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3 years professional experience - offered entry level position - career advise?

vangad

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I have been working as a planner for 3 years but with the current administration and changes in my division with my responsibilities, I started applying for a new planning positions. I recently hesitantly applied for an entry level technician position with no experience required and was just offered the job. They offered 2 steps higher for the position but I feel that I might be settling if I accept it.

I have a master's degree and 3 years of experience. I was told they based the steps off my 3 years of experience. Is there any way I can negotiate? Can I use my master's degree to negotiate a higher step?

If I accept the position, would it take me back a few years since the new position is a demotion? And while the pay is higher for the new position, the cost of living is higher as well, and would actually be considered a relatively lower salary.

Any advise or comment would be much appreciated.
 

luckless pedestrian

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I think you have to answer a few questions to yourself to get your decision:

  1. How bad do you want to leave your current job
  2. Even though it's technically a demotion, is the new job better than the one you have right now
  3. Is there room for growth at this new job
  4. If you negotiate for higher, remember you have to be prepared to walk and you have to be prepared that you would be starting a new position with higher expectations if you win your negotiation so can you handle walking away and can you handle the stress of starting a new job at a higher rate than they had budgeted

Once you go through the analysis, you will have your answer and remember, you are just starting out so this may not be a resume stain if you take it
 

vangad

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Pretty much my analysis is below. The questions in bold are what I am really trying to figure out.
  1. How bad do you want to leave your current job - I enjoy the people I work with and for the most part, the projects. I would prefer to be in an urban setting and not to have to deal with changing responsibilities. I'm pretty much a zoning officer and have taken on a lot more secretarial duties at the cost of planning. I want to move on from my job, but it's a job in the field that I want to be in. And I don't want to settle just for a job to move on if it is going to set me back.
  2. Even though it's technically a demotion, is the new job better than the one you have right now - My question is with a demotion, would it result in taking me back a few years? Such as positions that require so many years as a planner 1 to move to planner 2, would this position which is below a planner 1 position, result in qualifying for a planner 1 position. I know I can technically qualify for higher positions too, but I've found it to already be a pretty competitive field.

    The position is not classified as a "Professional" position but a "technical" position

    Also, the pay is higher but considering the increase in the cost of living it's actually a pay cut.
  3. Is there room for growth at this new job - There's definitely room for growth considering it's in an urban/city setting compared to where I am at currently which is very Rural/county setting (there's been one subdivision in the last decade and one city of fewer than 20,000 people which is also college town so the population number is deceiving). From the interview, it seems like there are professional development opportunities.
  4. If you negotiate for higher, remember you have to be prepared to walk and you have to be prepared that you would be starting a new position with higher expectations if you win your negotiation so can you handle walking away and can you handle the stress of starting a new job at a higher rate than they had budgeted - My understanding is that I can only negotiate within the steps of the position, not a higher position. In this case, if say I try to negotiate for a higher position it would be a jump from a position classified as a "technician" to a "profession". If I try to negotiate a higher step, wouldn't the responsibilities be the same or very similar?

    Also, how much value is there in a Master's degree? And internships? The step offered was based on a rounded down per year step, which would miss my anniversary date by about 30 days. So instead of a step that includes 3 years, the offer is for a lower step of 2 years. And my internship and Master's degree wasn't included in the equation. I've also found that within the steps, even though they list years to meet the step, the annual increase for the 2-year step is actually lower (less than $,1000) than the 3-year step salary (a jump of over $2000).
Once you go through the analysis, you will have your answer and remember, you are just starting out so this may not be a resume stain if you take it - I am also curious as to how many years do I have to be a professional before I am not considered still "starting out"? I have four years of combined experience from professional (3 years) and internship (1 year) jobs.

I have until Tuesday to make a decision so hopefully I can get more input, opinion, or comments.
 

Veloise

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Pretty much my analysis is below. The questions in bold are what I am really trying to figure out.
  1. How bad do you want to leave your current job - I enjoy the people I work with and for the most part, the projects. I would prefer to be in an urban setting and not to have to deal with changing responsibilities. I'm pretty much a zoning officer and have taken on a lot more secretarial duties at the cost of planning. I want to move on from my job, but it's a job in the field that I want to be in. And I don't want to settle just for a job to move on if it is going to set me back.
  2. Even though it's technically a demotion, is the new job better than the one you have right now - My question is with a demotion, would it result in taking me back a few years? Such as positions that require so many years as a planner 1 to move to planner 2, would this position which is below a planner 1 position, result in qualifying for a planner 1 position. I know I can technically qualify for higher positions too, but I've found it to already be a pretty competitive field.

