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Thread: Success stories for prospective planning students

  1. #1
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    Success stories for prospective planning students

    Other than the updates on graduate school admissions, I find this forum to be overall, very depressing..

    Sure the economy is tough right now and there are not a lot of jobs in planning (nor practically any other field)..

    Sure planning doesn't have the same income starting salary or ceiling that lawyers, doctors, accountants have..

    And maybe most of the planners that come on here are the disgruntled employees who need a place to vent about making the wrong career choice..

    But can we please hear some encouraging stories of planners that are happy in their jobs, see a bright future for planning or thought their graduate school investment paid off in the end!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I second this, I thought this website would be a wonderful resource, but so far all it has given me is a sinking feeling in my stomach.

    I feel that some of the content on this forum goes beyond a reality check (which I am sure I needed), to where it seems like their is no hope at all sometimes

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Anecdotes from Vancouver

    I have an internship at a well-respected planning/LA consultancy, and I'm a senior undergrad student. They have hired about a dozen planners/LAs in the past 3 years who have come straight out of a Masters, and in one case, straight out of a Bachelors degree. By "straight out", I mean getting hired less than a year after graduating. Granted, this company doesn't pay like a public sector job, but it's a very palatable entry point into the field.

    At the same time, know people who are two plus years out of planning school and have yet to land a position. I'm part of a local grassroots organization that addresses public space issues in Vancouver, and its ranks are swollen with young grads who are putting time in so they can maintain networks and put something on their resume while they continue looking for paid work.

    So there are two sides of the coin for you. However, I'm pretty sure that planners in Canada, and BC in particular, have had it pretty good compared to many other areas of North America.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I think people's current attitudes largely reflect the political climate that we're in. Like the current push in most places is to cut back on spending which often runs contrary to what planners want to do. Planning is all about making an investment in the future but the current political climate is not conducive to that idea. Basically I think most planners here don't hate their jobs so much as they are frustrated with the current state of politics.

    I doubt you'll get that rosy of a picture regarding the planning profession here but know there definitely are planners out there who like their jobs overall. Just be aware that politics drives planning for better or worse. And politics does a great deal in shaping your own perceptions of the profession. Ideally you'll be able to work in a location that is more receptive to planning but in this job market, people take what they can get. Like the people I know who are most happy in the profession work in locations that still manage to try to embrace planning despite the poor economy.

  5. #5
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    I find this an interesting thread to read particularly because the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects Urban Planning to be one of the faster growing careers currently available, with employment increasing from anywhere between 14-19 percent between 2008-2018. This has to give us aspiring planners something to look forward to, doesn't it? Or are these projections unrealistic?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by clarsen View post
    I find this an interesting thread to read particularly because the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects Urban Planning to be one of the faster growing careers currently available, with employment increasing from anywhere between 14-19 percent between 2008-2018. This has to give us aspiring planners something to look forward to, doesn't it? Or are these projections unrealistic?
    The Bureau of Labor and Statistics is probably right. But this statistic doesn't take into account where the jobs are located, how much they pay or how much experience they require. Personally, I've seen plenty of planning related jobs open. However, they're in Ohio, a lot of times require a masters (or years of experience), and when they don't they tend not to pay that well (like mid 20s to early 30s).

    Part of the frustration is just the reality check one gets when one graduates. All through school you had plans to be a big shot private planner in new york, but when you graduate you end up doing zoning in rural wyoming. Or you have no job at all cause you "didn't go to X school and spend Y amount of money to work in wyoming." Of course, without this zoning in wyoming job, you'll never have the experience land one of the super sweet high paying big city ones.

    This isn't a planning issue, this happens to most students when they graduate and get into the real world. I'll even admit I think alot of this myself at my current job. I think we see a lot of it here because a lot of the posters are young. There probably aren't many big shot baby boomer private planners who own their own firms hanging out on internet forums.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I just looked at the State of Ohio hiring website for Franklin county, and there are 5 planning related jobs posted. One of them even pays in the mid 40s (about the average single income in this area) and requires just a bachelor's (no experience).

    Careers.ohio.gov

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by plan4place89 View post
    And maybe most of the planners that come on here are the disgruntled employees who need a place to vent about making the wrong career choice..

