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Thread: Jobs in California

  1. #1
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Jobs in California

    I started to look for a new gig about a year ago but it started out casually. In the last 4 months I've taken it up a few notches.

    It seems to me that most jobs that I'm qualified for are in bigger metro areas - and a lot (maybe half) of those happen to be in California.
    What I find a little strange/frustrating is how often employers insist that you have a CA drivers license and experience with CEQA. I say strange
    because, well, if you have a driver's license in any state you can transfer it and if you have experience writing EIS/EIR and you can read you can
    figure out CEQA. I get that if you're not familiar with the laws of a particular state it's going to count as points against you but I've been reading some of the
    announcements to say, "if you don't have any experience with CEQA don't even bother applying" but in the meantime I have experience with CAFRA
    and Pinelands Review in NJ which are, in different ways, more stringent than CEQA. Is this just their way of limiting the pool of applicants?

    Has anyone from outside of CA ever landed a job there that wasn't entry level?

    I'm sure others are in the same boat with how frustrating this whole thing is. I feel like I'm at a serious disadvantage because I don't have a master's (even though I have 5 years experience) so If I don't find something by November I'm doubling down on going back to school in January. But I feel like when I'm sending resumes out for a job in Austin or Chicago I don't stand a chance against someone who already lives there and when I'm sending them out for some tiny town in Colorado or Ohio maybe there's less competition but more of a "this big city guy isn't going to last 3 months here."

    I sent out a resume for a gig in NC not even two weeks ago. Two days after I sent it I got a postcard in the mail saying "thanks." Then today I got a letter saying "no thanks". The job was exactly what I did at my last gig. I wasn't really expecting to get the job but I was expecting at least a call back. I've read the horror stories where 1000 people are applying for the same job but just how many out-of-work planners are actually out there?
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  2. #2
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    That's just how it is out here in California, holmes.

    I'm a recent Public Admin grad with five years of transportation engineering/planning experience. One of those years was a professional-level planning position with a firm while I wrapped up my degree.

    It's tough out here, even for jobs that are - like you mentioned - identical to what I've done in the past. Some of the jobs out here ARE the jobs that see 500+ applicants, and it's crazy. The mediocre nine month job I got the rejection email for today received 350 applicants.

    I had to take a really REALLY mediocre job that's at least in the field, but man, it sucks. I've had some luck in a few places. But otherwise, it's lots of rejection letters.


    As far as CEQA, yes it's stringent, and sure you can easily learn it. BUT, it's one of the most heavily litigated laws in the country, and my assumption is that agencies and companies just plain don't want to deal with teaching law or dealing with any minor screw-ups that could turn nasty quickly. The experience, IMO, goes a long way.

  3. #3
    Being a CEQA planner is all about avoiding potential litigation, so it's a pretty big deal. It also has a very wide umbrella of authority and a lot of moving parts that are updated through the courts constantly. So CEQA, in a sense, is everything. How to assess climate change impacts, for example, has only just now been more or less fleshed out so that planners can actually perform meaningful analysis (even then, it's debatable).

    As far as drivers license, I'm pretty sure no one cares two shits about it--just boilerplate.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Bigger state, bigger pool of applicants more regs. That about sums it up. You could break yourself in if you get with a niche private firm and ave some design talents, but other than that good luck with no CEQA experience. In this stage of the game there are too many applicants out there that are "out of the box" ready with CEQA experience that are available than those out of staters that need to be shown the ropes. However, if you do deiced to do a masters in planning, and want to practice out here, just do your master's here at one of our fine institutions and intern here. Our last two interns both of out of State have landed jobs here, so it happens.

    Even though i have been at my job for over 2 and half years now, i beat out an applicant pool of over 150. Our recent building tech had an applicant pool of 500. The City of Beverly Hills which one of our previous interns landed for a full time limited their applicant pool to the 1st 200. The application pool closed in less than 2 days. I applied to a job in Santa Monica in 2009, applicant pool of 600 and landed an interview.

    Too little jobs, too many out of work planners. Welcome to the new normal.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian terraplnr's avatar
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    Are you also looking for (or interested in) private sector work? There are firms in CA that do CEQA and NEPA review, where you don’t have to have CEQA experience right off the bat as long as you have NEPA or similar environmental review experience. Even if you didn’t want to write CEQA/NEPA documents forever, it could get you that CEQA experience that you could use to get a public sector job down the road.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    I started to look for a new gig about a year ago but it started out casually. In the last 4 months I've taken it up a few notches.

