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Thread: Your second job

  1. #1
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    Your second job

    How long did you stay at your First Job after you earned your degree? What motivated you to move on and what sort of professional changes did you make?

    Context: I've been at my First Job for almost three years. In that time I've gone from entry level to managing multiple projects (plans plus their NEPA stuff) in addition to some other stuff (program management and national policy). In all, it's been a good job for me but I kind of hate it. I love the work, but I am starting to loathe the culture (it's a federal land management agency). I'm trying to decide if this should be a 3-and-out situation or if I should embrace my inner bureaucrat and settle into my cubical for the next 30 years.

    I may open this to a vote to allow some strangers on the interwebs to decide my future for me.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Three years at my first job (state agency)...the original plan was to put in five years there and then reevaluate, but management decided to screw me, so a week later I jumped to the private sector (timing is everything) and haven't looked back. I'm with my fourth private firm now (having shifted my focus from local/state consulting to working with federal agencies), and have finally settled in for the long haul, I hope.

    Your situation - being in the federal system sets you up well for either another federal job with a different agency (if desired) or a jump to the private sector (also if desired) - you have several options, I think.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  3. #3
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    I am still at my first job post college. Being married with an employed spouse, a house with 30% equity (which is good for someone my age) and some pets never really gave me the ability to easily pack up and move. Plus, the salary and benefits at my job is quite comparable to the same position in larger cities. I don't know if this relates to anyone else, but I like my coworkers and my very short commute. I can't imagine moving on "just to move up" and deal with a larger mortgage, longer commute, and having my wife find a new job.

    Yeah, I know that doesn't answer your question...sorry.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I was at my first job after undergrad for about 8 months before I realized it wasn't for me and decided on grad school for planning (that first job was as a social worker for the state and I could sense that it was just not the world I wanted to be in). I then was able to cut my hours down to part-time while I started grad school and then after a semester found a full-time job in the planning industry that I have been at ever since -going on 4 years. So I guess I would say that I am really still at my first planning job.

    Like Stroskey (who I assume is roughly the same age as me), I am married, we own our house and have quite a bit of equity, we don't have any pets unless you count a 6-month-old, my commute is manageable and I like my coworkers, the benefits are good, etc. I was also sort of lucky to find a first job with a relatively affluent municipality that has weathered the economic storm quite well and not have to move out to the sticks for that elusive first job (I was however the last full-time person that I can think of to be hired in our department).

    I had originally planned to do the 2-and-out route but the economy in the surrounding area sort of put a halt to that. But even now that the local job market seems to have noticeably improved over the past 18 months or so, I realize it would really have to be a great opportunity to get me to actually leave this job right now.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  5. #5
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Spent a shade over 2 years at my first post-MUP job. It wasn't specfically designed to a starter job by the muni, but it had sort of become that.

    It was good job to start at and I got a sidestep job with better pay/hours at a nearby (this was metro Chicago) that was better suited to my planning philosophy.

    I think you should certainly look for other opportunities, but don't necessarily leave without a new job lined up. Additionally, if you pretty much dislike the current gig, then you will become a miserable a-hole if you decide to hunker down and stay for life, in my opinion.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  6. #6
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    At my first job, I was passed over for a promotion after I had earned the credentials that the two people before me had earned when promoted. The explanation was that we were supposed to write a Capital Improvement Plan and that the person in the Senior position was to write it. We promptly hired someone without that experience and the CIP wasn't even written by our department.

    Two jobs later, I took over a CIP and turned it into a 5-year plan, which was my project for three years running.

    Take that, first job.
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    One year at my first post-grad-school job, but 3.5 at my first planning job. I then jumped for what should've been a better organization and got burned as it is an organization that for a number of reasons takes an extremely reactive view of planning.

    So now what has been important to me in looking to move is reading literature on job search, personality and aptitude, life coaching, etc. to determine where I want to move to. What is it about past jobs that I like and dislike, and what kind of new job would provide what I wanted? For me this has involved going to the more general career literature as well as some sources for creative jobs, not just the planning-realted career resources. Based on this, I have now been interviewing in the non-profit sector & state agencies that provide technical assistance; invesitgating international development work; and moonlighting on consulting to try to make another move. Not doing as many "info interviews" and networking as I should, though!

    So if you find the federal job overly bureaucratic, perhaps try to figure out what you dislike about it, what environment or type of job you'd want instead, and where you might find that. I know, easier said than done and there's no "perfect" job & etc ...

  8. #8
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    There's not an answer I'm really looking for. I just find it useful to hear about the experiences/perspectives of others, so I do appreciate the replies.

