The unemployed planner support thread

MV1138

Cyburbian
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It usually helps to have a grammatically correct sentence when seeking jobs ;) Market is still tight for certain regions (coastal regions and major urban areas) but it is un-thawing. As older folks retire with the improving economy, lower level folks move up and the entry level opens back up. Keep options open and have quality internships and a network and you will be okay with a wide-net casted for a job anywhere.
I typed that out on my phone using a Swype keyboard. It's far less intuitive than my old one, which wasn't that good to begin with. The joy of cell phones.

Glad to hear it's thawing a bit. I really can't shake the desire to get a second masters in this. I have no career options right now, I live in an area where the local planning departments do very little (I've tried contacting all of them within a 40 minute drive) and don't need volunteers or interns. Heck, one of the towns of 55,000 people doesn't even have a planning department. Yet one with 30,000 nearby does, go figure. But that cost of school, the years spent studying and the cost of moving (because there are no affordable programs in my state) are all giving me a LOT of pause considering how tight things have been. I want to know I'll have a job that pays at least $40,000 at the end of this.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
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If you plan on moving a $40k job should be easy enough, but as you found out local jobs are already taken.
 
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If you plan on moving a $40k job should be easy enough, but as you found out local jobs are already taken.
I wish it was that easy. The last time I made $40K a year was over 15 years ago. I have had some interviews, and one potential employer checked references earlier in the month, so I'm hopeful. Still, I think it's still pretty rough out there for experienced planners (15+ years).
 
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I realize this discussion is quite old, but I could not agree more about the economy being horrible. I graduated a couple of years ago with a planning degree and still have yet to be given a serious chance at any decent, stable job.

I am sick and tired of those in older generations acting as though unemployed gen Yers and millennials are to blame for their unfortunate circumstances. The bar has really gotten low, as evidenced by the proliferation in unpaid internships post-graduation. The elite class acts as though working is such a wonderful thing in and of itself that we should be grateful to work for free and get to be in the presence of real planners. Expecting to be able to feed yourself and have a roof over one's head and support one's family is considered "exorbitant, greedy, selfish, inappropriate" by the very same people for whom a 10 million dollar salary is just "business as usual."

It seems like the working class is held to a different, more stringent standard than the elites are, when it comes to what is "greedy" and what isn't.

I am at least thankful that I have parents generous enough to let me live with them, and thankful that I have had time to reflect on the problems of poverty in American society such that I am much more outspoken on issues of social justice and economic democracy than I would be if I had some job I was worried I could lose at any moment for something as minor as opposing economic injustice.
 
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You expect to get a job in a very competitive field but you don't feel entitled? Many people in your position take a job to pay their bills and keep looking for work in the field. You have options but you feel entitled to a planning job.

I commend you for your perseverance but thinking no other generation understands what you are going through is very short sighted. There are many people on these boards that have worked hard, paid their dues and through no fault of their own got laid off and have to find work doing non planning jobs to pay their bills.

You are very special with your two degrees, some minor planning work, all of your very marketable skills, an internship and a ton of interviews. :r:
As bad as low-wage work is, some, like myself, are not even lucky enough to find something like fast-food or retail. Why is it selfish to expect to be paid enough to live comfortably?
 
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I realize this discussion is quite old, but I could not agree more about the economy being horrible. I graduated a couple of years ago with a planning degree and still have yet to be given a serious chance at any decent, stable job.
If you don't mind me asking: where did you go to school? And what is the market for planners like in Birmingham?

I'm a Birmingham native, and I hope to move back home once I've gotten a planning degree and established a planning career.
 
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If you don't mind me asking: where did you go to school? And what is the market for planners like in Birmingham?

I'm a Birmingham native, and I hope to move back home once I've gotten a planning degree and established a planning career.
I attended Auburn University. The planning program lost its accreditation earlier this year.

The market is not very good in Alabama in general, but being near one of the major cities is of course preferable...I live outside the immediate Birmingham vicinity, so an unpaid internship there is not possible, as I do not have parents with the ability (or desire) to pay for me to travel 2+ hours each for no pay.

