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Thread: If you had a second chance...

  1. #1
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    If you had a second chance...

    I've noticed that a lot of the career and education advice here can be... pessimistic. With many comments saying something to the effect of 'run, run away as fast as you can! You won't be able to afford a bicycle to ride to your night job at Burger King!'

    This got me thinking, if you had a second chance (assuming you are unemployed or at least unhappy with your current profession, or even happy but willing to throw in your $0.02) what alternate degrees or careers would you seek?

    I'm interested in trying to build a Master's degree that would make me competitive in the planning field (internships and networking, I know), and also open up the possibility of branching out into other fields (economics, non-profit management, Burger King management, etc.) if I find the planning field as cold, emotionless, and desolate of employment as some of you chipper folks make it out to be.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I'm not sure I can give specific advice since I think what folks end up liking depends a lot on aptitude, talent, personality type, risk tolerance ... it sounds as if you are trying to design a grad experience that will lead you in the direction you want. I wish I had been aware of the kinds of career advice that I am encountering now through reading etc. (not sure I can afford a "life coach"! ) I wish I had known more about the ins and outs of planning and what types of planning would suit me. I wish I had known that sustainability, food systems planning, bicycle planning would have gone from fringe ideas to mainstream in a decade. I wish when I was younger I had been a bit more willing to take risks. I too remember doing a job shadow as an undergrad and my 'mentor' warning me off from planning. But the alternative he offered (being a doctor) wasn't quite up my alley. So here I am ...

    I always had an aptitude for teaching (my very first job actually), providing assistance and (now that I have some to give) offering expertise. I also find it harder to compromise my values, or rather, to shut up when my boss tells me to, even though I feel valuable information and professional analysis is missing from a process. So my goal is to transition into either a technical assistance position, consulting (one of the good guys though ...) or non-profit or project management in an area related to urban planning - such as downtown revitalization, main street, food systems, etc. I'd also like to farm part-time, but that's beside the point. I also wish I wasn't on this forum in the evening while I'm on vacation!

  3. #3
    If I could go back and do it again, I would have stayed the course on engineering. That's what I originally wanted to go to school for, but I was daunted by all the math and the extra time it would take, and decided planning instead. I know engineering has been impacted by the bad economy, but not near as bad as planning, and over time, after a moderate amount of time in the profession, I like to think it would have allowed me to work for myself.

    (That's one of the things I don't like about planning: even with a long and storied career, chances are very slim that you'd be able to work out of a home office for yourself. I've seen plenty of people do this, but about 80% of them are retired professionals with 20+ years of experience as city managers/directors/etc., and not entirely reliant on their part time income.)

    In any case, if I could go back and do it again, my top priority would be to acquire skills that would support me working for myself, from home. Or at least something that would get me out of the fracking office a few days a week.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Probably something in health care, energy, finance, or accounting. I would also consider advertising, media/social media, promotions, so probably something completely different than planning. I've gone pretty far with just a college degree, and I might end up going back to school in as soon as a year or two in a completely different path.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I'd probably go into webdesign/ server, networking/ IT type stuff. The web and computer networking are only going to grow, especially with each new generation growing up with computers and smart devices. Besides, with webdesign I can still tap my inner creativity!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    optometry - it pays well; people call you "doctor"; you help people and it seems like a fairly low stress occupation (no one calls you up at two in the morning for an emergency eye exam). No night meetings. No weekend work. What is the worst part of your day - a patient who could use a breath mint?
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    become a lobbyist for the tobbaco industry
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    I would do something completely unrelated. I would have get my degree in kinesiology/exercise science with the intent of becoming a collegiate or personal strength and conditioning coach. Maybe eventually I'd open my own gym and help the general public get in shape along with helping kids get stronger and better at sports. I'd probably want to live somewhere warm and near a beach in doing this.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  9. #9
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    @docwatson, I'm interested in food systems and urban/suburban agriculture as well. Ever consider trying to teach planning/government courses at a community college? I've thought about trying out teaching once I get some years of experience under my belt. I don't think I'll ever be able to afford retirement, and teaching would be preferable to Walmart.

