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Thread: Where are all the planners?

  1. #1

    Where are all the planners?

    I am puzzled. Tell me why the Boise, Idaho area has a terrible time recruiting professional planners. We offer a decent salary (enough for a planner 2 to buy a house), a high quality of life (especially if you like the outdoors, and there's a ski area nearby), and a healthy respect for planning (at least in the urban areas). We've had abysimal responses to recent job postings, and have just left the positions open indefinitely. I've worked back east where these types of jobs would attract 15-20 resumes.

  2. #2
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Perception of isolation, perhaps? I wonder is places like Spokane, Amarillo, Reno and El Paso have the same problems in recruiting planners.

    I've seen several job postings in recent months that describe the area's quality of life and cost of living.

    In no particular order, outside of the working environment, these are some of the things that I've been looking for in my job search ...

    1) A large population of peers. I'm a young, single professional. Will I be lonely because there's few people like me living there? Is the "redneck factor" high or low?

    2) Affordability. I live in Denver, which has a very high cost of living. I would like my next destination to be more affordable, and I'd also like the opportunity to cash in on the equity I have in my house, rather than move to someplace equally expensive and buy a house that's equally small.

    3) Urbanity. Is there something resembling a nightlife? Some walkable neighborhoods or a moderately active downtown? A college or university?

    4) Quality of the built environment. I don't want to live in an ugly city, even though the place may be in dire need of a planner's services. Are billboards as common as trees? Does Wal*Mart build standard grey boxes there, or has the city been successful in implementing quality design standards? If not, is there significant opposition to such regulation?

    5) Isolation. If the place is geographically isolated, how easy would it be to get a flight to a major city? The parents are back East, and I don't want to drive four or five hours to get to an airport. I've been reluctant to consider jobs in places like Flagstaff and Grand Junction because travel to and from "civilization" is very time-consuming.

    6) Recreation and intellectual stimulation. Would I get bored because there's nothing to do?

    Other people will have different criteria.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
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    I'm wondering if the job description and people's image of Boise are giving them a unfavorable impression of the opportunity and community.

    If you're using the same old job description that too many other places use, you could be giving people the impression this is a "caretaker" planning job. One where the planners are expected to just keep things going like they've always been going and not do something new or different. People's impression, valid or not, of Boise may not help. To be honest, it doesn't strike me as a progressive city on planning issues, but that's just my uninformed impression.

    Are these jobs really "frontier" planning jobs? Are there opportunities to do something new, tackle issues the community's never addressed previously? Is the community seeing new attitudes, new leadership? Is there an opportunity to make a real difference?

    I am the kind of person who would consider a move away from home or more-familiar stomping grounds to take a job with a solid opportunity to "plan something never planned before" on a new frontier, and there are others of us out there as well. Good quality of life and low cost of living might seal the deal. Maybe you just need to change how you post these jobs. Fill in some details about the career opportunities and the QOL and COL.
    JOE ILIFF
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  4. #4
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    I just visited http://www.cityofboise.org/customer_...ment/jobs.asp, the Web page listing all current job openings with the City of Boise. No planning jobs there.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I also visited the City of Boise w-page and did not see an opening for a planning position. I am within my last year of completing a Masters in Planning with my Undergrad in Geography. Out of curiosity what are the qualifying requiremets for a Planner I and a Planner II position with the City of Boise?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Patricia,

    Your query has been answered by the above. The position was not posted where potential applicants would see it. It was not listed on the American Planning Association web page, I do not remember seeing it in their printed version called JobMart, it is not on the Boise web page, and it is not posted on this web service.

    Individuals have their personal job search parameters, as per Dan; employers often have recruitment profiles of the ideal candidates. Joe Iliff had a good point that ads need to sell the area from a professional planners view point. But it is more important to get the word out to potential applicants.

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    A few more random thoughts:

    * Like I said earlier, Boise is relatively isolated. The vast majority of planning agencies will not offer reimbusement for intervew expenses. It's a lot more economical for planners to seek jobs closer to home, or at least someplace that's a cheap airfare away. Boise's not realy close to anything, and a flight there might be cost-prohibitive.

    * Idaho does have something of an image problem. I'll admit, when I think of Idaho, the first thing that pops into my head isn't mountains, skiing, or potatoes. It's neo-Naz1s. Boise doesn't exactly strike me as being cosmopolitan or progressive. The majority of planners out there, including myself, tend to have liberal leanings. I don't want to move to a place where the majority of the population is a bunch of dittoheads that take delight in thumping their Bibles hard. Like Joe said previously, you have to sell both the job and the location, and showcase assets that would offset any shortcomings in the eyes of the applicant -- a generic "will be reviewing development proposals" ad isn't enough.

    A few weeks ago, I remember seeing an ad for an entry-level position for a small Texas city, selling the position, the variety of work, and how marketable your accumulated experience there will be to other employers after you've put your three years in. It seemed like a great way to draw more applicants to a city that really doesn't offer much otherwise.

    * What's the salary? Equity otherwise, is it negotiable? The cost of housing may be low, but few planners want to live from paycheck to paycheck -- we're not martyrs for a cause, committed to living in poverty for the sake of improving the built environment. It's claimed that a Planner II can buy a house, but will it be in a decent neighborhood, or a fixer-upper on the wrong side of the tracks?

    * Is the application process easy? I tend to apply for jobs that just require a cover letter and resume initially. I've had it with spending hours fillng out six page applications or answering essay questions, and then never hearing from the place I applied to.

  8. #8
    Sorry - I was talking about the area. The positions I mentioned are with Ada County, Idaho. We post jobs on the Western Planner mail list, Jobs Available, and sites we can find via Cyburbia.

  9. #9
    BTW the jobs are also posted on the County's web site www.adaweb.net (Go to the Human Resources Department).

  10. #10
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Oh, the county. I do remember seeing ads for Ada County. There are some areas with progressive county government structures--I hope. My experiences with county-only systems has not been favorable.

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