Are you currently in planning school?

I would like to think that Birmingham would have a lot of planning-related work in the next couple of decades, given that the city's infrastructure has endured years of neglect and the population has likely started to rise again. But as we all know, just because government needs to spend funds on something does not mean they will do so. If that were the case, all planners would be able to find work.
 
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I attended Auburn University. The planning program lost its accreditation earlier this year.

The market is not very good in Alabama in general, but being near one of the major cities is of course preferable...I live outside the immediate Birmingham vicinity, so an unpaid internship there is not possible, as I do not have parents with the ability (or desire) to pay for me to travel 2+ hours each for no pay.

Are you currently in planning school?

I would like to think that Birmingham would have a lot of planning-related work in the next couple of decades, given that the city's infrastructure has endured years of neglect and the population has likely started to rise again. But as we all know, just because government needs to spend funds on something does not mean they will do so. If that were the case, all planners would be able to find work.
Can you shoot me an email at firstname dot lastname at gmail dot com?
 
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@ Simon, I agree that the job market is bad for young people, but as the original poster said for those willing to relocate their may be jobs to be had.

For senior level people, there aren't that many jobs advertised and the competition is INTENSE. I think I'm getting very close to getting a job, but I never, ever imagined I'd be unemployed for 8+ months.
 
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@ Simon, I agree that the job market is bad for young people, but as the original poster said for those willing to relocate their may be jobs to be had.

For senior level people, there aren't that many jobs advertised and the competition is INTENSE. I think I'm getting very close to getting a job, but I never, ever imagined I'd be unemployed for 8+ months.
That is interesting, because I have not received one interview among the dozens of non-local jobs for which I applied.

I agree that competition is probably very intense for more senior level planners, but getting the first entry-level planning gig is also pretty difficult these days. And that is certainly nothing unique to planning by any means.
 
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Our profession is one with few openings, whether at the entry level or for more senior positions. For most of the 25 years I wave been working, this has been true. Trying to enter in the late 80's/early 90's was no different. Most jobs wanted a masters and two years of experience, and back then we did not have interwebs to help us locate more distant jobs in small, rural communities, that paid less but had less competition. You may need to broaden your definition of what you consider planning. My first non-interning gig was as a geographer with the Census Bureau. I used that to get subsequent gigs at a government policy research center and an economic development agency, which firmly launched my career.

Colleges, unfortunately, do a poor job of preparing students for a job search in planning. I believe they paint an unrealistic picture of the market, and of the kinds of work a freshly-minted planner is prepared to perform. An undergraduate degree is not adequate, especially when the program becomes overweighted with programs that are of a greater academic interest than of interest to potential employers. Students may even enjoy classes in social equity, food systems, or planning in third worlc countries, but an employer will roll their eyes. They are looking for someone who can review a site plan and write a clear, unbiased analysis. They will tend to be able to find that among many applicants with prior experience or a masters degree, or both. Simply having an undergraduate degree does not open doors. This has been true for at least a quarter century.

My advice is to first take a close look at your resume. Fill two thirds of it discussing pragmatic planning experience, and lose the references to esoteric, academic interests. Highlight the real planning experience you have, and don't give me a half page history of every retail, fast food, and landscaping job you worked through high school and college.

Second, broaden your search both in the way you define planning and in the geographic area in which you search. By the way, once you take that job in the federal bureaucracy, state government, etc., immediately start networking to get out of it. You don't want to have a career there. The same may or may not be true of small towns and rural places. Some can be quite nice.

Third, network, network, network.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
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I have to agree with Cardinal. Moving out of your comfort zone location wise gets you better chances at jobs. It got me bumped to a director job for a small county. There are lots of small towns looking for an entry level planner with very little competition over the job. Who knows, you might even like the small town. You can find jobs like that beyond just the APA website. Use chapter websites and find out how employment is advertised in the area. For Kansas a lot of stuff is done on a statewide government job board. Rural jobs don't have the advertising power of bigger cities so you have to search. Once you find a job, start up the networking with everyone you can and maintain any old networks you have. You never know where your next job lead will come from.