    @chocolatechip, yes working at home WOULD be nice. Although, I occasionally work for home for my internship and find that the family has trouble computing "I can't, I'm working."

    @smallwine, I'm doing a lot of 'web design' during my internship and haven't found it very creative so far. I used to do webdesign years and years ago and when designing sites from the ground up (as opposed to tweaking, updating and maintaining as I'm doing now) there is an opportunity to be very creative but the medium can be pretty limiting given the desires of most clients.

    @otterpop, sounds good, you probably wouldn't have the patient non-compliance issues that bother so many other medical professions. My girlfriend decided to get braces a year ago and I'm amazed at her doctor; he strolls in every day at 10:30 (they always stick her with a 10:00AM appointment, because if you don't schedule two months in advance it's the only slot left) and leaves at 4. And he only works 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday). He walks in, looks at her mouth, grabs his chin and shakes his head in approval, then he goes to his office and the technician does the adjustments. $150 bucks a visit.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    Ooooh, good question!

    I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I don't think planning is a bad field, but it can be pretty easy to get burnt out pretty quickly for a slew of reasons I'm sure you've seen. I'm only 8 years in and looking around for something different.

    I think I'd like teaching, at the college level. I loved my TA duties when I was in grad school, and had two classes that were mostly my own.

    Optometry doesn't sound too bad either.

    I think I'd also enjoy travel. I'm an organizer by nature, and love seeing new places and explaining history, culture, art, nature to other people. Cruise director?

    In that line, maybe event planning? Does that sound too 'pink'?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    @docwatson, I'm interested in food systems and urban/suburban agriculture as well. Ever consider trying to teach planning/government courses at a community college?
    I think its a good idea - it's been on my to do list for a few years. With a master's in govt. and background as a TA, I would have the qualifications to teach at a comm college level. Plus, studies show that the public at large scores 4-5 points higher than local elected officials on tests of American govt. and civics, so I might have a brighter audience! (sadly, I'm not making this up ... ) I always imagined myself teaching a course of motivated young people and maybe doing community-related work thru a college. While I wouldn't be suited to most college professorships (I'm not inclined to academic research and paper-writing) I know there are a handful of community outreach programs at various universities, tying students to real-world projects, and this would be up my alley.

    I don't think I'd want to do community college full-time, however; and if you teach part-time just about anywhere, it has to be for love of teaching b/c at $1,500 a class you'd probably make a better hourly wage at Wal-Mart! I guess I'd love to teach one class a semester and get my students out in the community, or teach a non-credit course to the interested public to help them understand planning issues. I would bet if you could fill up a course you'd have some leeway in designing one.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    I have a Bachelor and Masters in Geography (concentration in Planning) and I'm the Supvervisor of a Planning Dept in a mid-size city.

    If I had a second chance...... I wouldn't do a thing different. I love what I do and can't imagine doing anything different. Keep in mind that I'm a "fixer" by nature and borderline ADD, so this job is perfect for me.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    I don't think I could do any one thing for 25 to 30 years. I'm on career number 2, as a planner, and that has lasted 5 more years than career number 1, so I guess it hasn't been so bad. Being a multi-disciplinary field, I sometimes have to just make the most of what's handed to me. Regardless, if I had a second, or third chance, I would love to do something in music or film production, operate a restaurant, or be a dentist.

  14. #14
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Own and operate an auto salvage yard. And I would be only person that runs the crusher.

    Or own and operate a demolition company.

    Either way I would get to smash stuff.
    Last edited by mendelman; 15 Mar 2011 at 1:35 PM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    PR/marketing, IT, or web design. Maybe finance/accounting.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  16. #16
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    Own and operate an auto salvage yard. And I would be only person that runs the crusher.
    I keep trying to talk our highway guys into letting me take a spin on the backhoes or bulldozers, but they mumble back something about insurance or liability or something like that......

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ThePinkPlanner View post
    I keep trying to talk our highway guys into letting me take a spin on the backhoes or bulldozers, but they mumble back something about insurance or liability or something like that......
    I got to operate all types of heavy equipment in the Army. Bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, front-end loaders, etc. etc. I do have to say it was pretty fun most of the time.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  18. #18
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rygor View post
    I got to operate all types of heavy equipment in the Army. Bulldozers, cranes, forklifts, front-end loaders, etc. etc. I do have to say it was pretty fun most of the time.
    Maybe the next branch of my career should be to open an adult playground for people like us- full of big trucks and the country's largest sandbox Oooh, and wrecking balls too!

