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Thread: Need advice: How to get a (somewhat decent) rural job?

  1. #1

    Need advice: How to get a (somewhat decent) rural job?

    I'm currently living in Philadelphia and am looking to get a job in rural PA. I am finishing my masters in community development right now and in this economy I am open to just about anything remotely related to my future degree. I just want to be in a position where I am assisting in making a rural community a better place to live.

    My question is, for those who have made the transition from city to country, do you have any advice for how to get from A to B? I'd really like to get a job where I'm up in the mountains, that's where I spend a lot of my free time now backpacking and fly fishing. I'm tired of city life!

    Thanks in advance for any advice (if there is any!)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
    Nov 2006
    Jamestown, New York
    I'm not a planner, but I successfully transitioned from IT work in Albany, NY (medium city/state capital) to Jamestown, NY (small city near the PA border) about a dozen years ago. NY's Southern Tier, like Central PA, is NOT exactly brimming with decent jobs, especially for those with college educations. Here are some tips:

    Check out the state and county government websites as well as any colleges in the area where you wish to work. The state site should list upcoming civil service exams. I know that NYS periodically offers a general exam for college grads interested in government service. The county and college sites should list openings if there are any.

    Unsolicitated resumes will probably get tossed, but you just might hit something. I sent a blind inquiry to my present employer (a college) and it happened to arrive when they were discouraged by the lack of qualified applicants. Many county governments and colleges located in predominantly rural areas have difficulty attracting applicants because they may not pay as well and the areas themselves aren't as attractive to people from outside the area.

    If you are from Central PA, be sure to include that in your cover letter. Being a "local boy/girl" who's been to "the big city" and now wants to "come home" may open doors.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
    Aug 2001
    The Cheese State
    Getting the job is slightly different, because you are much less likely to find "rural" jobs listed on national or even state websites. Do bookmark the county and city websites in the areas you are looking, and check them often. Network in your states' planning and economic development organizations. Call on people in the EDA and USDA representing those areas, along with extension if there is one. The big electrical utilities have economic development people you should get to know.

    Things that tend to go over well include some familiarity with rural issues (obviously), ability to locate grants and write applications, and if not being local (like Linda said) then maybe you at least grew up in a small town or had family who farmed? Rural places may not have formal policies on it, but they do like veterans.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  4. #4
    Thanks for the tips guys. Unfortunately I have no "local boy" card to play, I grew up in the suburbs. I am going to Penn State, maybe that has some kind of value?

    But yeah, I guess it pretty much is a matter of doing the dirty work of regularly checking local government employment sites and job sites.

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
    Mar 1996
    Upstate New York
    Blog entries
    Generally, there are fewer candidates for planning jobs in rural areas, because they're generally less appealing to so many younger planners; lower pay, more ornery shareholders, lack of urban amenities and social opportunities, and the like. Thus, less competition.

    Remember, not all rural areas offer the romantic hiking/camping/fishing lifestyle. There's not always an abundance of public land to participate in more sylvan recreational pursuits.

    Where would I go for rural jobs? In the Northeast, bookmark county government and municipal association Web sites. In the Rocky Mountain West, where rural planning jobs in areas offering the lifestyle you're seeking are more abundant, check out Western Planner, and the APA chapter sites. Planning jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia are scarce, period, so you might have to look out of state; upstate New York, western Maryland, western Virginia, North Carolina, and other nearby locales.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    Dec 2008
    Hollidaysburg, PA
    I'm a little late to your thread here, but thought my comments might be useful to you since I am a planner in Central PA who didn't grow up here or have a local connection.

    I think you you will find your Penn State education is your biggest asset. There are a lot of Penn Staters in municipal government in this area, not only planners, but mangers who will potentially be hiring you.

    I would concur with the previous posts that jobs are not easy to come by here, so you should be prepared to wait a while for something to open up. I knew I wanted to live in this area before I graduated. But when I graduated from PSU, nothing was open (and that's when the economy was humming along). So, I took a job in Georgia, and worked there for two years before my current job opened up.

    You should also know that outside of State College, planning is often a difficult task in Central PA. Political support can be minimal for even the most basic planning activities. For example, I've been trying to do a comprehensive plan update in my community but there just isn't any desire. Local politics in Central PA, as in most rural communities, can get nasty. And if you're on the wrong side of things, it can mean your job. A good friend of mine who went on to be a hell of a planner in another community was a political casualty in a nearby community.

    As you've pointed out, the quality of life is good here. Another thing you should consider is that if you're young, and unmarried, and remotely interested in dating, you may not find this place as idyllic as you think. I've seen many twenty and thirty somethings come this way and leave after a year or two because of the lack of a social life. There aren't many college educated twenty and thirty somethings in this area. Most of them move to Virgina, the Carolinas, Pittsburgh or Philly. I'm generalizing, but Census data will back me up on the fact that most of central PA is aging, and uneducated. For example, in my county, only 9% of residents have a college degree.

    On the positive side, if you work in this area, chances are you'll either be the only planner in your community, or part of a small department. I have a part time assistant, which means that I have my hands in a lot of things. Just some of the things I do - historic preservation, grantsmanship, GIS, economic development, code enforcement, building codes, ordinance updates. I really like having the opportunity to be involved with some many different things. It keeps you fresh.

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