Good luck with the job hunt.
 

arcplans

As Featured in "High Times"
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As bad as low-wage work is, some, like myself, are not even lucky enough to find something like fast-food or retail. Why is it selfish to expect to be paid enough to live comfortably?
If you can't find a retail job, then something is definitely wrong in either your resume or approach. I took on a 2nd job for some "fun money" during the summer. Dumbed down my resume and skills, got a call back working at a mind-numbing national clothing retailer for a killer discount.

For senior level people, there aren't that many jobs advertised and the competition is INTENSE. I think I'm getting very close to getting a job, but I never, ever imagined I'd be unemployed for 8+ months.
Yup, the level of compeition is very intense to move up. So far the last year I have applied for senior level positions, and have walked away interviewing 4/5 places, one job offer (rejected due to pay/location) and two 2nd interviews with no offer. After speaking with a planner who sat in on the interviews for one job, she mentioned I did nothing wrong and my resume and quals were stellar, but out of the 3 candidates they did final interviews, they could have hired any of them. It is just looking for a fit. I recommend follow ups. That is the best you can do. Follow up everything.

That is interesting, because I have not received one interview among the dozens of non-local jobs for which I applied.

I agree that competition is probably very intense for more senior level planners, but getting the first entry-level planning gig is also pretty difficult these days. And that is certainly nothing unique to planning by any means.
Again. What are you doing? What are your internships like? What is your resume like? Are you tailoring a resume or just sending off some piece of crap standard word doc? You have to sell yourself. If you are just sending off 50 resumes and cover letters that are the same, then it is like the equivalent of you being an rc cola when really I am looking for a Jones Pure Sugar Soda. As other states, you may need to get out of the comfort zone. Also, really have someone review your resume that you may not know. You need some feedback and you may just need to take it to move forward.

Case in point. Recently I interviewed for a senior planner position in my area. I didn't get called back for a 2nd interview. I asked the director for some feedback. He happily gave it and said while I looked good on paper, I just wasn't a fit for the organization because I came off a little too strong personality wise, and they were looking for someone more laid back. At first I was a little upset, because I am selling myself, but in hindsight, he was right. I could have answered questions in a much more effective manner and made my personality more of what it is day to day (laid back, jokester who know is planning stuff) versus stuffy know it all former consultant. All in all very productive outreach.

Good luck.
 
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That is interesting, because I have not received one interview among the dozens of non-local jobs for which I applied.

I agree that competition is probably very intense for more senior level planners, but getting the first entry-level planning gig is also pretty difficult these days. And that is certainly nothing unique to planning by any means.
Are there any local alumni of your program that might be willing to take a look at your resume and give you some tips or at least network with? Are there any opportunities with the state planning organization to get involved? I know many state chapter are starting young planner groups. I would just say network, network, network if you are looking in a particular area and if your search is wider, definitely keep an open mind...lots of entry level stuff in NC lately.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
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Yup, the level of compeition is very intense to move up. So far the last year I have applied for senior level positions, and have walked away interviewing 4/5 places, one job offer (rejected due to pay/location) and two 2nd interviews with no offer. After speaking with a planner who sat in on the interviews for one job, she mentioned I did nothing wrong and my resume and quals were stellar, but out of the 3 candidates they did final interviews, they could have hired any of them. It is just looking for a fit. I recommend follow ups. That is the best you can do. Follow up everything.
I have to agree with the senior position thing. I tried for a couple key jobs over the last year just because I liked the location and ended up one of the many who were qualified. One I lost because they decided to hire internally the other I couldn't get feedback from, but I assume there must have been someone better.

The funny part, while I was working on my degree all the professors would tell us how easy it will be to move up when all the baby boomers retire. Let me know when that happens.
 

arcplans

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I have to agree with the senior position thing. I tried for a couple key jobs over the last year just because I liked the location and ended up one of the many who were qualified. One I lost because they decided to hire internally the other I couldn't get feedback from, but I assume there must have been someone better.

