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Thread: Supervisory experienced required

  1. #1
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Supervisory experienced required

    I'm fairly deep into my career having been in public planning since 2000. Despite my tenure of more than a decade, I've worked at employers who have structures which did not provide opportunities for supervisory experience at the planner/senior planner level. Sure, I've been team lead on a routine basis (internal review groups, active/implementing boards, and for consultants) and responsible for having others complete their work, however that's the extent of my experience. My past reviews are always exceptional and I am trusted to get things done so competency isn't an issue.

    I have no doubt that my project management experience and scope of planning experience more than qualifies me for higher level positions. I just can't seem to find a way to portray my experiences to fit the required 1-3 years of supervisory experience nearly all the jobs I'm suitable for ask for. I can't sideways transition again. My resume is already title stagnant despite increasing responsibilities with the same title.

    Those graduating are suffering from an inability to find jobs. Those who built their career through the 2000s may be finding that the hiring/promotion freezes and position trimming has stalled their professional growth. I'm frustrated, I need more and new challenges and a sideways move won't provide that.

    Anyone have advice on how to get over this hurdle in this competitive economy?
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    I say really play up your people managing skills and experience from your extensive project based supervision, especially if there was ever any personality or performance issues that you had to resolve in your role. That could help show that you have the skills and experience despite not being the person that was the "real" Boss.

    How else do people make these types of moves, anyhow?
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Sorry to say I have no sage advice. I really just wanted to say that I find myself in a similar position (which you stated very well). I am preparing to apply for a job for which I am very likely to get an interview, but at which I expect to be asked this same question. Like you, I have served in a leadership or supervisory capacity for specific projects but not really as part of my full-time position (where I would have people under me that I direct). Most of the work environments I have been in over the last 7-10 years essentially had a Director and then everyone else who were all at the same level of responsibility. There really wasn’t anyone to supervise.

    I feel lucky that I am likely to have an audience with the hiring committee and can say these things or phrase it all in a way that may be more convincing. But on so many job applications, you just have to say how many years of experience you have and there is not opportunity to explain your situation or argue your case.

    I have to say I have this opinion that part of why this is the case is that (and I am making assumptions about Boiker’s age here) we are in the generation following the Baby Boomers. Because there are so many of them, they currently occupy many of the leadership/supervisory roles in the places I have worked. Given their age and positions, they are really just sitting tight until retirement (if they retire) and so there is this backlog of younger folks waiting to move into these positions, but steadily growing older and unable to gain that experience (and access the salaries that accompany them). I’m not trying to bash the BBs here – what else are they supposed to do? – but living in this shadow has been a big part of my working life.

    10 years ago I worked at a place where the Director told me that if I stayed, I would be an excellent candidate to step in as Director when he retired. He’s still there and is close to 60. He recently told me that he will definitely work until 65 if not later. I would be so depressed if I still worked there. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting…

    Anyone else in this situation?
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  4. #4
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post

    Anyone else in this situation?
    Many, many of us are. Six years in the field here and still stuck at a Planner I level position, but with Planner II or III level responsibilities. Cannot get my title changed due to budgetary restraints, but the work piles on regardless. I've managed multiple projects on my own with minimal involvement from the Director, who has been in her position for a few years longer than I have. Public sector tenures are often overly long IMO, and folks are holding on to their positions long after they've gone stale and should be gone.

    For those that are in this position - do you have a department clerk or and interns that you have worked with on projects? In my case I have, and I would not hesitate to claim the projects in which I've worked with them and instructed them on completion of tasks as supervisory experience.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    Anyone else in this situation?
    Yep, there right now. Very flat heirarchy. We collaborate a lot, there are sometimes part timers I get to supervise, but they are also working for others. I am just glad I like my job and geography (home) as I don't stay here and expect to run the place anytime soon. My pay suggests I am a planning coordinator/low level manager but my title is simply planner.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Could you get some supervisory experience outside of the jog, somewhere in the community perhaps? A volunteer organization might work as well.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    10 years ago I worked at a place where the Director told me that if I stayed, I would be an excellent candidate to step in as Director when he retired. He’s still there and is close to 60. He recently told me that he will definitely work until 65 if not later. I would be so depressed if I still worked there. Waiting. And waiting. And waiting…

    Anyone else in this situation?
    My boss has been interim planning direction for like 7 years... They hired a new PD after the previous one retired but he took off after 6 months due to his direct supervisor trying micromanage the entire department. So my boss has been interim director ever since then despite wanting the PD job. The reason for the vacancy is political but supposedly they're finally going to start looking for someone to fill it in the next few months.