    But can we please hear some encouraging stories of planners that are happy in their jobs, see a bright future for planning or thought their graduate school investment paid off in the end!
    Granted, I stay out of the student forum 9/10 times because it is the same questions over and over again. I would say most planners here are not disgruntled, but rather share their experiences working in a profession that at times can be very stressful and it is good to know others share similar experiences.

    Are people suppose to sing cumbaya and hug bugs and bunnies? Certainly not. I love my job, and I love planning. Yes I have some great accomplishments for someone not even 10 years out the gate with just a bachelors degree, but what do you want to hear?

    Am suppose to toot my horn when the a comp plan i managed won a smart growth award or a chapter award? Sure I did. I am proud of that accomplishment. I am proud that I got down and dirty at public workshops, I help shape growth for some towns and neighborhoods over the next 20 to 30 years, but really, other Planners have that exact same accomplishment. I am also happy to help customers that come in and ask questions and "thank me" for their time. That makes me happy that I can help them or in an economic development front help a business succeed.

    but...

    It also pisses me off when someone throws bombs like I am just some "fat cat" public employee who enjoys a cushy pay, or the "goberment" shouldn't tell me what I can and cannot do with my land. How about when you overhear someone really just shat over a way a building is designed when you know you helped design that thing? Yea, that can make me really mad.

    Maybe you should spend more time in the FAC?

    Quote Originally posted by clarsen View post
    I find this an interesting thread to read particularly because the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects Urban Planning to be one of the faster growing careers currently available, with employment increasing from anywhere between 14-19 percent between 2008-2018... Or are these projections unrealistic?
    How about was realistic when the BLS was compiled in 2006-2008, but then this thing called a recession happened. Coupled with the whole "backlash" of government and reduction of its size and you will find a completely different outlook on planning in the next BLS due out soon. It is tough to rely on statistics that were collected during one of the most prosperous times that basically was the 2nd "golden age" of planners. I mean come on, during that time, jobs were handed out like coupons.

    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    Planning is all about making an investment in the future but the current political climate is not conducive to that idea. Basically I think most planners here don't hate their jobs so much as they are frustrated with the current state of politics.
    Bingo. You get a piece of candy for the day. Carry on.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    How about was realistic when the BLS was compiled in 2006-2008, but then this thing called a recession happened. Coupled with the whole "backlash" of government and reduction of its size and you will find a completely different outlook on planning in the next BLS due out soon. It is tough to rely on statistics that were collected during one of the most prosperous times that basically was the 2nd "golden age" of planners. I mean come on, during that time, jobs were handed out like coupons.


    http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos057.htm

    This is for 2010-2011. There are plenty of planning jobs, I found 5 this morning in under 5 min. and our state budget is fubar.

    It's more of an issue with Frictional unemployement (if it's truly an issue at all).

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    It also pisses me off when someone throws bombs like I am just some "fat cat" public employee who enjoys a cushy pay, or the "goberment" shouldn't tell me what I can and cannot do with my land. How about when you overhear someone really just shat over a way a building is designed when you know you helped design that thing? Yea, that can make me really mad.
    Also, this isn't really a planning related issue, or even a public employee issue. Any time you deal with the public, expect to hear this at some point in your career. People suck, and remember that about half the population is more stupid than average

  11. #11
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    I was very recently hired for as an entry level planner with only a B.A., so I may have some reality to deal out on this oneÖ

    No, it is not impossible to get a job. But it is VERY difficult. The frustrating part being, even if you do everything one should do when job hunting, you still might not get noticed (due to the flood of applicants). I graduated in May and was coming close to 2 years of interning for dirt pay. In my last internship, I had to make an hour commute and pick up a 2nd job waiting tables just to pay the bills. All together, I was looking at 70+ hour work weeks with no days off, no money, and I had to find the time to apply for entry level planning jobs? This was only a few weeks ago but I honestly donít know how I was able to do this without collapsing,

    The reward? A secure planning position, yes, but in a city over 500 miles away from home where I donít know anyone. Donít get me wrong, it was worth it. The work is already very rewarding and I am more assured every day that planning was a good field for me to get into. However, I had to live out of a hotel for a week, sign a lease before really knowing what I was getting myself into, and (oh yeah) perform under the pressures brought on by a new entry level job.

