Over the past few months several cyburbians complain that some of us are just too pessimistic about the planning profession and that we are spooking current students or prospective students. I usually try to stay on the optimistic side, more so than others (who shall remain nameless). But I am not going to deny what these planners are saying. It is very very bleak out there, and it has been very bleak for quite sometime.
On one hand we complain that there are way too many planners looking for too few jobs, and that has been a trend long before this current mess set in. On the other hand, we encourage more and more students and entry-level planners to just wait around hope for the best. We tell them that any experience is better than nothing at all, even if it means working a 40 hour unpaid internship, traversing over 2-3 counties for a dead end municipal job, and living cheaply.
It is one thing to pay one's dues,but to me that means HAVING a PAYING job, even if it doesn't pay great, to get my foot in the door. Well, students and entry-level planners don't even have much of that anymore. Mid-level planners like me are competing for managerial positions against more senior planners, all the way up the food chain. I am grateful I was able to land so many internships, which today would be near impossible. But if I came out of school even in 2007, 2008 I don't think I would have the patience to brave it out.
Planning is dead. It has been dead for years, and will continue to shrivel up for some years to come. We are heavily, if not entirely dependent, on some form of government assistance. The exception might be for developers, but no one is building at a scale or rate large enough to keep some of us gainfully employed. Congress can't even agree to make which cuts in the federal budget. Has planning EVER been at the top of our priorities? Never.
Bottom line, if some of us offer a bleak picture of the planning profession, even if it means directing people to other professions, I think we need to respect that (and possibly encourage it). We are trying to increase awareness and respect for our profession, although it is seriously damaged, in ways paralleling our uncontrolled growth over this past decade. We don't HAVE to be bigger and better. I think it is our responsibility to offer a realistic picture of our current profession, even if it grows bleaker by the day.