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Thread: Quasi-planning jobs in planning firms

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Quasi-planning jobs in planning firms

    So as I'm looking for jobs with graduation fast approaching, I'm finding certain jobs that are professional caliber jobs but not necessarily planning oriented. For instance, a planning firm where I'd love to work is hiring a document production associate who would focus on graphic design, map/visuals production, project document layout, etc.

    My focus area has been urban design/physical planning, and I really enjoy producing infographics, maps, etc. However my real goal is to do planning work.

    Given the economy, does it make sense to apply for a position like the document production associate one in which I'm not doing actual planning work but would at least be within the firm and have the chance to take on a planning position down the road? Those of you who work in the private sector, how strong is the separation between planners and support staff like GIS techs, document production folks, etc? Would you think it realistic for one of those people to step into more of a planning role eventually or would be a step backward for someone graduating with a master's degree (and some experience before grad school) to take on a job like that?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mobiusstrip View post
    So as I'm looking for jobs with graduation fast approaching, I'm finding certain jobs that are professional caliber jobs but not necessarily planning oriented. For instance, a planning firm where I'd love to work is hiring a document production associate who would focus on graphic design, map/visuals production, project document layout, etc.
    What's the only thing that's worse than having a job you don't like? Not having any job! In all seriousness though, if you're about to leave school and you're looking for work, this job your describing sounds like it's something you should definitely pursue. Your chances of getting hired as a planner right now (public or private) are not very good with the current state of the economy. The next best thing you can do is work in a close environment with planners while gaining transferable skills. It might not be ideal, and often times GIS techs and similar types get pigeon-holed, but you have to start somewhere. It's a no-brainer really, go for the job. If you don't like it, there's always the next job.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ9139 View post
    What's the only thing that's worse than having a job you don't like? Not having any job! In all seriousness though, if you're about to leave school and you're looking for work, this job your describing sounds like it's something you should definitely pursue. Your chances of getting hired as a planner right now (public or private) are not very good with the current state of the economy.
    Let me just state that everyone on this board will second this statement.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    That's what I was thinking, thanks for confirming. Document producer reporting for duty!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    It could be a step. Once you get there, show them that you have broader talent and can plan, as well as produce plans.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mobiusstrip View post
    Those of you who work in the private sector, how strong is the separation between planners and support staff like GIS techs, document production folks, etc? Would you think it realistic for one of those people to step into more of a planning role eventually or would be a step backward for someone graduating with a master's degree (and some experience before grad school) to take on a job like that?

    Thanks!
    The separation can be very thin at times. In our firm, we are all required to wear several hats throughout the week. With your background, I wouldn't be surprised at all if you were able to participate on projects in a planning capacity, especially if you volunteer your services during your down time!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by mobiusstrip View post
    So as I'm looking for jobs with graduation fast approaching, I'm finding certain jobs that are professional caliber jobs but not necessarily planning oriented. For instance, a planning firm where I'd love to work is hiring a document production associate who would focus on graphic design, map/visuals production, project document layout, etc.

    My focus area has been urban design/physical planning, and I really enjoy producing infographics, maps, etc. However my real goal is to do planning work.

    Given the economy, does it make sense to apply for a position like the document production associate one in which I'm not doing actual planning work but would at least be within the firm and have the chance to take on a planning position down the road? Those of you who work in the private sector, how strong is the separation between planners and support staff like GIS techs, document production folks, etc? Would you think it realistic for one of those people to step into more of a planning role eventually or would be a step backward for someone graduating with a master's degree (and some experience before grad school) to take on a job like that?

    Thanks!
    Sounds like my first full time planning job in planning consulting. As I mentioned on another thread I don't consider myself a planner in a specialized niche nor a generalist planner (who utilizes a holistic approach in planning disciplines to solve planning problems) but a jack-of-all-trades-planning/not-planning-type-planner. I did everything from document assembly to plan review to AutoCAD to Photoshop to Expert Witness to environmental planning to transportation planning to GIS, etc. I don't define it as one specific "title" or "job description." I taught myself most of the software programs I use, with the exceptions of AutoCAD and Photoshop, which I learned from an LA over 4 years. I just pick tasks up, even if they are really more engineering based, more landscape-architecture based, or research based. It's not so much in the job description but being in the right place at the right time. At my first job I was the only planner in a small firm of LAs and ecologists, so I wore all of that planning hats at the same time.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

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  8. #8
    Production is a critical step in product delivery and you can take those skills with you where ever you go and they will be valued. Your higher challenge, however, will be inserting yourself in the substance of the work somehow and not being entirely relegated to clerical tasks.

  9. #9
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    You will be doing planning work, even if your formal job title doesn't state it. If there's a week when little to no production work is being done, they're not going to just have you sit in the corner....they'll put you to use. Additionally, if there's a week when you're not particularly busy, you should take it upon yourself to go to other departments and say "Anything I can help with?"

    Apply for the job with enthusiasm. Accept the job if offered. Make the job your own!

    Good luck!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    I did everything from document assembly to plan review to AutoCAD to Photoshop to Expert Witness to environmental planning to transportation planning to GIS, etc. I don't define it as one specific "title" or "job description."
    That's how I function now. I do everything from writing grants to GIS work. To quote The Wire: "It's all in the game."

    Picking up any kind of work as a planner right now is a plus. Take that job and run with it. And remember, work ethic makes the biggest impression.

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