  8. #8
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I think on your resume you would stress on how the management of projects with groups of people is the management style of the future in the hiring of millennials - turn it around to show how awesomely progressive you are!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Fake it till you make it comes to mind. Have you ever been responsible for a secretary, intern, or part timer? If so then definitively count those years as supervisory experience.
    @GigCityPlanner

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    Fake it till you make it comes to mind. Have you ever been responsible for a secretary, intern, or part timer? If so then definitively count those years as supervisory experience.
    I'd second that idea.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Sometimes I think it's just the luck of the draw and if there is an opening for advancement. Two weeks ago, I started a new job as a mid-level planner in an engineering firm. I do almost exclusively urban design/physical land use planning/subdivision design, so I get to design to my hearts content My new boss, who runs the land department, wants to move up in the company himself. Over the past 2-3 years there were massive layoffs in the company and only now have they started rehiring. In my case, I applied for a position that was advertised but was recently filled, my digital portfolio created this additional position oddly enough. My supervisor is planning on handing over more projects for me to manage over time to lessen his workload. However, I have to prove my worth first. I'm very grateful and humbled that I have a job let alone something I love to do AND with a potential for more supervisory work down the road. Again, I think I'm very very lucky and I will agree that there are plenty of other companies and agencies that still don't have openings higher up as people are trying to hold on to whatever jobs they have. Play up your management experience in any way you can even if it is through volunteer work BUT I still think the economy has a long way to go before openings appear at more companies.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    Hit the nail on the head

    Ditto, ditto, ditto. boiker, thanks for starting this thread, it's been a question weighing on my mind as well. I'm in the same situation as all you guys that posted above, must be the Gen X curse! Because as wahday said, I do feel that the people above us in the ranks are sitting tight and delaying their retirement due to financial uncertainty. Or they may plan on working till 67 anyway.

    I have been looking around for move-up opportunities as well and feel constantly tripped up by the "1-3 years supervisory experience" requirement. I did supervise a small department in my very first job, but that was years ago, and it wasn't a municipality. I will definitely try to play up the "Project Lead" experience, mangement of consultants and such. But I have seen jobs where there are supplemental questions and one of the questions to test your 'supervisory experience' is "How many direct reports do you have?", which makes no room for your "I managed entire teams of consultants and internal staff to complete multi-million dollar projects from start to finish!" self-made supervisor argument. I have a dismal feeling that the HR people are going to use that supplemental questionaire to separate the applicants into the "Worth a Second Look" and "Recycle Bin" piles.

    One thing that I'm also trying to do is take as many leadership courses as possible. If you find classes that are related to supervisory roles, such as "Fostering Diversity", "Performance Management", "Conflict Resolution", "Strategic Thinking" and the like, jump on them and add them to your résumé. Even a class on business writing that teaches you how to edit documents for a better publication, you can argue that's skill a supervisor should have to guide those reporting to you. Having taken these courses may not carry much weight overall, but if they are available to you, why not?Can't hurt too much, can it?

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Tide View post
    Fake it till you make it comes to mind. Have you ever been responsible for a secretary, intern, or part timer? If so then definitively count those years as supervisory experience.
    That might get you into the interview, because you were able to check the box. However, if I interviewed someone for a supervisory planning position and I found out during the interview that you supervised the admin staff of an intern...I don't know how happy I would be.

    If you're serious about it, then I say go look for opportunities to showcase your leadership. Or, look to an organization that has more room for uprward mobility. (easier said than done, I know.)

