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Thread: Impressions of disgruntled planners

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Impressions of disgruntled planners

    This site has some of the most disgruntled people I have ever encountered in the planning profession. Everyone seems to be such a downer when new people ask for career advice. I see a lot of "It's a horrible market out there. You might as well just do something else. Have you considered becoming a roofer? People always need roofs."

    Maybe it's just the threads I read...

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Huck View post
    This site has some of the most disgruntled people I have ever encountered in the planning profession. Everyone seems to be such a downer when new people ask for career advice. I see a lot of "It's a horrible market out there. You might as well just do something else. Have you considered becoming a roofer? People always need roofs."

    Maybe it's just the threads I read...
    We have lots of seasoned planners who do not see the profession as many younger planners do. They like to impart their wisdom loudly. Take all advise with a grain of salt. If you want to see sunshine and roses, then keep your head up and keep on trucking. I think many just want to try and help those who still have stars in their eyes come back down to earth before they get into a profession that isn't what the ivory tower promised.

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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Huck View post
    This site has some of the most disgruntled people I have ever encountered in the planning profession. Everyone seems to be such a downer when new people ask for career advice. I see a lot of "It's a horrible market out there. You might as well just do something else. Have you considered becoming a roofer? People always need roofs."

    Maybe it's just the threads I read...
    Some of it the threads you read. Some of it is that it's a tough market in cartain parts of the Country right now. Some of it is the nature of the job. Some of it is the people this Board attracks. We tend to be the warhorses that have been in the battles. I've been in close to 24 years now and would still go in to planning if I could do all over again.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  4. #4
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I think the disgruntlement (is that a word? I guess it is now) tends to be focused strongly in a handful of threads. The employment prospects in this field are dim by most any measure; colleges continue to crank out planning grads at nearly pre-meltdown levels while the number of planning positions has actually diminished significantly since 2008. It takes a special kind of individual to see this as a 'glass half full' situation. A few extremely resourceful folks will no doubt thrive in such an environment, but to actively encourage folks who are at a stage in their lives where they can more easily change courses to pursue this particular career path while they are already experiencing some doubts is misleading.

    That's my take anyhow.
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Huck View post
    This site has some of the most disgruntled people I have ever encountered in the planning profession. Everyone seems to be such a downer when new people ask for career advice. I see a lot of "It's a horrible market out there. You might as well just do something else. Have you considered becoming a roofer? People always need roofs."

    Maybe it's just the threads I read...
    That's the beauty of Cyburbia. We're real planners working in the real world. We aren't pie-in-the-sky, Ivory tower-types you find on other sites, throughout APA circles and within universities.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    I've worked in communities that really support planning and others that do not want anything to change and therefore dislike the notion of planning in every sense. Even in the supportive communities there are issues that go opposite of what teh planner feels it should. No matter how much good planning works, politics come into play.

    We as planners tend to be visionairies. We tend to be able to think 20 years in the future and can relate what steps need to be taken to implelement that vision. Unfortunaltly, the majority of the population cannot think long-term. They need or have to focus on the here and now.

    When we were talking about sidewalk plans along a mjor corridor, several people said it was a waste of money because you would have unconnected patched of concrete, which is true in the short-term. However in the matter of 10 ro 15 years, the entire corridor (12 miles long) would finally be connected with safe pedestrian access. The bad thing was, they could not think in that perspective.

    IMO this mentality has been more in keeping with the way we live. Microwaves ovens cook meals in a minute or two, Burger Doodle gives you an instant burger (hold the mayo) and you don't even have to get out of your car, I want it / expect it now...instantly, poof...there it is.

    Politics have changed too and after 28 years, frustration statrts to build up. HOWEVER I will say I've had some wonderful experiences too and have be able to witness the successful implementation of a planning projects in my tenure. Just understand when you come out of college and get your first planning jig that you won't change the world (or get a Macy's ).
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Huck View post
    This site has some of the most disgruntled people I have ever encountered in the planning profession. Everyone seems to be such a downer when new people ask for career advice. I see a lot of "It's a horrible market out there. You might as well just do something else. Have you considered becoming a roofer? People always need roofs."

