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Thread: Parlaying a planning career into something else?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian developmentguru's avatar
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    Parlaying a planning career into something else?

    Over the years I've appreciated the depth and breadth of experience present in this forum, and I'm curious about any advice that anyone can offer.

    I find myself increasingly frustrated with the expectations/directives of my position and I have realized it is beyond time to make a change. While a complete change has some appeal to me, the practical part of me would like to parlay my planning career into something more development-related that allows me to re-purpose the skills I've acquired into something more satisfying. My favorite positions have been those in which I've been tasked with improving processes, coordinating review teams, and acting as the point of contact between all of the development-related groups (i.e., Engineering, Fire Prevention, Permitting, Utility Companies, Public Works, and of course, Planning) and the development community (i.e., builders, architects, engineers, realtors).

    My experience has ranged from serving as an entry-level planner to coordinating plan reviews, from chairing plat committees to performing site analyses, from managing a Planning division to directing an entire Community Development department, and acting as the Administrator/"quality control" for a department - implementing performance and customer service measures and streamlining processes. I have my AICP & CNU-A, though neither seems to mean much in the environment I currently am involved in, but I'll maintain them anyhow. I've worked closely with consultants over the years, and while the obvious choice is to move into the consulting world, I'm not sure that would be altogether satisfying for me at this time in my life. Any ideas for further examination are much appreciated - especially from folks who know how it is!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Consulting in planning generally falls into two categories. Either you do development review for several small towns, or you work on comprehensive, special area, and other plans. The first is just more of what you do not seem to be enjoying, while for the second, consulting firms are usually looking to hire somebody with a significant portfolio in related work, which it sounds like you do not have. Based on the work you do enjoy, have you given any thought about moving into local government administration?
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    There's a chance you could get into something like a "Manager of Entitlements" with a development firm or homebuilder. They will usually look for someone with private sector development experience, but if you network with the right people, who knows? It might be worth a shot.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Here's my experience, take it for what it's worth.

    I looked into parlaying my experience into a new career a few years ago during a very dark time in my life. In 2010, I used my experience and my fully paid off master degree to become an officer candidate (09S) for the Kentucky National Guard. Unfortunately, my knee betrayed me and I aged out when the army lowered its max age while I was healing.

    In 2014, while still in Kentucky, I got my real estate license and gave that a go. I loved the lifestyle, but I never made a sale and in fact, got screwed a couple times.

    As a result of those experiences, here's what I have to say about switching careers:

    1. To do anything meaningful will mean some sort of training. Becoming an engineer, architect, or heck, interior designer, these things take degrees, and that can be very cost prohibitive, not to mention time consuming.
    2. If you do switch, remember that you will be starting over at your new career. I was making good coin as a planner and had responsibility, but that didn't matter to the army (I was E-4 because of my degree) or the real estate industry. Look at what you made at the beginning of your career and ask yourself if you can live on that.
    3. Switching careers is DEFINITELY easier if you have a support of some kind. If ex-Mrs. Me had had a good job with benefits, I could have afforded to stay in the real estate business longer and maybe make a deal or two.
    The cookies are worth the drive

  5. #5
    Cyburbian developmentguru's avatar
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    I greatly appreciate the time you all took to weigh in, you've provided some excellent "food for thought" and I appreciate it!
    "In our profession, a plan that everyone dislikes for different reasons is a success. A plan everyone dislikes for the same reason is a failure. And a plan that everyone likes for the same reason is an act of God." - Richard Carson

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Developer gigs

    A couple of ideas for you to explore.

    --Private companies need zoning-savvy site acquisition agents to locate good places for their new cell towers, restaurants, and stores. I've posted a few openings in the Job Board thread. At least one fellow Cyburbian has given this a go.

    --NGO housing agencies need planner types to help them do their projects. I keep seeing opportunities at Habitat and its equivalents.

    HTH

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