  14. #14
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Sometimes I think it's just the luck of the draw and if there is an opening for advancement. Two weeks ago, I started a new job as a mid-level planner in an engineering firm. I do almost exclusively urban design/physical land use planning/subdivision design, so I get to design to my hearts content My new boss, who runs the land department, wants to move up in the company himself. Over the past 2-3 years there were massive layoffs in the company and only now have they started rehiring. In my case, I applied for a position that was advertised but was recently filled, my digital portfolio created this additional position oddly enough. My supervisor is planning on handing over more projects for me to manage over time to lessen his workload. However, I have to prove my worth first. I'm very grateful and humbled that I have a job let alone something I love to do AND with a potential for more supervisory work down the road. Again, I think I'm very very lucky and I will agree that there are plenty of other companies and agencies that still don't have openings higher up as people are trying to hold on to whatever jobs they have. Play up your management experience in any way you can even if it is through volunteer work BUT I still think the economy has a long way to go before openings appear at more companies.
    Back on the planning scene? Congrats. I thought you'd been looking to make an exit out of the profession. Hope everything works out this time.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday
    we are in the generation following the Baby Boomers.
    Nailed it. I do have some early x-er's in my department who've made up the ranks, but us born in the mid-late 70s are hitting a giant wall. The economy and subsequent reorganizations really flattened organizations in the name of efficiency and it is stifling professional growth.

    Quote Originally posted by Huck View post
    However, if I interviewed someone for a supervisory planning position and I found out during the interview that you supervised the admin staff of an intern...I don't know how happy I would be.
    Isn't that supervisory? What if it was team lead experience on complex interdepartmental projects/teams? That's the problem. I can lead, I can mentor, I can assign work and get results, I can be a cohort and a team member. I understand when I need to adopt a different role.
    I can't qualify that this "supervisory" experience is a daily part of my job. I don't have anyone assigned under me and I don't have the authority to exercise other supervisory functions such as departmental budgeting, performance reviews, hiring/firing.

    It's frustrating because those "real" management skills are being reserved for top-level management. There is no real middle-management or low-management in today's small planning divisions.

    On another note: I saw a job positing that required 5 years experience and 2 years of supervisory experience. The ad continued on to say that a MASTERS DEGREE was acceptable substitution for 2 years supervisory experience. I don't understand how they could suggest this.

    Edit: One more thing. My employer does offer an "aspiring supervisors program" which I am pursuing. Any little bit will help.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Sorry this one's a little long. I've wrestled with all of this for a while now, so I have some thoughts...Plus my birthday's coming up - always good fro some life reflection and crisis of identity...

    Getting your Foot in the Door
    Personally, in the context of both the current economy and what seems to be a pretty flat hierarchy in many of our jobs (Director and everyone else), I feel ok about doing what I can to at least get an audience/interview (within reason, I am not advocating lying!). At least then I can explain my situation, the nature of the workplaces I have been in, and how answering that question was challenging. If they still don’t like me, that’s fine. It wasn’t a good fit. But I do think there is a difference between someone who has not had supervisory experience because their employers did not think them worthy and not having it because there was no one to supervise.

    Process of Dlimination
    There is another layer to all of this that may not come into play for many jobs, but is a factor in some. For a while I had applied to a number of jobs with the federal government and at some point made contact with a friend of my wife’s who had similarly relentlessly applied for years and then finally got in. What he revealed about the process was very interesting. For these jobs you are usually filling out an online application and there is no room for narrative explanation for many of these questions. Beyond that, the people doing the initial reviews to match qualifications with requirements ARE NOT PROFESSIONALS IN THAT FIELD. They are professional admin people and they review apps for every field the government hires in. Planner speak or explanations of what you have done and how it applies or anything like that means nothing to them as its not anything they necessarily know about. So they approve or eliminate just like a computer. Did you say you have enough years experience? Great. You didn’t but elsewhere explained why you are still a great candidate? I don’t really care, you are going in the rejection pile.

    That was all very eye opening and made me think that, within reason, for many of these jobs there is merit to the idea of just doing what you need to in order to get an audience with them. You hear stories like this all the time in days of yore. “That kid had real moxy” they say – he managed to weasel his way into JP Morgan’s office and he got the job! Or similar.