    It seems to me that most jobs that I'm qualified for are in bigger metro areas - and a lot (maybe half) of those happen to be in California.
    What I find a little strange/frustrating is how often employers insist that you have a CA drivers license and experience with CEQA. I say strange because, well, if you have a driver's license in any state you can transfer it and if you have experience writing EIS/EIR and you can read you can figure out CEQA. I get that if you're not familiar with the laws of a particular state it's going to count as points against you but I've been reading some of the announcements to say, "if you don't have any experience with CEQA don't even bother applying" but in the meantime I have experience with CAFRA and Pinelands Review in NJ which are, in different ways, more stringent than CEQA. Is this just their way of limiting the pool of applicants?

    Has anyone from outside of CA ever landed a job there that wasn't entry level?
    Different states have different environmental regulations. Some are easier, and some are harder. CEQA is not impossible to comprehend, but as CC said, it's important to know in order to limit litigation. Most can assume that entry level planners will still need some advice and support as they learn CEQA. However, most agencies typically do not want to have to teach CEQA to higher level planners, especially with the applicant pool they can pull from. There is just too much risk with doing so. An out-of-state associate or senior level planner is at a far greater disadvantage compared to an out-of-state entry-level planner. Nothing is impossible though, but I know my supervisors will use CEQA experience (or lack thereof) as a disqualifying factor.

    Private sector niche work, or grad school could be your in (if you're deadset in moving to California).

    In regards to your driver's license question: it is my understanding that you need to be able to get one if you get the job, but that you're not required to have it when you submit your application.

    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    I'm sure others are in the same boat with how frustrating this whole thing is. I feel like I'm at a serious disadvantage because I don't have a master's (even though I have 5 years experience) so If I don't find something by November I'm doubling down on going back to school in January. But I feel like when I'm sending resumes out for a job in Austin or Chicago I don't stand a chance against someone who already lives there and when I'm sending them out for some tiny town in Colorado or Ohio maybe there's less competition but more of a "this big city guy isn't going to last 3 months here."

    I sent out a resume for a gig in NC not even two weeks ago. Two days after I sent it I got a postcard in the mail saying "thanks." Then today I got a letter saying "no thanks". The job was exactly what I did at my last gig. I wasn't really expecting to get the job but I was expecting at least a call back. I've read the horror stories where 1000 people are applying for the same job but just how many out-of-work planners are actually out there?
    Your scenario is the new normal for gov't planning jobs. I just heard about a planner with 5-ish years of experience take a planning tech position because it was all he had. Beverly Hills recently opened up another assistant planner position, and they limited it again to 200 (like they did when Raf's intern applied). It was closed almost immediately. (Maybe this was the scenario Raf was referring to, rather than when his intern applied).
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Thanks for the advice on CEQA everybody.

    I'm not stuck on getting to CA. Just stuck on getting a better job. It's just that it seems like a good portion of the jobs out there that I'm qualified for
    are in CA so it helps to know if I'm wasting my time.