    The key word here is stress. Not everyone would think a planning job is worth the stress Iíve already put myself through, and I wouldnít blame anyone for holding that opinion. This is a specialty field, and itís no different than chefs putting up with crazy work environments and architects (I have done many an architecture studio btw) putting in absurd hours through the middle of the night to finish projects.

    All you really need is a little luck and a $^*%load of motivationÖ
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by latte thunder View post
    http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos057.htm

    This is for 2010-2011. There are plenty of planning jobs, I found 5 this morning in under 5 min. and our state budget is fubar.

    It's more of an issue with Frictional unemployement (if it's truly an issue at all).

    I understand its the new one. But hey, your a student right? So click on the handbook link, and there lies where the stats came from. An employee survey conduced in 2008.http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2001.htm#projections_data

    Basic rule of statistics. Always look at where your data set comes from and comprised of. In 2008 saw the beginning of the wave of layoffs and the structural shift in planning. If there were plenty of planning jobs, then grads from 2 years ago wouldn't still be looking for jobs. Yes they are out there, but compared with who is in the labor market right now, it is not enough enough supply per the demand.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  13. #13
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I think one thing to bear in mind is that while Planning as a career may be growing, its a very diverse field and doesn't mean that every person in the field currently is guaranteed a position just because they have schooling and experience. The issue of where the jobs are being added and where they are being eliminated is a big factor as well. Yes, people can be mobile and chase a job, but when you have a family, a spouse in school, own a home you can't sell, etc., that's a hard one to finagle on short notice and the competition right now is very stiff. The mid-$40's position that requires a Bachelor's, I would imagine, will not be filled by a college grad fresh out of school, but a seasoned professional who is overqualified and perhaps was laid off from a position where they made more. That's not to be defeatist, but just where I think things are right now with planning.

    In times of recession, Planning tends to reduce zoning-enforcement types of positions because construction slows. They may add long-term planning, transportation planning and economic development (maybe with a planner or maybe with another professional) positions but these will not likely be filled by that person that was laid off as a plan reviewer or zoning code enforcement officer. So, to say that "planning is growing" doesn't mean that people aren't also losing their jobs. There is a fair amount of turmoil in the profession right now as these shifts occur and you are probably seeing some responses from the front lines in this forum.

    All that being said, I really like my (rather unusual) planning job and I wouldn't discourage anyone from becoming a planner. I knew what I was getting into in terms of potential salary and availability of positions when I went back to school in my late 30s and so I have experienced no surprises on that front. Still, I recognize that in my town, the planners are many and the employment opportunities few.

    I think the troubling employment outlook is not unique to the profession, but more a general feeling of anxiety in our society. Also, I agree with the sentiment that this is a place where people can vent a little or speak their mind without fear because we mostly keep our identities clandestine. Take the comments with a grain of salt and don't forget that many of us are unrepentant smarta$$es and the complaints and grumblings are often couched in a healthy dose of hyperbole. On the whole, I find the posters here to be insightful, VERY supportive of one another, and generally hopeful about the future. Which doesn't mean we all agree, but we enjoy disagreeing and do so with a sense of humor.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Congratulations HomerJ9139!

    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ9139 View post
    The reward? A secure planning position, yes, but in a city over 500 miles away from home where I donít know anyone.
    This is exactly the issue, frictional unemployment. It sucks, but the only real way to mitigate it is to live/go to school near a place with jobs (not just the place you want to work).

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    I understand its the new one. But hey, your a student right? So click on the handbook link, and there lies where the stats came from. An employee survey conduced in 2008.http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2001.htm#projections_data

    Basic rule of statistics. Always look at where your data set comes from and comprised of. In 2008 saw the beginning of the wave of layoffs and the structural shift in planning. If there were plenty of planning jobs, then grads from 2 years ago wouldn't still be looking for jobs. Yes they are out there, but compared with who is in the labor market right now, it is not enough enough supply per the demand.
    Are you suggesting that they didn't take the current economic situation into account for this years projections? Cause they say they did. (http://www.bls.gov/emp/nioem/empioan.htm) Also, 2008 was one of the WORST years of the recession. I doubt a survey conducted at the end of that year glossed over that fact. Granted, it hadn't hit the public sector that hard yet, but to be honest it still hasn't.

