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Thread: Worth it to divert a few years to a non-planning job?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Worth it to divert a few years to a non-planning job?

    So obviously, the job market is still in the tank for planners. I haven't tried as hard as some of you but I'm coming up on 15 applications now (around 10 of which are planning) since last October, and so far, no offers my way. Each time I got through to the interview round, the candidate that ended up being selected usually had more experience and a Masters. I currently only have a BA in geography and planning and for personal reasons, am not really in a good position to go back to grad school just yet.

    On the horizon now, I'm waiting on a few opportunities, two which are non-planning but tangentially related. One is a Transportation Coordinator position for a local school district, and the other is a Policy Coordinator for the downtown business association of a mid-size city. On the off chance I might get an offer for one of those two positions, I'm guessing I can probably negotiate a starting salary somewhere close to the mid-40s, so the pay is not out of line with what starting planners make.

    However, both obviously aren't planning jobs, and won't provide me technical experience I need to grow as a planner. My concern is that if I do get an offer and accept one of these positions, it makes me less marketable as a future planning candidate. If I get the second job, I'm wondering if I should wave goodbye to planning and simply establish a career in policy. I could go back and get a Masters in planning while I'm working, but I'd still have a non-planning work exp "hole" in my resume if I do decide to pursue a planning job in the future.

    Also, I have about 2 years transit planning experience so this is an obvious deviation from what I have already done. I'd consider it a shame if this experience becomes old and stale.

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I think you'll be fine with either of those. They are related to planning and at least will show that you can hold a responsible job. Good luck.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Definitely planning related. I would view both favorably.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian The District's avatar
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    those are both definitely planning related. i think you're in relatively good shape if those are your options.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    You'll be fine. I started out as a transportation policy analyst (for the trucking industry, at that). My degrees aren't even planning-related - engineering and public policy. I'm now a mid-level planner for a county government. Either of those jobs would provide you with valuable experience in areas that relate to planning, even if they're not "planning jobs." Figure out how to spin it to show how that's going to be valuable when you go in for interviews for planning positions. I do find that policy and planning have a great deal of overlap, both related to the political climates and the ability to analyze and make decisions.

    Good luck!

    Sandy

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    Agree with what others said. I would consider both of those potential position as related to planning. A lot of planners/economic development departments work hand-in-hand with the downtown business association as well as school districts.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

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  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Great, thanks for the input, guys. I guess "non-related" wasn't really the right word.. but more non-technical planning-related jobs. It just feels like I'd be taking a step backwards (or maybe sidewards) by going from technical transit planning to the kind of work I mentioned above. But maybe it's not as big a deal as I'm making it out to be.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    applications

    I'm coming off of a similar boat as yours - planning+liberal arts double major undergrad who graduated last May. Thankfully having saved a lot of money on my undergrad tuition, I eventually decided to go to planning grad school in the fall. However, like you, I've also applied to many, many jobs and internships (I think between both of them, it's been almost 50 at this point). But I hear that's pretty normal even outside the planning field. So having gotten interviews at 2 out of 15 I would say is really good! Whichever one of those two you end up doing, it (plus your transportation experience) will be great leverage both experience wise and financially for graduate school some day down the line, or for that more "technical" planning job you desire, or both.

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