    The legal environment is a constantly moving target everywhere. I've worked in NJ and PA and in NJ alone, just off the top of my head, Mt. Laurel, Highlands, Pinelands and CAFRA are constantly litigated - Mt. Laurel (in one form or another) alone has been in the courts for 35 years and has had an enormous impact on housing. It's a little depressing to realize that you can get regionally typecast.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Regionally typecast? You have no relevant experience in California OR CEQA, period. What pasts muster in the states you have worked works in those states, so stop comparing your experience as comparable to what is done on the coast. I have worked on planning projects in 5 states (IL, IN, KS, TX, and WI) and each one is done slightly differently. Each time I start at the bottom of the totem pole and teach myself very quickly IN MY FREE TIME exactly how planning is done in different parts of the country. Get with the program, figure out CEQA, market your RELEVANT skills, and learn some humility.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Regionally typecast? You have no relevant experience in California OR CEQA, period. What pasts muster in the states you have worked works in those states, so stop comparing your experience as comparable to what is done on the coast. I have worked on planning projects in 5 states (IL, IN, KS, TX, and WI) and each one is done slightly differently. Each time I start at the bottom of the totem pole and teach myself very quickly IN MY FREE TIME exactly how planning is done in different parts of the country. Get with the program, figure out CEQA, market your RELEVANT skills, and learn some humility.
    You should consider taking your own advice.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    Pinelands and CAFRA are constantly litigated - Mt. Laurel (in one form or another) alone has been in the courts for 35 years and has had an enormous impact on housing.
    This statement alone shows you have little knowledge of CEQA. The serious of laws aren't litigated (to an extent), but rather, on a project by project basis, those opposing a project in one shape or another utilize CEQA as a vehicle to stop projects. It is up to planners within this state to navigate controversial projects along side attorneys to avoid or render projects that will undoubtedly end up in court, ensure that the court will find the lawsuit frivolous under the guise of CEQA and pass a writ throwing out said lawsuit. This can only be accomplished with steadfast following of the ever changing CEQA laws and interpretations that seem to change every other year or so.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Brocktoon View post
    You should consider taking your own advice.
    Note token. I am far from perfect myself.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  12. #12
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Raf View post
    This statement alone shows you have little knowledge of CEQA. The serious of laws aren't litigated (to an extent), but rather, on a project by project basis, those opposing a project in one shape or another utilize CEQA as a vehicle to stop projects. It is up to planners within this state to navigate controversial projects along side attorneys to avoid or render projects that will undoubtedly end up in court, ensure that the court will find the lawsuit frivolous under the guise of CEQA and pass a writ throwing out said lawsuit. This can only be accomplished with steadfast following of the ever changing CEQA laws and interpretations that seem to change every other year or so.
    I'm guessing you meant "the series of laws" (?) and yes, Pinelands, Mt. Laurel, CAFRA, etc, are litigated constantly on a project-by-project basis but they're also litigated in state (and sometimes federal courts) by special interest groups (NAACP, Sierra Club, Surfrider, the Development lobby, etc) looking to exploit any opportunity to overturn or protect the law each time some new scenario that falls under the law comes into play. Then there are also the state legislatures that continue to affect the law by introducing other, sometimes conflicting, sometimes overlapping legislation. Just like CEQA there are exemptions and any developer that is going to bring a non-exempt project to review is going to be lawyered up and if he doesn't get his permits you can bet that he's going to court and if he does get his permits you can bet that the municipality/homeowners association/environmental group is going to sue to stop the project. And being an exempt project doesn't mean that someone isn't going to sue anyway. The only thing you can build in the Pinelands (for example) and hope stay out of court is if you're putting an addition on your own house on land that isn't forested and maybe if your brother wants to build his house on part of your land but only if that land has been in your family since before 1979. BTW - precedents set under Mt. Laurel have had a direct impact on CA law and legislation (Associated Home Builders of the Greater East Bay, Inc. v. City of Livermore) with the CA Supreme Court directly quoting the NJ Supreme Court in its decision. Out of that came CA legislation to deal with the state Supreme Court ruling.

    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Regionally typecast? You have no relevant experience in California OR CEQA, period. What pasts muster in the states you have worked works in those states, so stop comparing your experience as comparable to what is done on the coast. I have worked on planning projects in 5 states (IL, IN, KS, TX, and WI) and each one is done slightly differently. Each time I start at the bottom of the totem pole and teach myself very quickly IN MY FREE TIME exactly how planning is done in different parts of the country. Get with the program, figure out CEQA, market your RELEVANT skills, and learn some humility.
    This job market is humbling enough to anyone who is trying to stay in the game. As i said, I don't think i deserve nor do I especially want a job in California. It's just that a lot of them are there and if the chances are slim to none I'd prefer not to waste my time. As you mentioned yourself, each state is slightly different, and each time you teach yourself quickly. It should be quick for anyone with a degree and experience in the field (which is pretty much what I said in the OP) . . . and FWIW, I have already studied up on CEQA but studying does not = experience - and that goes back to the point in my OP . . . how many out of work planners are out there and at what point do i cut my losses and not even look at any job listing that has "CEQA" in it.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  13. #13
    I don't think anyone should look to California for planning work simply because the state does a lot of planning. Yes, there are planning jobs in California, but there's also a huge portion of the planners for the entire country in this state as well, and a lot of them are out of work. The openings in California are probably the most competitive in the nation, for this reason. Forget learning enough CEQA to pass at an interview. Your time, in my opinion, could be much better served looking for jobs elsewhere, where, instead of 300+ applicants, you will be competing with a few dozen.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Just a little update to an old thread . . . in case anyone else out there is in a similar position/point in their career.

    I gave up and moved to Australia. I'm doing my masters here. Work is pretty solid in VIC and NSW so I hope to start
    back to work in January. There are a decent number of part-time jobs (that pay well) geared towards grad students so it's looking
    positive.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

  15. #15
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    Just a little update to an old thread . . . in case anyone else out there is in a similar position/point in their career.

    I gave up and moved to Australia. I'm doing my masters here. Work is pretty solid in VIC and NSW so I hope to start
    back to work in January. There are a decent number of part-time jobs (that pay well) geared towards grad students so it's looking
    positive.
    Wow...that's quite a jump...good luck with grad school and getting back into planning.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

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

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