    For the record, I'm not currently a student. I graduated in 2008 when the labor force was losing half a million jobs a month. Took me 6 months to find a job in the public sector.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    Regardless of the difficulty of finding work in this economic climate... We need good planners, and I encourage current students to embrace the field and to do good once they're out. I think planning as a profession is at a pivotal junction, because of rising energy costs. The general public is beginning to realize that, land use matters. Neighborhoods matter. Transportation matters. Conservation matters. We can't drive 2 hours round-trip to work on 4 bucks per gallon in a vehicle that gets only 18 mpg. Our kids need to learn how to walk to school again. We need good planners that will be responsive to the community's needs, but more so, at times, be advocates for sound principles, because nobody else will. We need good planners who know how to balance priorities, and communicate with stakeholders that many times may have opposing viewpoints. Okay, enough of my soapbox.

    Don't be discouraged just because you may have to fill out more job applications, and may have to work and live somewhere you didn't thought you would. I wish most of us could find work within 6 months from being out of school, but if it takes 1 year, or 2 years... so be it. Keep at it. There are plenty of threads here that provide good advice on job hunting, and how to keep yourself relevant in the planning field, while you job hunt.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    The mid-$40's position that requires a Bachelor's, I would imagine, will not be filled by a college grad fresh out of school, but a seasoned professional who is overqualified and perhaps was laid off from a position where they made more.
    This depends on where you are. Here, the departments of Development, Transportation, Health, and The ohio housing finance agency (who do most of the public sector planning) have not had signifigant layoffs. There aren't hoards of older professionals applying to these jobs. Straight out of undergrad (and I did not have a planning related major) I got an interview for a job I was grossly underqualified for. Something like "Business Development Manager" for an entire region for the state. Basically, I was told that they recognized the name of the small non-profit I interned at, and they interviewed me out or curiosity.

    Honestly, they have to interview a minimum number of candidates so i'd guess they just didn't get that many applicants and had to call someone. Generally, basic positions get a ton of applicants (like 500 for laborer positions) but the positions that require specific skill sets are getting more around 50. I've seen the Department of Transportation constantly repost planner III positions for months.

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    I agree with this thread. I've talked to some kids at my school just this week who were planning majors and found these forums and changed because all they saw was "No jobs" "high unemployment" and 20k a year pay. Not a happy place!

    Latte Thunder! Did you graduate from OSU? I'm going there now. Did your program help you find that internship? I've only been able to find info on interning for masters students.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by CaptainPlanIt View post
    I agree with this thread. I've talked to some kids at my school just this week who were planning majors and found these forums and changed because all they saw was "No jobs" "high unemployment" and 20k a year pay. Not a happy place!

    Latte Thunder! Did you graduate from OSU? I'm going there now. Did your program help you find that internship? I've only been able to find info on interning for masters students.
    I actually did undergrad at CWRU, so I have no first hand experience with OSU. When I was considering their master's program I checked out their career center. The College of Engineering should offer some internship assistance to planning students (including undergrads). Also, the state routinely hires interns. Normally they start posting a lot of internship positions in may-ish, but it wouldn't hurt to check the whole year. The website is Careers.Ohio.gov. You should also check the chamber of commerce, they post internships around Columbus throughout the year. Bill Lafayette at the Chamber does hire some interns himself, but Ive never seen it posted. You've kinda gotta do a informational interview thing.

    Oh! The Columbus historical society is kinda an unorganized mess, but they may take some interns/volunteers too.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally posted by latte thunder View post
    The website is Careers.Ohio.gov. You should also check the chamber of commerce, they post internships around Columbus throughout the year. Bill Lafayette at the Chamber does hire some interns himself, but Ive never seen it posted. You've kinda gotta do a informational interview thing.

    Oh! The Columbus historical society is kinda an unorganized mess, but they may take some interns/volunteers too.
    Thanks for the tips!

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