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Working Transition back to public sector has been...

glutton

Cyburbian
Messages
468
Points
12
kind of meh unfortunately. The benefits are a lot nicer and stress levels lower than when I was in consulting, but I feel like I don't really do anything. So much of my workload is managing day to day administrative tasks, attending meetings, or responding to public/customer concerns about how much they hate new regulations. My consultants do all the cool project work and all I do is get updates from them, review their work, and process their invoices. And they're usually pretty good so I feel like I don't need to do much of anything.

Has anyone been in this slump before? I'm in the weird space between entry level and senior planner, so I don't deal with budgets or manage people yet either. I'm at a large agency, which I love, but it does tend to get very siloed very quickly.
 
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Rygor

Cyburbian
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2,760
Points
18
I feel ya. I started out in the public sector and have now been private for the past 7+ years. I think back to my old days in municipal government and how relatively easy it was. Meet with some site selectors maybe, work on a re-zoning request, do a cost-benefit analysis here and there, go to a ribbon cutting. The pay was low but yeah, bennies were fantastic and I was in a pretty low COL area anyway (and didn't know any better). Sometimes I think about going back but then I've built a nice little life for myself where I'm at now. More stress for the most part but that always comes with more money and more responsibility. I guess you just have to slog through and decide if you're okay with work not being your primary source of daily satisfaction and sense of "productiveness", or if you would rather channel some of that into other, outside pursuits. I will say I definitely enjoyed my time for hobbies working the predictable public sector 8-5 with lots of holidays and vacay time. :)
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,398
Points
27
I've been in the public sector planning field for 23 years. My current position still has me as a "working" planning director in that I still review projects just at my planners do. I would actually like to be more administrative and less project hands-on, although I do enjoy commercial site plan review. If I never see another residential plan the rest of my life there will be no love lost. In the city I work for, this will not happen any time soon as we have too many projects in the pipeline.
 

HomerJ

Cyburbian
Messages
1,085
Points
16
I've been there before...

Large agencies take time to figure out, so it's understandable that in the beginning you will feel like you don't have enough to do. Since large departments/divisions tend to silo their efforts, you are working in an environment full of information asymmetries. And although it's unfortunate, people can have a tendency to get territorial about projects they are involved in to ensure their role is secure.

I say these agencies take time to figure out, because so much of this stuff is based on relationships. If you want to take on more work and responsibility, you have to focus on building a network with the right people in the agency, those who actually are willing to share and collaborate and are not going to be obsessed with hierarchy and roles/responsibilities. I also personally found it a lot of fun (although not necessarily all that helpful or encouraging) reading through "The Office According to The Office" AKA "The Gervais Principle" (it helps if you're already a fan of the office).
 

glutton

Cyburbian
Messages
468
Points
12
Thanks all! Sometimes I forget how long-term planning projects are and that roles ramp up in later phases of the projects rather than in, say, the Existing Conditions phase of the report. Which is kind of ironic because newer/younger employees have a lot more time on their hands and by the time the substantial phase of work comes along, you get very immersed in your job and swamped with other things lol (what is also ironic is that it takes 5 years for new employees to gain any additional accrual of vacation time, but by the time you become more senior, you are too busy to take much time off anyway and end up wasting it, while a lot of younger/newer employees could really use it to visit family and such. Anyway, digression).

And @HomerJ totally agree on the relationships! As a consultant, I remember always trying to ask different offices or teams for work if I was low and no one would help - people would hoard. Then I learned that you have to take a few months and build relationships with people to trust you so that eventually, they will come seeking YOU out because they want your expertise/assistance rather than you walking around everywhere begging for something to do.
 

southern_yank

Cyburbian
Messages
143
Points
6
That's one of the downsides of the public sector: It's easy to fall into the trap of becoming a paper pusher and letting consultants do all the work. This applies mostly to long range planning and transportation planning. Good public sector project managers don't usually let this happen, however, provided they have supportive management. The public sector should take the lead in setting project scopes, organizing the structure of plans, editing content, helping with urban design/project concepts and providing overall quality control. It helps to think of yourself as the leader of the project and get involved with all the details. And since you're paying the invoices, you are the leader.

I've managed a lot of consultants in the public sector and letting them go on autopilot is usually a recipe for poor quality work and an inflated budget.
 
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