Urban planning community | #theplannerlife

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: I think I want to be a planner - should I try career discovery or an internship?

  1. #1

    I think I want to be a planner - should I try career discovery or an internship?

    hi everyone!

    I'm new to posting, but have been lurking for a long time. I am almost 30, and have had a successful career in advertising and entertainment since graduating college. I am still gainfully employed in this field, and I don't hate my job, but I've been ready to move on to something new for a while.

    When I started to get the itch to change careers, I started taking landscape architecture classes on the side at night. I've been doing this for the past year or so, and have developed a decent, if pretty basic, graphics and design portfolio. However, I've realized that the planning/policy/politics/organizing/big picture end of things is way more interesting to me than the details of design, which I find pretty boring. I am a people person, and I can't imagine being stuck doing CAD drawings all day. So now I'm looking into planning.

    I know I'm not ready to apply to grad school. But I need a tangible way to learn more about the realities of planning the next year. One of my ideas is to try one of those career discovery programs at Berkeley or Harvard. But as someone who has a lot of work experience and did a lot of internships back in the day, I know that being in an internship/job can be a lot more eye-opening than just taking classes.

    Would I have any chance of getting a summer internship somewhere, even though I'm not enrolled in a program? I've been working as a producer, so even though it's a different field, I've spent the last 8 years organizing teams of people, dealing with piles of paperwork, and solving problems. And I do have this small design portfolio, and I definitely have the work ethic and the interest.

    Does this sound like a complete pie in the sky idea? I'd rather get my hands dirty in an internship to learn my way around the industry than to sit in a theoretical class. Let me know what you think!

    Thank you!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Gone to a better place (in my mind)
    Posts
    407
    I think getting an internship would be a great way to learn about planning. unfortunately, most internship opportunities I am aware of are designed for students who have already learned a bit about planning and have some skills to bring to the table. Otherwise, an internship would really just be a classroom, as the intern supervisor would have to teach the intern every aspect of the job.

    Some better ideas: Volunteer with a planning board or a zoning board of appeals in a small town. You would be exposed to the nitty-gritty of planning while not being asked to do much more than take notes, pass out papers, and whatever else needs to be done. Depending on the area and need, this may be an easier gig to get.

    Volunteer with Americorps for a summer. They will pay you a little, and you can do something related to community development. In an AmeriCorps job you are not expected to really know anything before you come in.

    Volunteer at your local community development corporation (CDC)/community action agency (CAA). These organizations often need help, and the level of expertise needed is lower than at a planning agency.

    CAAs: http://www.communityactionpartnership.com/
    Find a CAA

    CDCs: While the NCCED doesn't exist anymore, its website does:
    Directory of CDCs

    Good luck!

    PS: Forgot the Americorps link: http://www.americorps.gov/for_indivi...e_national.asp

  3. #3
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
    Registered
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Hang on Sloopy...land
    Posts
    12,891
    Check out some other threads within this subforum. There are lots of good ways to make yourself marketable and to get some experience without actually getting a job. Good luck.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  4. #4
    Thanks for the suggestions. Hink - any specific suggestions? I have been browsing the boards at length.

    Since I'd really like to be able to delve into what planning's all about, I'm willing to take my summer to either attend a career discovery program or take an internship - but after that, I'll have to go back to work while I (hopefully) gear up for grad school if planning's for me. I'm hoping with the volunteering that it's something I could do on evenings or weekends, with community meetings, etc.

    Also - I'm not a total newb - I do have almost 10 years of professional work experience and a year of landscape architecture classes, and I'm excellent with CAD and everything in Adobe Suite, if that all counts for anything.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Colo Front Range
    Posts
    2,576
    Quote Originally posted by ladyfrittata View post
    Thanks for the suggestions. Hink - any specific suggestions? I have been browsing the boards at length.

    Since I'd really like to be able to delve into what planning's all about, I'm willing to take my summer to either attend a career discovery program or take an internship - but after that, I'll have to go back to work while I (hopefully) gear up for grad school if planning's for me. I'm hoping with the volunteering that it's something I could do on evenings or weekends, with community meetings, etc.

    Also - I'm not a total newb - I do have almost 10 years of professional work experience and a year of landscape architecture classes, and I'm excellent with CAD and everything in Adobe Suite, if that all counts for anything.
    Any public/private entity that actually has work right now likely doesn't have a budget, so are filling the need with interns, who usually are either graduated or new planners looking to find a job. So right now you would be lucky to find one. As for a career discovery program...hmmmm...can't say I've ever heard of one, let alone paid attention to see if there is such an animal. I second attending some planning board meetings.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    As for a career discovery program...hmmmm...can't say I've ever heard of one, let alone paid attention to see if there is such an animal.
    There are two career discovery programs that I found, one at Harvard GSD and one at Berkeley. I know the Berkeley one is pretty new.

    http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/professio...eer_discovery/
    http://dcrp.ced.berkeley.edu/programs/summer

  7. #7
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Greater Los Angeles
    Posts
    207
    ladyfrittata, i am also a lurker, but i am responding since i may have an opportunity for you. i work for a local jurisdiction in socal, and i'm looking for an intern to do graphics for our zoning code update. you can definitely get a good exposure to real world planning, while providing a service that you have some expertise in. i had already discussed this with my secretary, who was going to do a local recruitment at the community college, but if you thinks this suits you, feel free to contact me. thanks

  8. #8
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Greater Los Angeles
    Posts
    207
    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Any public/private entity that actually has work right now likely doesn't have a budget, so are filling the need with interns, who usually are either graduated or new planners looking to find a job.
    You are right that many places are looking to unpaid interns to do work, my workplace included. We are working on a comprehensive update of the zoning code--and while typically, an assignment of this scope is contracted out with a large budget--it has been reduced to an in-house assignment with the help of interns. Also note that during a development downturn, many agencies are spending their time updating and polishing long-range policy documents, like the General Plan or zoning code. This is a good experience opportunity for anyone in the field.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. GSD career discovery
    Student Commons
    Replies: 28
    Last post: 25 Apr 2016, 4:03 PM
  2. School: Harvard Harvard GSD Career Discovery
    Student Commons
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 14 Apr 2013, 8:57 PM
  3. Replies: 0
    Last post: 27 Apr 2010, 12:15 AM
  4. Replies: 3
    Last post: 28 Nov 2008, 11:54 PM
  5. GSD career discovery
    Student Commons
    Replies: 44
    Last post: 15 Jun 2008, 12:11 PM