    Maybe it's just the threads I read...
    There are certain individuals speaking louder than others, and complain about the issues they have dealt with. They are, however, just a vocal minority. That said, this place seems to be a place where we can have an honest talk about our work. Sometimes people just need to vent; every job has its moments. I have also seem discussions about exciting planning issues that may crop up around the country. It's a complete blend, and I think offers a more realistic view of the profession.

    Now, we have to agree that the planning job market is horrible out there. The new career advice seems to help direct younger students, and some of the students have the impression that they can graduate and waltz into a full-time job. That just isn't the case. If they are prepared to work hard at an internship (which may not be paid in the public/non-profit sector) for awhile, then they might find something worthwhile. Many of my peers have already given up, and I know plenty of interns in neighboring communities who have been working on part-time internships upwards of two years. It's discouraging. And being an intern can be frustrating as well; I'm working on development projects, but I have to split my time between two places. Luckily I've been working on projects I enjoy, so the reward should be worth it. But most younger professionals have already cut their losses. It's the delayed transition from school to "real life" that makes someone evaluate their priorities. I think that's why certain posters respond with some negativity. It's not gloom and doom, but it is less than ideal at the moment. Many professional jobs are dealing with similar types of issues; it's the nature of the economic climate.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  8. #8
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Planning is small profession with a broad focus that the economic downturn has not been kind to. We have to stick together and stick to what we do best to get through. This site is one of the few that allows for such personal interaction, so sometimes its venting and realism that comes out. We are not one of those glossy blog sites where it tends to be more academically focused than real world. The reality is, unless you are in a large metropolitan area that is growing, your opportunities for advancement are often elsewhere...which for many people can be a negative.
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  9. #9
    I agree with the posts above and would add also, that the lingering uncertainty of a second great recession -- with the Euro threatening to go *poof* and draconian Republican economic plans, among many others -- leave a lot of us veterans with even greater concern about the future, and our own places in the profession, let alone those just beginning to seek their place in the profession. That's not meant as negativism: it's the stark reality we face.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Everywhere?

    I realize I am new to this board and the profession, but I have to wonder if the Grim job prospectes are really so bad everywhere or if there are still pockets of good job prospects, perhaps in the states that suffered the least from the downturn or cities that have already rebounded. I know that on the whole, the are pretty grim, but has anyone seen areas where things aren't so bad?
    As for how planners treated/respected, I have to imagine that it varies starkly from community to community, just like any other profession in any other industry.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    There are certainly areas of the country where planning is doing better than others. That doesn't change the fact there was still a huge net loss of planning jobs and people are moving to take any that they can get.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    There are certainly areas of the country where planning is doing better than others. That doesn't change the fact there was still a huge net loss of planning jobs and people are moving to take any that they can get.
    I'm sure that's true, I just never hear about it in my area. Frankly, I started reading cyburbia because it is a so much more balanced presepective on planning. I never hear about how hard it is to get a job in planning from professor's or the planners I have met, but I think this is more of a function of where I live and professors either not wanting to scare people off or just begin ignorant as to the conditions. When I onced asked a professor about the poetential difficulty finding a job, he said "well in some ways cities need planners even more during a recession." HA! That's great but who's gonna pay for them.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by jhenry View post
    I realize I am new to this board and the profession, but I have to wonder if the Grim job prospectes are really so bad everywhere or if there are still pockets of good job prospects, perhaps in the states that suffered the least from the downturn or cities that have already rebounded. I know that on the whole, the are pretty grim, but has anyone seen areas where things aren't so bad?
    I would say that is the case. I've seen numerous announcements throughout Texas and mass layoffs in Florida. I'm unfamiliar how the local job markets are in other parts of the country, but I would venture to say that some areas are recovering faster than others in the planning job market.