    I've got a wife and two very young brats so I sure as hell won't quit without something else lined up. I do have the advantage of transferring to another agency, but my concern is that I won't jibe with the culture any better. I'm also lucky in that the economy in Alaska is fairly strong right now, although I've been eyeing Hawaii lately.

    I almost feel like three years is too short a time span but I also never saw myself working in the public sector for any significant part of my career.

    Three years at my first job (state agency)...the original plan was to put in five years there and then reevaluate, but management decided to screw me, so a week later I jumped to the private sector (timing is everything) and haven't looked back. I'm with my fourth private firm now (having shifted my focus from local/state consulting to working with federal agencies), and have finally settled in for the long haul, I hope.
    What, if I may ask, drew you out of the public sector and is keeping you private?

    So if you find the federal job overly bureaucratic, perhaps try to figure out what you dislike about it, what environment or type of job you'd want instead, and where you might find that. I know, easier said than done and there's no "perfect" job & etc ...
    While I don't care for bureacracy that isn't what I dislike the most. And this is and has been far from a bad job. I'm just starting to get itching feet and I know that this isn't where I want to seee myself in 5 years.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Plus
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    I am still in my first job - 19 yrs later.
    Can anybody beat that ?
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    I am still in my first job - 19 yrs later.
    Can anybody beat that ?
    Ha ha. Not likely. I've only been at my first real one for 8! Looking for my second right now, though.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    I was at my first job 9 years (I liked the city and it was close to family). I had moved up in the organization, but it was clear that I had moved as far as I could. I took a pay cut and moved to Kentucky for my first PD job. I've been a PD longer that I was a minion.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chupacabra View post
    What, if I may ask, drew you out of the public sector and is keeping you private?
    What drew me out of the public sector? First off, I had no sort if idealism tying me to the public sector. When I finished grad school, I talked to/applied for/interviewed with local government, non-profits, and dark side firms before landing the state gig...I just wanted a job. Once in with the state, I liked what I was doing, most of the folks I worked with, the interaction with the public and other agencies, etc. But, eventually, upperward mobility was blocked, salaries were stagnant, and I wasn't growing professionally...and then management made an incredibly poor decision that impacted me directly (and which wasn't a result of anything I'd done). I took a long, hard look (long, in this case, equals over a weekend - I work fast) at where I was and what future I had with this agency, and decided it was time to get the hell outta there (if possible). And, thanks to some previous networking and some incredibly good luck and timing, I turned in my notice a week later.

    What is keeping me private? Initially is was just better pay - I settled in at my second private firm for several years (the first dark side job was a blink-and-miss seven months) doing variations of what I'd done while with the State, but for a better salary (and a better commute and working conditions, but those were secondary considerations). Plus, I was getting to work in other states, which kept things somewhat fresh, and the marketing and management time were a nice change-of-pace. Several years down the road, and now it's flexibility in what I work on, which clients I work with, and how and when I work. Interesting travel. And, still, better pay. Is it sustainable? I don't know, but I'm having a hell of a good time with my job right now - something I stopped feeling after two years with the State.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  13. #13
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner View post
    I took a pay cut and moved to Kentucky for my first PD job. I've been a PD longer that I was a minion.
    I've noticed people may generally stay as a planner with a stable salary for awhile or they move to a "lesser" city for less money with the hopes to move up in the PD or City Manager world.
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    I tried to get a planning job with a BA in Public Policy, but couldn't do it. Being newly married, I went for the first full-time job opportunity I could find, and that was a high school science teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Did that for 2 years, but longed to return to planning. I quit my job as a teacher and went back to grad school to get my MCRP. After two years of school and relative poverty, I got my first planning job in a smallish (pop 50,000) central valley city in California. Loved it, but salary was low and benefits were poor, so I started looking elsewhere. Did a quick 3-week stint with City of LA, but immediately felt pigeonholed, so went back to first job. Continued looking elsewhere, and finally landed at mid-sized suburban city outside of Los Angeles. Been here for almost 6 years now, and am feeling more and more tied to my location. Salary and benefits are great, and have moved up in the organization with more opportunities ahead. In the back of my mind, I fear becoming complacent, but really, I have been blessed with opportunities.

