Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: Working at a non-profit after a MUP? Suggestions?

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15

    Working at a non-profit after a MUP? Suggestions?

    I have been looking for a planning job for about a year now. I graduated from a very good planning school in 2010. Despite having a great internship at a city redevelopment agency, I have had extreme difficulty even finding planning jobs to which I can apply. Basically, the public agencies are not hiring rookie planning grads, and the private planning firms seem to be looking for highly experienced consultants with 5-10+ years in the field. I want so much to get more experience in planning. I was even offered a position to create and manage a transportation project for a private community development and neighborhood planning business. However, the position was unpaid for a year, until I could carve out my own paid position and wait for the financial returns of a successful project (in this case, a very exciting transportation hub and bike station project, my dream). Unfortunately, I could not accept the position because my payments for $100,000 worth of school loans are going to kick in sometime in July. I already used up my forbearance this year.

    I have been interviewing at educational non-profits to develop math and science programs and curriculum for students in underserved communities. I want to have a chance at learning project management so that someday I can work for a planning firm at a project manager. I want to get some feedback from experienced planners to find out if working for a successful non-profit could ever help me to transition into a paid planning position, when the weather for planning jobs improves. Please offer any advice for working at a non-planning career and later transferring skills to a real planning career. I think non-profits often use collaborative planning strategies to create programs beneficial to neighborhoods and regions. I would appreciate any advice about what specific transferrable skills I can develop until the job market for planning expands.

    I don't know if anybody has experience with GIS on this thread, but I am also planning on getting my certificate from USC in GIS. I've been working on social and disaster preparedness projects with GIS for an internship, but wonder if a GIS certificate would help me to get a planning job in the future.

    Thanks very much!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,802
    Where did you go to school that led you to $100K in debt? Why are you adding more debt by taking on another certificate? How do you plan on paying down the debt while working for a non-for-profit?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15
    I went to UCLA. My debt came from private school loans from undergrad as well as living expense and tuition from UCLA. I also became homeless after not being able to find a job...this led to a couple private loans. The going has been very tough, even while I was working throughout school.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15
    "How will I pay down my debt while working for a non-profit?"

    So far, I see that I have no choice but to work for a non-profit. My experience in teaching aligns best with this career path given that there are no planning jobs available. I am interview for non-profit jobs that are $40k-$50k per year. I am also a test prep tutor. I figure I can afford to pay about $1k per month to stay on top of things and continue living in my room in a shared apartment. Then, I could transition into a planning job when they become availble.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Honolulu, HI
    Posts
    44
    Quote Originally posted by angelinocat View post
    I have been interviewing at educational non-profits to develop math and science programs and curriculum for students in underserved communities. I want to have a chance at learning project management so that someday I can work for a planning firm at a project manager. I want to get some feedback from experienced planners to find out if working for a successful non-profit could ever help me to transition into a paid planning position, when the weather for planning jobs improves. Please offer any advice for working at a non-planning career and later transferring skills to a real planning career. I think non-profits often use collaborative planning strategies to create programs beneficial to neighborhoods and regions.
    When I graduated with Master's options were limited in the job market as well. While attending school, I began working with a "community services planning council" (non-profit) that managed a bunch of collaborative planning efforts in the health/human services arena. Low pay (I didn't have the large debt load), but in my opinion, it was a great opportunity for a recent graduate to take on a great deal of responsibility, get involved in a variety of issues (at the time it was all about "measuring outcomes" of social service programs), meet and work with leaders. Opportunities then came in non-profit program management, philanthropy, research projects (social science). And suddenly, two decades later, I think I am no longer an "Urban Planner" - I've had little to no experience with the typical day-to-day responsibilities and duties of a planner. During a recent "unemployed period" (non-profit work is typically short-term grant funded!), I thought I'd give "Real Planning" a try - and found out that I don't really have the experience and skills that are now sought by employers.

    So, I guess I'd say - If you have your heart set on a particular type of planning work, hang in there with your search, be prepared to move where that type of job is located, and continue to update your skills as you go (once you have a job, you can often do this with help from your employer!). And, if you find the thought of working in the non-profit world to be something you are more interested in ("intangible rewards" of doing good), then give it a try - but be aware that the work can be sporadic - you'll need to be flexible - and pay may not live up to your expectations.

