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Thread: Taking a non-planning job

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    Taking a non-planning job

    So, I've been unemployed for about a year. I've networked, had lots of interviews, done all the right things. I've focused on planning up till this summer when I started to panic. Since then I've also looked at jobs I could do based on past experience, before I went to grad school. Well, lo and behold, I quickly got an interview and an offer from a publishing company doing what I did prior to planning (market research and conference development) and which I didn't love. I still see some good planning jobs coming up, but the competition is strong and some of the jobs pay horribly. I think I need to take this job (it pays well and will be challenging) and look to get back into planning someday.

    Has anyone been in this same position? I've got a Master's and 6 or so years experience. I have AICP and LEED AP qualifications. I feel a bit silly having spent all this time and money. I know for LEED, I can just keep it and not do anything- no fees. AICP will be expensive to keep up, but I don't want to lose the designation. What would you all do- keep paying the APA+AICP fees out of your own pocket each year? I think it'll be around $400. I recall reading that if you let it lapse, after 3 years you must re-test. Not an option! I've banked up two years of CEU credits. Or, maybe AICP doesn't even matter much?

    Holding out for a planning job doesn't seem possible. I've got a mortgage, don't want to relocated, and this experience has been stressful! Thoughts? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    It sounds like you can't afford not to take this job.

    Planning will still be there. Go sit on a local board and/or do some pro bono work to keep your skills up, and get back in when the opportunity presents itself. No potential employer worth a damn will look down on you for doing what you needed to do during tough times.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Take the publishing job, put in a few months and then start looking. If you take a poor-paying planning job down the road you might have to take a part time job (people have done it before). If you really want to do planning, I would keep doing the CEUs and CMs to maintain your credentials. Sorry, but $400 is not that much when it comes to dues, compared to many other professions. Just cough it up, it's your livelihood.

    You have a grace period of up 3 months after December 31st of your 2-year reporting cycle to make up for lost CMs. If you REALLY ignore your AICP (over several years) AICP has a very strict reinstatement policy (http://www.planning.org/aicp/reinstatement.htm). You would have to pay a reinstatement fee and back dues. In other words, AICP will cut you some slack BUT they won't let you off the hook. You could also apply for AICP inactive membership status but since you don't meet the main criteria (parental leave, military leave, health, care leave, or foreign residency) you are classified as "other" which is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. It would be a very hard sell based on you taking a different non-planning job. For more information on AICP Certification Maintenance Exemptions please see http://www.planning.org/cm/exemptions.htm.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Life is too short to do a job you hate...by the same token life gets even shorter if you cannot afford to eat. I think MacheteJAmes is correct. Take the job, sit on a planning commission and keep applying for work. It is always easier to get a job when you have a job. There have been a few media stories about companies that put "unemployed need not apply" in the job ad. See if you can help out with the MA planning assocation annual conference to help further build the network.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Where are you located? Are you in a big metropolitan city?

    If so, there may be other things you can do with the combination of your planning degree, experience, AICP and LEED AP. For example, have you considered putting out a shingle as an LEED EB and/or CI consultant? It may require you to acquire some more technical skills, but there's quite a bit of work in this arena now as new construction has been deferred in favor of rehabilitations and refits as well as improved OM, cities like NY and many others now require things like energy benchmarking, and all sorts of tax credit and incentive schemes are available for the right sustainable retrofits. Finding ways to reduce your client's OMR costs, with respect to everything from energy to water to health liability for issues like air quality etc etc is now a bit of a safe haven in this environment. It's also VERY rewarding work if you think about it... increasing affordability, combating climate change, protecting the environment and supporting regulatory intent.

    In times like this, my opinion is that it's very important to reinvent yourself... repeatedly if necessary.. if you want to do what you really want to do. You don't actually have to have the title of "urban planner" in order to do planning work.