The funny part, while I was working on my degree all the professors would tell us how easy it will be to move up when all the baby boomers retire. Let me know when that happens.
The dinosaurs ;), i mean, current guard is slowly starting to retire and the move ups are happening, however the recession really did a number on this profession with a number of positions being eliminated. I don't want discourage the youths from applying and following their dreams, however municipal planning is most certainly a harder profession to break into post recession.
 

mendelman

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The dinosaurs ;), i mean, current guard is slowly starting to retire and the move ups are happening, however the recession really did a number on this profession with a number of positions being eliminated. I don't want discourage the youths from applying and following their dreams, however municipal planning is most certainly a harder profession to break into post recession.
Indeed. As for the boomers retiring, the recession, I believe delayed that for 5-8 years for much of the cohort.

The problem I'm seeing though is that when a boomers retires from a senior or director position, the responsibilities get combined under one position to reduce the high costs of such positions through six-sigma lean blah, blah, blah...

Good luck to those still searching.
 
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Case in point. Recently I interviewed for a senior planner position in my area. I didn't get called back for a 2nd interview. I asked the director for some feedback. He happily gave it and said while I looked good on paper, I just wasn't a fit for the organization because I came off a little too strong personality wise, and they were looking for someone more laid back. At first I was a little upset, because I am selling myself, but in hindsight, he was right. I could have answered questions in a much more effective manner and made my personality more of what it is day to day (laid back, jokester who know is planning stuff) versus stuffy know it all former consultant. All in all very productive outreach.
Agreed, in my new position, a Senior position, I knew when I interviewed that it was a good fit from the start, especially after meeting everyone. There were some jobs that I applied for that I thought I was very qualified for and did not even get an interview for....the hardest part is getting the interview, so resume/cover letter are key!
 
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If you can't find a retail job, then something is definitely wrong in either your resume or approach. I took on a 2nd job for some "fun money" during the summer. Dumbed down my resume and skills, got a call back working at a mind-numbing national clothing retailer for a killer discount.
I see you are in the SF Bay Area. It is a completely different culture out there than in the deep south, where I live. Maybe people out there are more willing to hire those with bachelor's degrees (and higher) since there are way more college-educated people out there. Why would a retailer choose to hire someone with a master's degree (who in all likelihood will not stay) over someone with no education (for a job that requires none), when there are so many applicants without degrees (but with relevant experience) to choose from?

As far as my resume is concerned, if I leave off my degrees my resume essentially becomes one big gap -- not really ideal for improving one's chances of finding employment.

As far as planning jobs are concerned, I took a course in undergrad on writing resumes and cover letters, and I have had my resume viewed and approved by multiple professional people, so I doubt my resume is the problem. No, I don't do cookie cutter resumes and cover letters. I have known better than that since before I attended planning school. It seems to me that the problem is that entry-level planning jobs typically have 100+ applicants. However, I am not a prodigy, nor am I perfect, so it is difficult for me to stand out among that many competitors.
 
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Colleges, unfortunately, do a poor job of preparing students for a job search in planning. I believe they paint an unrealistic picture of the market, and of the kinds of work a freshly-minted planner is prepared to perform. An undergraduate degree is not adequate, especially when the program becomes overweighted with programs that are of a greater academic interest than of interest to potential employers. Students may even enjoy classes in social equity, food systems, or planning in third worlc countries, but an employer will roll their eyes. They are looking for someone who can review a site plan and write a clear, unbiased analysis. They will tend to be able to find that among many applicants with prior experience or a masters degree, or both. Simply having an undergraduate degree does not open doors. This has been true for at least a quarter century.
You got that right. One of my professors made it clear that she structured her exams to be like the AICP exam. Fair enough, but no mention was made of getting in a position so one has the necessary experience for AICP. So I spent part of my time in planning school preparing for an exam that I may never take, because I cannot get the necessary experience.
 
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