    Having also worked for an eductaional non-profit (among many!), I would say that the development of math/science curricula appears to be a "sustainable" career choice - given all the efforts at "education reform" we are seeing nowadays (forgive my cynicism on this particular point: I've already lived through 3 big education reform initiatives here in Hawaii - my two boys attend public schools - I've served as a member of a School Community Council - and from my perspective our system continues to struggle to provide good education for the majority of students - but there WILL be jobs related to future reform efforts!)

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15
    "How will I afford a certificate?"

    I am applying for a grant to use GIS to help inner city students.

  7. #7
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15
    Quote Originally posted by MCasey View post
    When I graduated with Master's options were limited in the job market as well. While attending school, I began working with a "community services planning council" (non-profit) that managed a bunch of collaborative planning efforts in the health/human services arena. Low pay (I didn't have the large debt load), but in my opinion, it was a great opportunity for a recent graduate to take on a great deal of responsibility, get involved in a variety of issues (at the time it was all about "measuring outcomes" of social service programs), meet and work with leaders. Opportunities then came in non-profit program management, philanthropy, research projects (social science). And suddenly, two decades later, I think I am no longer an "Urban Planner" - I've had little to no experience with the typical day-to-day responsibilities and duties of a planner. During a recent "unemployed period" (non-profit work is typically short-term grant funded!), I thought I'd give "Real Planning" a try - and found out that I don't really have the experience and skills that are now sought by employers.

    So, I guess I'd say - If you have your heart set on a particular type of planning work, hang in there with your search, be prepared to move where that type of job is located, and continue to update your skills as you go (once you have a job, you can often do this with help from your employer!). And, if you find the thought of working in the non-profit world to be something you are more interested in ("intangible rewards" of doing good), then give it a try - but be aware that the work can be sporadic - you'll need to be flexible - and pay may not live up to your expectations.

    Having also worked for an eductaional non-profit (among many!), I would say that the development of math/science curricula appears to be a "sustainable" career choice - given all the efforts at "education reform" we are seeing nowadays (forgive my cynicism on this particular point: I've already lived through 3 big education reform initiatives here in Hawaii - my two boys attend public schools - I've served as a member of a School Community Council - and from my perspective our system continues to struggle to provide good education for the majority of students - but there WILL be jobs related to future reform efforts!)
    Thank you very much for your advice. The opportunities to create innovative and proactive education programs are exciting! I am also interested in starting my own non-profit. Hopefully being an associate at a non-profit could teach me business skills to start my own business. But the appeal of urban planning is still very high. That is why I went to planning school. I was hoping to find out what skills specifically could be transfered to urban planning. Would it be advisable to seek out independent volunteer (client projects) from planning agencies? I could work on a planning project in the evenings and on weekends.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Honolulu, HI
    Posts
    44
    Quote Originally posted by angelinocat View post
    "How will I afford a certificate?"

    I am applying for a grant to use GIS to help inner city students.

    Any opportunities to develop educational programs that are planning-related? Maybe keep a foot in both worlds as you launch your career?

    Here's some thoughts:
    Livable Streets Education
    Academy of Urban Planning (NYC)
    MADE (UK)

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15
    On another note, aren't entry level urban planning jobs very low-paying, as well? I've heard entry level planners earn about 30-40 thousand dollars. I've even heard of some working for $10 an hour or unpaid, even with a master's degree. Many are still volunteering, from what I've heard from my peers. Some had an advantage because they had so much planning experience BEFORE grad school. Now a couple have started their own consulting firms. Unfornately, I don't have that kind of experience, yet, but want to acquire it. This has been a real problem to be solved. Even if my school debt were literally cut in half, I would still need to support myself and pay a normal person's bills. How does one even do that working for free!?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Dec 2006
    Location
    midwest
    Posts
    2,802
    Quote Originally posted by angelinocat View post
    "How will I pay down my debt while working for a non-profit?"

    So far, I see that I have no choice but to work for a non-profit. My experience in teaching aligns best with this career path given that there are no planning jobs available. I am interview for non-profit jobs that are $40k-$50k per year. I am also a test prep tutor. I figure I can afford to pay about $1k per month to stay on top of things and continue living in my room in a shared apartment. Then, I could transition into a planning job when they become availble.
    What is your current interest rate on your student loans? Paying 1K a month for loans on a 50K job on the west coast just doesn't seem feasible unless you live like a monk, and even then I think it's a stretch. Raf, does this look feasible?
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Wherever
    Posts
    1,181
    I know you can get income based repayment plans where your monthly payment is just a fixed percentage of your discretionary income. I just don't know if that can be done with private loans. It might be worth looking into though.