    There are certainly areas of the country where planning is doing better than others. That doesn't change the fact there was still a huge net loss of planning jobs and people are moving to take any that they can get.
    There have been several MSPs that I went to school with in Florida that are moving out west recently. People are moving wherever they can find employment.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian
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    Admittedly some recent grads will have a much easier time finding jobs than the field as a whole. Some schools have strong connections within their states / communities so their graduates have an inherent advantage when it comes to getting jobs, especially if the local economy is stronger.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian GISgal's avatar
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    Any career is what you make of it. Urban Planning is a broad spectrum field and graduates are lucky in the diversity of roles that they can play -- public policy analysis, research, geographic information systems, public administration, economic development, affordable housing, historic preservation, etc. Those are just a few of the types of jobs grads can look into. I search as a "public service" to my friends in Wisconsin jobs ads weekly. Anything I find I post along to the WIAPA website. I find things regularly. I don't know if this always the case in other states, but in Wisconsin there are opportunities to be had.
    “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” - Thomas Edison

  16. #16
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    As others have said, many of us have been working in the field for a long time. In all but the most rosy situations, you are going to have some serious disgruntlement and this (cyburbia) can be a great place to vent with others who share the frustrations. At the same time, most of us enjoy what we do. Planning in local government is both frustrating and rewarding. It seems academia and APA downplays or is just not that aware of how political and ethically challenged many local governmemnts can be and how difficult and frustrating that can be for professional planners.
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  17. #17
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I've had the term "planner" in my job title, working in these mud-filled trenches, since 1986. If I was disgruntled, I would have left the profession long ago.
    I don't do anything right.

  18. #18
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    That's the beauty of Cyburbia. We're real planners working in the real world. We aren't pie-in-the-sky, Ivory tower-types you find on other sites, throughout APA circles and within universities.
    yes as nrschmidt said - we're the worn out couch at the APA conference - actually we're the couch in the hallway outside the sessions or possibly the bar down the street from the conference

    people need to vent - it's not an easy job to convince people about walkability, conserving land, investing in cultural anchors when your residents are out of work themselves or if the chief elected officials have a quorum of radical tea party types - so many of us vent here

    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    I've had the term "planner" in my job title, working in these mud-filled trenches, since 1986. If I was disgruntled, I would have left the profession long ago.
    yes, me too, though I considered leaving over this past year before I found my current position...

  19. #19
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Richmond Jake View post
    I've had the term "planner" in my job title, working in these mud-filled trenches, since 1986. If I was disgruntled, I would have left the profession long ago.
    Quote Originally posted by luckless pedestrian View post
    yes, me too, though I considered leaving over this past year before I found my current position...
    To be clearer: I've been, and still get, irritated and frustrated at times, but not disgruntled. I think there's a distinction.
    I don't do anything right.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    impressions of disgruntled planners

    It occured to me that what this thread is missing is actual impressions of disgruntled planners. I suppose it would be something like this:

    "The Board just tabled my housing element revisions because Mr. Smith said it would cost him money if he could only get 12 units to the acre instead of the current 16 units to the acre but I worked so hard on this stupid element and I even had a charrete where Mr. Smith never mentioned that he was opposed to the change! And who does the board think they are telling me I should have used a semicolon instead of a comma on page 6 of the supporting EIS!! That's it I've had it with this stupid community they don't know how awesome of a planner I am. I didn't go to the regional university to learn how to punctuate! To heck with proper punctuation and community vision!! To heck I said!!"
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  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    I'm a disgruntled planner. I've complained long enough and have moved on. I don't view myself as a planner anymore, I market myself as A,B, and C because other industries have an IMMEDIATE need to HIRE.. A,B, and C, They don't know planning and they don't care. That's the reality.
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  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    That's the beauty of Cyburbia. We're real planners working in the real world. We aren't pie-in-the-sky, Ivory tower-types you find on other sites, throughout APA circles and within universities.
    I'm one of the "disgruntled". Not because I'm not employed (tiny market, husband big cheese here in planning, etc). Have been in MPA with ridiculous profs (couldn't hold a planning job) and worked hideous hours, and the newbies seem to have no clue how awful that can be... even if the payoff is way fun and satisfactory... sometimes. Some planner jobs can overtake your life. Many planners don't work those hours. In my case, it's disturbing that I did, for many years, and others don't seem to believe it. I don't even think RJ can believe how many hours I worked, because he never has. And that was just "reactive" issues; not the newbies wish to change the world.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    I will admit to being disgruntled about this field much of the time, and when the disgruntlement becomes too much to bear alone, I come here to commiserate. I've been coming to this site since I was in graduate school, so we're talking 6-7 years. This place really was my lifeline for my first couple of years in the field and I'm still here visiting on a daily basis.

    My disgruntlement with the profession stems from a couple of things, but here are some reasons why:

    - Long hours (13 hour day today, between work plus a night meeting)

    - Mediocre pay relative to the educational investment required (left my home state of Massachusetts for this field because planning pay in that state is pathetic)

    - Little to no room for advancement without relocation (did it once for this job, but I refuse to go through that kind of life disruption again for this field)

    - No prestige/recognition for the field by the public ('urban what?' 'event planning?' 'isn't that an oxymoron?')

    - The current antigovernment/antiplanning zeitgeist here in the US (example - had a property owner scream at me 'I pay your salary!' last year when he wasn't happy about being sent before ZBA to make a hardship argument)

    - Fishbowl work environment that doesn't end when you're off the clock (example - had to move out of the town where I plan due to constant hassling by board members/overzealous residents/etc when going out for dinner, grocery shopping, and other daily errands)

    I FULLY realize that even with the above being true, I am actually one of the lucky ones out there, and that there are other fields that are suffering as bad or moreso than we are. I really do admire and respect my fellow planners and would be a nerd about planning stuff even if I didn't work in the profession. Perhaps that's the route I should have gone - starting a personal blog on planning as a hobby or something like that, rather than making a full time gig out of a field that takes and takes but doesn't always give in return.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MacheteJames View post
    - The current antigovernment/antiplanning zeitgeist here in the US (example - had a property owner scream at me 'I pay your salary!' last year when he wasn't happy about being sent before ZBA to make a hardship argument)
    I find that comment very interesting and I agree, but also want to highlight that there are some places (like the City I live in) where Planning is also viewed as an awesome activity where people get to come together to create a better place. But then again, I am lucky enough to live in City that invests quite a bit of money and effort into public meetings, workshops, and visioning sessions and our planning director never assumes that she knows what is best for the City without actually engaging those who live, work, and play in our City.

    No, I don't work for my City, but I am teamed up with a great architect at another firm to do an area specific plan for a 3 block stretch of a near downtown area. Ironically, there are several of these plans that have been done by a number of private firms. Perhaps it is because there is a different frame of mind in that City and there are so many young professionals in planning and similar industries that are engaged in helping to make the City a better place to live.

    Overall, I do agree with your comment and I think part of it comes from the massive WHOOPS, of urban renewal. Frankly as an industry, I think we screwed up BIG, but I also think that much of our profession as learned from past mistakes and now have a new focus which includes both new development and historic preservation with increased density. Recent numbers show that in places, we have been successful in this idea as urban core areas of cities are being repopulated not just with one demographic group, but a wide range of people, families, occupations, ethic and social backgrounds, and income levels.

    I personally think in 20 years, the urban core areas of older cities will be amazing places to live and work and the envy of everyone.
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  25. #25
    I work in housing and community development grants and enjoy the work. I've always had an interest in planning and development since my high school days and I have not been disillusioned (not yet anyway).

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