    The position is not classified as a "Professional" position but a "technical" position

    Also, the pay is higher but considering the increase in the cost of living it's actually a pay cut.
  3. Is there room for growth at this new job - There's definitely room for growth considering it's in an urban/city setting compared to where I am at currently which is very Rural/county setting (there's been one subdivision in the last decade and one city of fewer than 20,000 people which is also college town so the population number is deceiving). From the interview, it seems like there are professional development opportunities.
  4. If you negotiate for higher, remember you have to be prepared to walk and you have to be prepared that you would be starting a new position with higher expectations if you win your negotiation so can you handle walking away and can you handle the stress of starting a new job at a higher rate than they had budgeted - My understanding is that I can only negotiate within the steps of the position, not a higher position. In this case, if say I try to negotiate for a higher position it would be a jump from a position classified as a "technician" to a "profession". If I try to negotiate a higher step, wouldn't the responsibilities be the same or very similar?

    Also, how much value is there in a Master's degree? And internships? The step offered was based on a rounded down per year step, which would miss my anniversary date by about 30 days. So instead of a step that includes 3 years, the offer is for a lower step of 2 years. And my internship and Master's degree wasn't included in the equation. I've also found that within the steps, even though they list years to meet the step, the annual increase for the 2-year step is actually lower (less than $,1000) than the 3-year step salary (a jump of over $2000).
Once you go through the analysis, you will have your answer and remember, you are just starting out so this may not be a resume stain if you take it - I am also curious as to how many years do I have to be a professional before I am not considered still "starting out"? I have four years of combined experience from professional (3 years) and internship (1 year) jobs.

I have until Tuesday to make a decision so hopefully I can get more input, opinion, or comments.
I added some text formatting for the points that seem strong to me.

In my experience, when one employee leaves a position, there's a domino effect. Nearby desks and departments experience the tremors, for good or bad. You might be in this new position for a couple of months before someone further up the chain gets an offer from a job they applied for some months previous.

I've also seen many promote-from-within opportunities, which happens when the hiring deciders backfill an open slot with a known entity, and fill that person's technical position from the stack of resumes which they retained from the previous hiring round.

Over on our Confidential Career area, someone looking to move was welcomed in by the agency in her same town. They already know her.

Don't hold levels and steps and anniversary dates too closely.

I'm more concerned with why they'd ignore your higher education and offer you this position. Sniff around on LinkedIn and the network for information. (I was doing private sector cell-tower-project-manager work and applied to be a not-quite-full-time public sector zoning manager. They told me they thought I would be "bored" working for them ...)
 
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vangad

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Thanks. I was actually going to question if they took my education into account when considering the step. Right now it comes down to whether the offer's salary can meet the cost of living change.
 

luckless pedestrian

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Thanks. I was actually going to question if they took my education into account when considering the step. Right now it comes down to whether the offer's salary can meet the cost of living change.

I think this is the deal breaker or maker for you as I agree with Veloise that the opportunity for growth internally is important when just starting out

I think when you hit your first decade of working is when people stop saying "just starting out"
 

arcplans

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TBH I demoted myself to an "assistant planner" from an associate / project manager level. Granted this was at the height of the great recession, but a job was better than no job. Everyone is different, and for the most part I did learn a lot, however for the first few years I always thought (and very arrogant of me), "i am better than position". It lead to two things:
1. A very difficult time dealing with constituents and their problems. As the first person in line dealing with technical, zoning questions, was a huge "downgrade" from doing 50,000 foot level visioning, community plans, and design projects. Basically someone's setback issue was "small potatoes" with other larger issues the city was facing. It took me a while to get over that, which affected my job performance, which didn't help my cause to get a new job.
2. Because I felt so down trotted at work, it lead to more crumbles in my personal life, and also didn't help out my depression. Eventually this along with other things led to a breakdown in my marriage and eventual divorce.

Again, just being very personal and honest here, knowing I was better than the position i took, really led me to just take my job for granted. Eventually the job caught up with some more complicated projects, but the damage was done as I gained a reputation with residents that I was an asshole, whom then went to the Council about issues. Developers, whom had the more complicated projects, felt I was easy to deal with because I knew how to get things done. Jekyll and Hyde sort of thing. Long Story short, 4 of the 7 years I was pretty much miserable. Do I wish I wouldn't have taken the job? Maybe. But then who knows where I would be.

Yes, i truly felt my career went backwards, however because of the whole experience, I feel that I am better prepared now in my management position for a different muni, then I was before. I was able to learn empathy, work with home owners to really understand what they want to get down, and properly manage my employees to learn how to deal with residents and their issues, and take ownership of projects. I wouldn't have learned that without the step back.

We probably aren't the same situation, but ultimately do what's best for you.
 

Veloise

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... while the pay is higher for the new position, the cost of living is higher as well, and would actually be considered a relatively lower salary.

Any advise or comment would be much appreciated.
Thought of a couple more issues.

In my experience, working in a small community means that your housing choices are limited. Either buy a house, or rent one of the very few apartments, or commute from someplace else. A larger urban area has more options at different price points. You can share a dwelling unit, find a real cheap place, etc.

Similarly, in a small community you have to live in a certain place. In a larger municipality it might be possible to live very close to work. (I did this for several years working wireless gigs.) That would mean lower commuting costs. Can you park the car and get to work another way?