    So far I've been fortunate enough to have survived the recession in the industry, but then again I'm no longer really a planner in the strictest sense of the term. Before the recession, I was an urban designer/planner of a mix of domestic and international projects with a strong background in resource sustainability and sustainable infrastructure strategies, during the recession, I became a sustainability strategy consultant with a strong background in urban planning focused on int'l projects (in a word, I turned my resume inside out without compromising what I wanted to do), and now I'm going back to something in between, but largely for int'l projects... managing to move my career along at each step. Sure, the work I did all along probably amounted to the same thing, but the positioning is very very different.

    I'm not saying that this strategy would've worked for everybody.. it wouldn't have.. but my point is that sometimes it's mostly about the positioning. You can do good work that you enjoy and call yourself a bunch of different things. If you only look for "planning" jobs with a capital "P," you become very hard to sell when new construction and public funding declines. When it does, my view is that one should figure out what services will benefit in such an environment, and position your skills and competencies accordingly... and do this actively and preemptively. When one smells a change coming, adapt again.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 12 Sep 2011 at 10:32 PM.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful responses. I think what I'll do is take the job and stay involved in a few ways. Here in Boston, I've been fairly active with a couple of projects and will look for other ways to connect. My main interests are in transportation and sustainability and there are some opportunities here and there. I'll continue to keep my eyes open, while I work hard at the new job, and keep AICP active.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Greenescapist View post
    Well, lo and behold, I quickly got an interview and an offer from a publishing company doing what I did prior to planning (market research and conference development) and which I didn't love.
    Take it. Things aren't getting better any time soon. You can volunteer or sit on a board or write some e-zine articles if you really must do planning.

    Quote Originally posted by Greenescapist View post
    What would you all do- keep paying the APA+AICP fees out of your own pocket each year? I think it'll be around $400. I recall reading that if you let it lapse, after 3 years you must re-test. Not an option! I've banked up two years of CEU credits. Or, maybe AICP doesn't even matter much?
    Pfffft. No way. Let them go. Save the money and cut your losses. You don't think they are helping, do you? Of course not.

    Go git 'em. Good luck.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    I came in second place at two jobs BEFORE I was certified, and was told that AICP was the determining factor. The interviewers said in both cases that both of us were equal in every other regard, including personal chemistry, so they had to find something to separate us, and that's how AICP played into the decision. I would not be flown in for an out-of-state interview, or even earn my last offer, if I weren't AICP.

    AICP may not necessarily have a huge intrinsic value, but sometimes those credentials are all that stands between you and the other guy. Let's say you decide to take this publishing job, work for several years, let your credentials expire, and decide to take another try at planning when the economy recovers. How would you feel if the only reason you were turned for a planning job was because you were not AICP at the time? Now, you have to deal with the whole mess of applying and studying for the exam again, and the material changes every few years.

    Bottom line, if you plan on returning to planning down the road, I would maintain your planning credentials for the meantime. The dues and CMs pale in comparison to the financial and opportunity costs or re-earning the credentials.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I've been working in retail at night and substituting teaching during the day for about a year. It wasn't a no brainer for me to let my AICP and APA memberships lapse because I don't believe I get much for my money anyhow. As of September 30, 201, I will end 36 years of APA membership and 27 years of AICP membership. No tears being shed here.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    I came in second place at two jobs BEFORE I was certified, and was told that AICP was the determining factor. The interviewers said in both cases that both of us were equal in every other regard, including personal chemistry, so they had to find something to separate us, and that's how AICP played into the decision.
    I've heard this exact situation happen to several people before. If you have two equally qualified applicants, the hiring official will need to find something as a determining factor. It doesn't have to be AICP. It could be another certification or specialized experience. For my last couple CDBG jobs, my brief experience doing right-of-way probably helped me beat out the other candidates. It's all of matter of finding a niche for yourself that is attractive to an employer.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian MD Planner's avatar
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    You can pay the "unemployed" rate for APA/AICP. It helped me when I needed to cut every cost I could. If I remember correctly you actually have to call APA to make it happen. And yes, I realize you will be working, but not in planning and besides; what ELSE has APA really done for you with all the money you've spent over the years? Just sayin'.
    He's a planner, he's a dreamer, he's a sordid little schemer,
    Seems to think that money grows on trees . . .