  19. #19
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Sometimes I look back at it and say I should have staying in the Marine Corps and gone the officer route. The main reason I didn't stick around is because the options of where to be stationed stateside are relatively limited and not always in the most interesting areas.

    If I were back in undergrad I would have kept my accounting major and gone on to get my CPA. Accounting is very versatile and I enjoy number crunching and monotony so I would be well suited for it. Even now, I always say that if I get laid off, I would immediately be going to one of the universities and signing up for the few remaining accounting and finance classes I would need in order to be able to sit for the CPA exam.

    My wife is an accountant and when she had to first put in her hours in public accounting a few years back I was amazed by how quickly into her job search she was getting not just interviews but offers as well for positions with very good salaries. Fast forward two years... within a matter of weeks after she left her firm to stay home with our daughter for a few years, she began getting solicitations from other firms and from clients she had audited who wanted her to come work for them full-time. Mind you, she has about 7 years of experience in treasury/cash management for a large energy corporation prior to going into accounting and getting her CPA but I was absolutely amazed at the caliber of job opportunities she was being offered and the speed at which they were coming in especially since this is Southeast Michigan, a region not known for a particularly robust economy over the past decade.

    Crib notes: My short answer is accounting.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Fat Cat's avatar
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    Fat Cat

    Since being out of work for a period of time, I have given this a lot of thought and I would have continued on to law school.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    I would have opted for a marine biology / oceanography duo with a focus on physics and macrobiology. Not so much because I think it is the most interesting subject in the world, but because it sounds cool and I could swim with sea creatures all day and earn a living doing it.

    On a slightly more serious note. Planning is cool too, I'm just not found of sitting in front of computers all day and the job requires a lot more interaction with robots than this mermaid cares to endure in her lifetime.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    I would not go back to the job I had before I attended Grad School -
    a hotel worker in a ski resort town.
    Before that I had job that paid good but it was in west Texas BFE & just a bit dangerous - oil rigs.
    So I don't really know.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    I've always thought being a firefighter would be a really cool job, too. You get 24 hours on where you aren't necessarily fighting fires all the time and then two days off. The work is exciting when you get to do it, and you know you are doing a public service. People look up to you and women find you sexy. Plus you get to use all kinds of cool gear like giant hoses, giant ladders, axes, gas masks, and the fire trucks themselves. Great cameraderie with the people you work with. The pay is not bad, either. Not a bad gig at all if you can get it.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Thirty years ago, facing burn-out as a middle-school teacher, I read an article about "great careers for women" in Family Circle or a similar magazine that talked about jobs in data processing. Computer programming sounded like something right up my alley since I liked to solve puzzles, so I took a course at the University of Buffalo's night school. I didn't even know know what computer programming really was. The first time I got results (on 11x17 greenbar paper!) from a program I copied out of my textbook, I was hooked, and never looked back.

    Next year will mark my 25th year as a professional programmer, and I'll be eligible for Social Security. However, I don't plan on retiring because I love my job. I may even continue to work part-time after I retire -- unless I'm too busy being an eccentric old lady farmer!

    My Dad worked in a factory to make money all his working life and he hated every minute of it because he really wanted to be a farmer full time. That example spurred me to find a career I could love forever. Teaching wasn't it. Programming was.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Rygor View post
    I've always thought being a firefighter would be a really cool job, too. You get 24 hours on where you aren't necessarily fighting fires all the time and then two days off. The work is exciting when you get to do it, and you know you are doing a public service. People look up to you and women find you sexy. Plus you get to use all kinds of cool gear like giant hoses, giant ladders, axes, gas masks, and the fire trucks themselves. Great cameraderie with the people you work with. The pay is not bad, either. Not a bad gig at all if you can get it.
    One of my two little brothers is a firefighter. I'm sure he would agree with everything you said in precisely the manner you said it, especially the part about women finding you sexy.

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