes would be to provide experience, meet a variety of players, and help each other through the times.

    I haven't thought out a full plan, but I first wanted to see if anyone would be interested. Realistically there would be little, if any, money to be made as I'd like to pitch the team's services to BID's. non-profits, etc. I think these groups would be interested in a cheap service to help them with planning/economic development issues. The specifics certainly need to be worked on, but I am confident it would be good experience for those looking to get back in the field or even those at the beginning of their careers.

    Please let me know your thoughts or if you are interested in talking further about it.

    Thanks,

    Michael

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    This works for student groups as learning projects - giving away services for experience. They have guidance though from someone who is experienced and in the end the quality of work goes back to the university or the professor in charge.

    The only issue I see with your concept is that with newly minted planners or planners without a large amount of private experience you will have a tough time selling your product. Quality control is a big deal when it comes to spending any money by a non-profit, and reputation strongly correlated with quality.

    I think you have a great idea, you just might need to get someone who has been there before on board. Under employed or unemployed experienced planners might be the key to your concept. Good luck!
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Do you want to start an actual firm or is this more of an exploratory professional group looking to pro-bono?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  4. #4
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    I'm thinking pro-bono, as I don't have the experience or contacts required to start a firm from scratch. Of course, if others were interested in a firm that could be a long-term option.

    If done properly, it could be a great way for those out of work to get some experience and network. Perhaps if the group successfully completed a few pro-bono tasks, we could charge fees for future work. It's a flexible idea and really depends on the experience/goals of those involved.

    To give everyone my background, I previously worked for a developer in California on mixed-use, redevelopment projects. I focused on acquisitions and entitlement, as well as financial feasibility and planning. Also, I have a master's in Urban and Regional Planning.

    If anyone wants to contact me directly, send me an email at mikes22184@gmail.com

  5. #5
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    I think something like this, pro-bono, would actually hurt the bottom line of underemployed/unemployed planners.

    Why pay market value for something, when you can get it for free?
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  6. #6
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    I'm thinking pro-bono, as I don't have the experience or contacts required to start a firm from scratch. Of course, if others were interested in a firm that could be a long-term option.

    If done properly, it could be a great way for those out of work to get some experience and network. Perhaps if the group successfully completed a few pro-bono tasks, we could charge fees for future work. It's a flexible idea and really depends on the experience/goals of those involved.

    To give everyone my background, I previously worked for a developer in California on mixed-use, redevelopment projects. I focused on acquisitions and entitlement, as well as financial feasibility and planning. Also, I have a master's in Urban and Regional Planning.

  7. #7
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    If anyone is in the DC area and interested at all, send me a message on gmail (username is the email)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Project experience is going to still play a huge role in proving your credibility to a would-be clients, regardless of how well you personally know a decision maker. There are too may firms right now with decades of combined experience that are lowballing proposals to the point of bankruptcy, even willing to do otherwise paid work for free (separate from pro-bono).

    Doing pro-bono work with fellow underemployed or unemployed planners is one thing. Starting a full-fledged firm is quite another. If you are ultimate goal is to start your firm, I would start small, maybe yourself or someone you could partner with who either has the same level experience as you, more experience, experience in other specialities, or a combination.

    In starting business, screening one's resume of planning skills isn't enough to judge how well that person can build a company, unless they already have a proven track record of doing so. You have to trust that person well enough and be 200% confident both of you share your long term goals and company mission, willing to take risks where needed, and be 500% he isn't going to break off from your company and pull the rug from under you. If you want to start an actual firm, I would be VERY skeptical about bringing on any outsiders until you are bursting at the seams with work.

    People start new businesses every day, and unfortunately most of them fail within the first year if not sooner. It wouldn't be fair to the rank and file workers to put in 200% if they didn't get anything in return. Who owns the firm? Does everyone have an equal share in the profits (if and when they start "rolling" in)? Do you get a larger share? When will you provide benefits? Everyone has bills to pay. How do you keep loyality and enthusiasm going working indefinetley for nothing? Evenutally people will leave unless you lure them with at least a few carrots.

    I'm not saying there is one magical answer. It's a good starting point. I also think that today is a TERRIBLE time for ANYONE, especially a group of unemployed/underemployed planners with a questionable level of experience, to put in the time needed to start a firm from scratch. I have worked as an independent contractor for a few years and have worked very closely with independent planning consultants. The time and money to just do ANY work (most of which consists of self-promotion, marketing, and advertising) could easily be 70-80 hours a week for just a one-person firm even in good times (and that doesn't even include a profit margin). Why put yourself through all of that hell in this recession?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  9. #9
    Nice idea, but you should but your energies into finding a job. The DC area has one of the strongest job markets and plenty of bureaucracies keep a lot of planners employed.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Informally, some of the solo practitioners and small firms here are already collaborating to bid on work. These people/firms network quite a bit with each other and often team up to pursue projects that would be too big for them individually. My own network includes four firms in Wisconsin, and another 8-10 elsewhere in the country. We do look to do the work for profit, as I think you should. There is a role for some work at cost or pro bono, but it should be strategic. Build up experience in a particular role that you see in demand in the future, or perhaps to break into a market by having some local work in your portfolio. I'll send you an email.
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