    Experience v. Potential
    Lastly, I wanted to just express what I would like to say to a lot of potential employers regarding hiring someone who can already to a job from day one versus investing in someone who can grow into the position. With the economy being what it is now, there is a real temptation for employers to hire people whose skills exceed the work to be done. The implication is they’ll do a bang-up job. But experience is only part of the equation. Will that employee be challenged by the work? Will they feel frustrated? Will they burn out quickly? Will they be willing to become an integrated member of the team if they feel the work is beneath them? By contrast, hiring someone who has demonstrated ability but may lack some experience is more likely (I would think) to stick around longer because it IS challenging, they ARE learning, and this makes them feel more engaged with the work and invested in the workplace. Just my two cents….

    <insert ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me”> and…slow fade out…
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  17. #17
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    Sorry this one's a little long. I've wrestled with all of this for a while now, so I have some thoughts...Plus my birthday's coming up - always good fro some life reflection and crisis of identity...

    Getting your Foot in the Door
    Personally, in the context of both the current economy and what seems to be a pretty flat hierarchy in many of our jobs (Director and everyone else), I feel ok about doing what I can to at least get an audience/interview (within reason, I am not advocating lying!). At least then I can explain my situation, the nature of the workplaces I have been in, and how answering that question was challenging. If they still don’t like me, that’s fine. It wasn’t a good fit. But I do think there is a difference between someone who has not had supervisory experience because their employers did not think them worthy and not having it because there was no one to supervise.

    Process of Dlimination
    There is another layer to all of this that may not come into play for many jobs, but is a factor in some. For a while I had applied to a number of jobs with the federal government and at some point made contact with a friend of my wife’s who had similarly relentlessly applied for years and then finally got in. What he revealed about the process was very interesting. For these jobs you are usually filling out an online application and there is no room for narrative explanation for many of these questions. Beyond that, the people doing the initial reviews to match qualifications with requirements ARE NOT PROFESSIONALS IN THAT FIELD. They are professional admin people and they review apps for every field the government hires in. Planner speak or explanations of what you have done and how it applies or anything like that means nothing to them as its not anything they necessarily know about. So they approve or eliminate just like a computer. Did you say you have enough years experience? Great. You didn’t but elsewhere explained why you are still a great candidate? I don’t really care, you are going in the rejection pile.

    That was all very eye opening and made me think that, within reason, for many of these jobs there is merit to the idea of just doing what you need to in order to get an audience with them. You hear stories like this all the time in days of yore. “That kid had real moxy” they say – he managed to weasel his way into JP Morgan’s office and he got the job! Or similar.

    Experience v. Potential
    Lastly, I wanted to just express what I would like to say to a lot of potential employers regarding hiring someone who can already to a job from day one versus investing in someone who can grow into the position. With the economy being what it is now, there is a real temptation for employers to hire people whose skills exceed the work to be done. The implication is they’ll do a bang-up job. But experience is only part of the equation. Will that employee be challenged by the work? Will they feel frustrated? Will they burn out quickly? Will they be willing to become an integrated member of the team if they feel the work is beneath them? By contrast, hiring someone who has demonstrated ability but may lack some experience is more likely (I would think) to stick around longer because it IS challenging, they ARE learning, and this makes them feel more engaged with the work and invested in the workplace. Just my two cents….

    <insert ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me”> and…slow fade out…
    A+ would read again.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  18. #18
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Suggest Zucker Systems' Complete Management Course for Planning Directors (now a webinar format): http://www.zuckersystems.com/complete.html

    Attended one a few years back, and found it to be very valuable as I made my way from a mid level position (which I was in at the time I took the course) to my current department head position.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    To add to what has already has been said just apply for the position. I turned down a an ED director postion a few years back for personal reasons but I had 7 months of supervising an admin but my skills, experience, personality and management philosphy allowed me to beat out more "seasoned" applicants. As long as you have an aswer of 1-3 years of supervisory experience through managing teams, projects, consultants etc then check the box...get the interview and wow them with that Boikercharm that is legendary in Arizona. Best of luck.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

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