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15
    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    What is your current interest rate on your student loans? Paying 1K a month for loans on a 50K job on the west coast just doesn't seem feasible unless you live like a monk, and even then I think it's a stretch. Raf, does this look feasible?
    Hi, NrSchmid,

    I've already worked out the payments with my loan carrier so I don't need help with that. So, what is your suggestion? Do you have any specific suggestion about what type of job is available for a recent graduate in this economy? I've been looking for a year and haven't found any. As far as living like a monk, you've got me laughing a little. I've been living like a monk for basically my whole life and sacrificing to help other very low income people in bad neighborhoods, so that's really nothing new. Of course, making more than $50k sounds wonderful! Any suggestions about finding a well-paying job?

    Respectfully,

    Angelinocat

    "Live your life. It's your life. It's your life. Take your time. Don't let them bring you down. Your beauty is inside you." - Beautiful People, FAME Album

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2007
    Location
    As far south of SoCal as I Will Go
    Posts
    5,095
    Off-topic:
    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Raf, does this look feasible?
    It is possible especially if you share a room, don't drive, and have very low utilities or don't own car. Other than that, assuming rent will run you around $750 or less per month, a basic cell phone plan, no tv, no internet, you can have some food on the table and live ok...


    A GIS certificate won't do much. Honestly... leave California. We are a mess for a while and for the near future.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  14. #14
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15
    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Off-topic:


    It is possible especially if you share a room, don't drive, and have very low utilities or don't own car. Other than that, assuming rent will run you around $750 or less per month, a basic cell phone plan, no tv, no internet, you can have some food on the table and live ok...


    A GIS certificate won't do much. Honestly... leave California. We are a mess for a while and for the near future.

    I've lived on much less money per year and have always been able to afford Internet, my car, and tv. I guess I'm really talented at budgeting my money and finding great deals. My rent is less than what you quoted, and I get my own room and use of the whole house. My tutoring business is starting to take off, so I don't need so much to worry about extra money for interest. But seriously, back to the original question: what skills may be transferable from a non-profit to planning and even more specifically what types of certificates can I get to keep up my planning skills?

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 2007
    Location
    As far south of SoCal as I Will Go
    Posts
    5,095
    Quote Originally posted by angelinocat View post
    But seriously, back to the original question: what skills may be transferable from a non-profit to planning and even more specifically what types of certificates can I get to keep up my planning skills?
    Did you apply to the Beverly Hills Assistant Planner job back in Jan of this year? have you tried volunteering yet at any local agencies? Have you set up any informal interviews at private firms?

    What the heck do you want to do in planning?
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    15
    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Did you apply to the Beverly Hills Assistant Planner job back in Jan of this year? have you tried volunteering yet at any local agencies? Have you set up any informal interviews at private firms?

    What the heck do you want to do in planning?
    Yes to the latter two questions. Every job seems to have over 200 qualified applicants. I am continuing to apply for interviews/internships at private firms. I am interested in community redevelopment, job creation, filling business vacancies, creating character in business and residential districts. Economic development. When I worked for a redevelopment agency, my work was very diverse, from rewriting historic rehabilitation documents to creating urban design reports and maps to analyzing and replying to DEIRs. The work was fascinating, challenging, and rewarding, and I am open to a wide variety of planning-related jobs. One of my old colleagues mentioned that I would be a good project manager if I could get my foot in the door. I am skilled at data management and data analysis.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2010
    Location
    I'm gettin' there
    Posts
    939
    A lot of people looking for work ask questions like what skills do I need to learn to be a good planner. You can go ahead and try getting certs in GIS and whatever else, but I think the better approach is to reflect and think about what skills you have right now. If you think you're most suited for non-profit work but can't find that job to get your foot in the door, you may have to do some volunteer work and bite the bullet with a retail job in the meantime. Like you said, there are often over 200 applicants going after one job, I wouldn't expect some professional certificate to be all that helpful in getting myself noticed. Networking, meeting people face to face and doing whatever you presently can to get real world experience is really the best thing you can do for yourself.

    Just my 2 cents. I know finding that first job is easier said than done.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Making the move to a non-profit
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 5
    Last post: 17 Apr 2013, 12:50 PM
  2. Non-profit Toronto
    Cities and Places
    Replies: 0
    Last post: 16 Oct 2009, 4:50 PM
  3. Replies: 10
    Last post: 29 Jun 2009, 1:39 PM
  4. Non-profit jobs
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 11
    Last post: 09 Nov 2007, 2:14 PM
  5. Replies: 10
    Last post: 02 Jun 2004, 2:28 AM