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Greenescapist's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    I came in second place at two jobs BEFORE I was certified, and was told that AICP was the determining factor. The interviewers said in both cases that both of us were equal in every other regard, including personal chemistry, so they had to find something to separate us, and that's how AICP played into the decision. I would not be flown in for an out-of-state interview, or even earn my last offer, if I weren't AICP.

    AICP may not necessarily have a huge intrinsic value, but sometimes those credentials are all that stands between you and the other guy. Let's say you decide to take this publishing job, work for several years, let your credentials expire, and decide to take another try at planning when the economy recovers. How would you feel if the only reason you were turned for a planning job was because you were not AICP at the time? Now, you have to deal with the whole mess of applying and studying for the exam again, and the material changes every few years.

    Bottom line, if you plan on returning to planning down the road, I would maintain your planning credentials for the meantime. The dues and CMs pale in comparison to the financial and opportunity costs or re-earning the credentials.
    Great points, thank you. I'll probably hang onto it for a few years at least. You're right, it's not that expensive considering the cost of potentially redoing it.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    AICP may not necessarily have a huge intrinsic value, but sometimes those credentials are all that stands between you and the other guy.
    No stamp, no credential like PE, just acknowledging that you're paying a car payment. Nice.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    No stamp, no credential like PE, just acknowledging that you're paying a car payment. Nice.

    Then take it up with AICP. If you want to keep your credentials those are the choices you have to make. You are tying to bend AICP requirements to meet the needs of someone not practicing planning. There is no provision in AICP that requires its members to keep practice planning to maintain credentials (at least for now). Members just need to abide by the Code of Ethics, pay the required dues, and meet the CM credits. If I do all of those, theoretically I could still keep my credentials at age 70 or 80 even if I didn't practice planning for 40-50 years.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    My sense is that AICP functions as it should: it functions to persuade the world (clients and publics) that planners do have a common core of skills and knowledge worth at least recognizing (and that begins its integration into our thick skulls in our PAB-accredited programs), and to serve as a gatekeeper for planners in senior positions.. at the level where we have substantive, responsible contacts with clients and publics.

    In the course of my career, I've worked for two firms in the industry and now I'm about to start at the third. The first made it clear that it expected that I would (if I wanted to be promoted) get the AICP. The second made getting my AICP done a condition of my (continued) employment in a managerial capacity. The third (which I'm going to) probably would not even have tried to recruit me from the second one if I did not have the AICP. Firms and agencies need to be able to tell their clients and their publics that their staff are credentialed at the maximum possible level. Yes, it's a marketing and risk management think, but it is a message they do need to deliver. This is why we'll all eventually have to take these specialist exams AICP is now rolling out too, unfortunately.

    I'm not really saying that the AICP is necessarily useful.. or relevant. It may or may not be depending on what you actually do within planning. I'm saying that something needs to be there because our end-stakeholders - whether clients or publics - demand that there be something there to give them the assurance that the planners who serve them are competent, whether or not that is the case presently (and if it isn't, we need to change the process and the credential so that it is). Some states require licensure, but, for the most part, this is the AICP.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 14 Sep 2011 at 10:28 AM.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    My sense is that AICP functions as it should: ... I'm saying that something needs to be there because our end-stakeholders - whether clients or publics - demand that there be something there to give them the assurance that the planners who serve them are competent, whether or not that is the case presently (and if it isn't, we need to change the process and the credential so that it is). Some states require licensure, but, for the most part, this is the AICP.
    Right. I'm saying IMHO there is a severe overpayment for the privilege of having letters after your name. If all you are going to do is ensure that planners know specialized jargon, why make them pay so much for the crutch?

    Nonetheless, back to the OP and their need to work, I agree with your statement upthread:
    When it does, my view is that one should figure out what services will benefit in such an environment, and position your skills and competencies accordingly... and do this actively and preemptively. When one smells a change coming, adapt again.
    in case the OP decides to get back into planning in 4-5-7 years when it starts to turn around (note my optimism!).

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