    IMO, the mid-sized city (pop 25,000 to 200,000) is a really good sweet spot for planners who want a broad range of planning assignments. Cities this size usually have departments with 2 to 10 planners, so you get your chance on a variety of stuff.... General Plan updates, Zoning ordinance updates, Design guidelines, Climate Action plans... site plan processing: master plan communities, commercial shopping centers, mixed use, residential subdivisions, you name it. And of course, customer service calls and counter service to break up the day. It feels good to help grandma with her room addition once in awhile. Cities that are too small (or that are geographically built-out) lose out on larger scale projects, like your master plans and 40-acre shopping centers. Cities that are too large may have too many planners, and project management of high-profile assignments go to senior and principal planners.

    I'm biased, but I completely prefer working for a local jurisdiction as a planner. Heavily consider exploring your options.

  15. #15
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    3 years at my first post-degree job. Left when a city wide compensation study would have had me as one of 7 (out of 140 or so) jobs that would have seen a reduction in pay.

    Been at my second (and current) job close to 11 years now.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    I was at my first post-grad school job for 13 months. I've been at my current muni for 3 yrs and 4 months. I was a Senior Planner for 2 yrs 2 mo and then promoted to my current position of Chief Planner. I would like to be here at least 5 years to get vested in the retirement system.

    This current gig is my longest job since high school.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    My first full time planning gig was while I was still in grad school. I started there as an intern, then about a year later moved into the newly-created Planner position. I went from full-time school with part-time job, to part-time school with full-time job. Stayed in that position only a year, but it was 2 years total.

    To be technical, my first post-graduation job was in a suburb of where I am now, and it was horrible. I barely made it a year, and I left before they could ask me to leave. I had my attorney-friend chat with the HR department there after I left, and also deliver some formal documents to my previous bosses. It was really that bad.

    Second job was not in the planning field, because I'd been burned so bad at the afore-mentioned position. I substitute taught, worked retail in the evenings and weekends, and ended up moving 5 hours away to get the next planning position. I only left that position - which I really liked - because my husband got transferred.

    Most of my work has been in the public sector, at the municipal level. I did one stint in the private sector, and while it started out well, I could see the writing on the wall and left before the office closed. I've worked in one small suburb, two medium suburbs, and two very large cities. I like the large cities best, but I can certainly understand the appeal of the medium size cities. I may go back to one after getting vested here.
    "We do not need any other Tutankhamun's tomb with all its treasures. We need context. We need understanding. We need knowledge of historical events to tie them together. We don't know much. Of course we know a lot, but it is context that's missing, not treasures." - Werner Herzog, in Archaeology, March/April 2011

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    By advise, go small jurisdiction for your first PD gig. You'll learn the ropes with a lot less pressure. Mid sized cities/counties are normally pretty good gigs. You can do the boss duties while still braching out into other areas or pet projects. Further, you end up having a smaller staff, which is easier to work with.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  19. #19
    I don't mean this to sound irreverent, nasty, or otherwise anti-social (in other words, please use a grain of salt), but I read these threads and all I see is "blah, blah, blah, blah, 3 years, blah, job out of college, blah blah." Every comment reads the same. Not that no one has anything important to say, but I mean, c'mon. It all comes down to what work you CAN find, and what work you WANT to do. If your current job is not satisfying, look for something else within your circumstances. If you can't find anything, re-evaluate your current situation and try to look at it in a different light. It's a simple matter of abiding until you can't abide anymore. Public, private, 3 years here, one year there, entry level, career thresholds, blah blah blah... whatever. Just find something you enjoy doing, do it, and achieve excellence in it. Everything else is superfluous chit-chat, hand-holding bullshit.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    Fair points, chocolatechip. I have lots of options and I enjoy navel-gazing, thus I've appreciated the posts others have made.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally posted by chupacabra View post
    Fair points, chocolatechip. I have lots of options and I enjoy navel-gazing, thus I've appreciated the posts others have made.
    Understood. And again, I didn't mean to sound antagonistic, just some random 12AM thoughts.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    OK, those who find this boring skip this post but here's my post-graduate school work story.

    Came out of school with a job consulting. Hated it, mostly, although there were some nice things about it. Left after less than a year to work for a regional agency doing some exciting planning work. Took a salary cut for this change but wanted to do something where I had more responsibility. Worked there for 2.5 years, loved it, moved up the ladder. Next move was into municipal planning. Stayed with one city for 6 years, had lots of fun and learned a lot. Moved to a different community for a change and a step up. That's where I am now, 7 years later.

    My advice- don't feel you need to stay too long at one place, but also don't feel you have to leave to move up. I moved up both by leaving and staying put. Especially that first job - if its not a good fit, leave (although I generally would recommend staying 1-2 years at least, not that I did that.) If its a good fit, stay. Its all subjective.

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