And ... food deserts. Bigger areas have more choices for groceries, competition for customers. Today I went to a grand opening of a new technical training center in a small town 20 miles south. I think they have a (single) grocery store. On the way home I stopped at the 24/7/364 hypermart, found blackberries for $1.

If you're presently spending evenings and weekends traveling to civilization and a social life, take that into account too. (I never did move to the small Twp .. fancy condos, shacks, pricey single family houses, or an apartment 15 miles away. And I would have been on the road for four hours every Saturday night.)
 
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michaelskis

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Some years ago, I took a position from Director to Senior Planner. However it was because of a relocation to a different part of the country with different state laws, different culture, and different expectations.

My advice is to look long term as to who you want to be, what you want to do, and where you want to be. If this position will get you there... then perhaps you would go for it. Titles and pay are not as important early in your career as experience and relationships. Build those and doors will open.
 

vangad

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I currently live in a small but one of the fastest growing city in the state and has all the benefits of a much larger city because of the proximity to a major metro and having a university. Plenty of housing, commercial, recreation, and food options. Accepting the position would result in an increase in living cost, but I wouldn't say at the cost of amenities such as recreation and housing.

Right now, the offer would be fixed at it's current step and wouldn't allow for any step increases for 5 years. At the offered step, the salary would not meet the living cost change, but is a salary increase. Again, the position is a demotion to a technician and not even classified as a professional. And there is no guarantee of being promoted to a full planner. It's in a major metro so I'm definitely interested in the municipality but not so much at the classification.

It doesn't help that there is a possibility of my current Muni cutting staff and even not having an annual pay increase at the end of the year.

Could I accept the position just for the stability but continuously apply for jobs? Since there's no guarantee of a promotion to a grade I currently am at.

How would this be viewed by those who hire?
 

arcplans

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I currently live in a small but one of the fastest growing city in the state and has all the benefits of a much larger city because of the proximity to a major metro and having a university. Plenty of housing, commercial, recreation, and food options. Accepting the position would result in an increase in living cost, but I wouldn't say at the cost of amenities such as recreation and housing.

Right now, the offer would be fixed at it's current step and wouldn't allow for any step increases for 5 years. At the offered step, the salary would not meet the living cost change, but is a salary increase. Again, the position is a demotion to a technician and not even classified as a professional. And there is no guarantee of being promoted to a full planner. It's in a major metro so I'm definitely interested in the municipality but not so much at the classification.

It doesn't help that there is a possibility of my current Muni cutting staff and even not having an annual pay increase at the end of the year.

Could I accept the position just for the stability but continuously apply for jobs? Since there's no guarantee of a promotion to a grade I currently am at.

How would this be viewed by those who hire?
I wouldn't take the position. IMHO, pay increases should never be based on years of service or annually, it should be merit based, but then again that's because I have a private sector mentality. The issue of taking a position but still searching for jobs is that if it is in the same metro community, word gets out. Remember, our profession is small. Sometimes things you do on or off the clock can have repercussions.
 

luckless pedestrian

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Yes, you should only take it if you know you would likely stay, barring some political or personal catastrophe, for 3 years; otherwise, your resume gets a little hoppy
 

Planit

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I look at it in these terms:

  • salary increase but doesn't meet cost of living
  • no step increase for 5 years
  • "demotion" but not really in the sense that you're going from a smaller place to a bigger place/structure
  • bigger city might get you "pigeon-holed" in just responsible for one thing, this is limiting for advancement
  • the small existing one as one of the fastest growing in the state which equals many varied opportunities available
  • masters degree & 3-years experience should get you more than a planning tech in a big city

Don't leave just to leave unless its really really crappy there
 

vangad

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I look at it in these terms:

  • salary increase but doesn't meet cost of living
  • no step increase for 5 years
  • "demotion" but not really in the sense that you're going from a smaller place to a bigger place/structure
  • bigger city might get you "pigeon-holed" in just responsible for one thing, this is limiting for advancement
  • the small existing one as one of the fastest growing in the state which equals many varied opportunities available
  • masters degree & 3-years experience should get you more than a planning tech in a big city

Don't leave just to leave unless its really really crappy there
I've thought about all that is mentioned. I live in one of the fastest growing cities in my state but work in another municipality, which is one of the slowest. There's a lot to digest and consider since my work place isn't the most supportive of it's employees with very limited professional growth.

I'm slightly lean on believing in my worth with my experience and master's degree.
 

kjel

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I wouldn't take the position. IMHO, pay increases should never be based on years of service or annually, it should be merit based, but then again that's because I have a private sector mentality. The issue of taking a position but still searching for jobs is that if it is in the same metro community, word gets out. Remember, our profession is small. Sometimes things you do on or off the clock can have repercussions.
If you aren't unhappy where you currently are, I'd be inclined to camp out for two more years so you can hit the 5 year work experience mark which will expand the pool of opportunities available to you.
 
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