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Careers 🎩 Two job offers - public vs private

P_Johnson76

Cyburbian
Messages
259
Points
11
I am lucky enough to have two job offers. I have become stagnant at my current job with little work to do and disillusioned with my town so I began a search for something - anything - in a town I like in a nearby state. My current salary is $79,000 and cost of living is very low. I have a family that would come with me so it is a major move. I am looking for your general advice. FTR - I am not especially passionate about any job. I spend a lot of my time daydreaming and looking at stocks!

Job 1 - Project manager for an engineering firm. Pay would be $80-120k. I would ask for $95,000. In wealthier area and my job would be managing commercial development projects. This job would be more entrepreneurial and allow more flexibility than the other job. Houses within a 15 minute drive are expensive, more than 2.5x what we pay now.

Job 2 - City Planner. This is a city planner job for an urban town. Pay would be $80-100k. I would ask for $95k. This area is more diverse and this job would focus on redevelopment projects. Houses within 15 minutes are older and cheaper, but it is not as nice of an area as the other job. One thing I dislike about public planning is the frequent night meetings, especially with a young family, but the stability and benefits are good.

I any event, this would be a move from my current town to a new larger town that we like. Kids would need to find new schools and my wife would need a new job, but we don't think that should be a problem. This is a huge decision for us, and the reality is our quality of life now is great except for I don't do anything at work. Which is fine... for awhile.

What are your thoughts on the options?
 

HomerJ

Cyburbian
Messages
1,144
Points
18
Stagnation in a job is a common issue, how long have you been in your role? Since neither job 1 or 2 are with your current employer, have you already ruled out doing other things or pursuing a promotion where you currently work? It's not clear to me between job 1 or 2 which one you would prefer to take if all other factors were set aside, but I get the impression job 1 is the preferred route if not for the HCOL factor. The point you make about stability and benefits in job 2, I am assuming you more or less have that in your current job, so other than a change of scenery and potentially higher salary is there another upside? Or, maybe that is enough to be motivated to take one of these jobs?

Moving is obviously a big deal, but based on how you're describing things, it sounds like this is a move out to move up scenario. That's a great thing, but I guess it will be up to you and your family to decide if it is worth it.

And also, congrats on the offer(s)! I can't say what the right answer is, just offer my own .02.

p.s. I bet there are some folks out there who would say their quality of life is great AND they don't do anything at work! :rofl:
 

P_Johnson76

Cyburbian
Messages
259
Points
11
My current employer is really small and there is no upward mobility. I like the place, the culture is okay, but honestly I can't just come in to browse the internet for 8 hours per day and feel good about it. My commute is good, my mortgage is good, our town is okay. The day to day stuff cannot be beat anywhere, but again, I am stagnating. I'm losing drive and passion and skills here.

Job 1 offers bonuses and the chance to grow something. Job 2 offers stability. They both pay the same. Both would require a move 6+ hours away.
 
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gtpeach

Cyburbian
Messages
2,256
Points
25
Personal opinion: If you're not passionate about your work, and don't think you're likely to be by either of these opportunities, I wouldn't go the entrepreneurial route. Growing something is cool and fun, but it also takes a lot of emotional investment, and if you don't think it's something you will feel connected with, it could end up being really draining. The evening meetings may not actually be fewer with a private firm, either - it truly depends on how much involvement you would have with the public sector. I have a friend with an engineering firm and he's at evening meetings for multiple jurisdictions most months.

If, on the other hand, you think you are excited about the possibility of doing cool and creative things and think that's going to give you newfound energy and passion, that's a different decision.

Almost two years ago, I had the opportunity to either be a high level planner in a large municipality in a fun, cool city doing more interesting current planning work, or take a position with our regional planning district doing a huge hodge podge of all kinds of planning as a director. I chose to go with the planning district because I felt like it was an opportunity to explore some interests that I hadn't gotten a chance to dive into so far in my career. I like my job, but it does take a lot more emotional investment to keep things moving forward, and it's a lot more stressful than the municipality job would have been.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
15,422
Points
60
There are lots of municipalities that will continue to exist for the remainder of your working career, but there are not as many private firms and opportunities.

I say go for the private project manager job (with bonus possibilities) work hard and make it happen. The private job hopefully will provide flexibility in your work schedule for you private life.

Do the private gig for awhile and you'll always be able to revert to municipal employment when a good chance occurs.

@Suburb Repairman
 

akepps

Member
Messages
19
Points
1
I'm not sure about that particular firm, but when I worked at an engineering firm, I had a lot of night and sometimes weekend meetings. We were working on municipal projects, so we were at the same meetings the public sector were at, and sometimes more b/c we'd be working in multiple municipalities at the same time. We also had a lot more late nights when working up against a deadline, or when putting together proposals. There was also a lot of business development, so again attending a lot of political and networking events and lunches with clients and potential clients. I find I have a lot more flexibility now that I'm of the private side.
 

WSU MUP Student

Cyburbian
Messages
11,191
Points
52
I'm not sure about that particular firm, but when I worked at an engineering firm, I had a lot of night and sometimes weekend meetings. We were working on municipal projects, so we were at the same meetings the public sector were at, and sometimes more b/c we'd be working in multiple municipalities at the same time. We also had a lot more late nights when working up against a deadline, or when putting together proposals. There was also a lot of business development, so again attending a lot of political and networking events and lunches with clients and potential clients. I find I have a lot more flexibility now that I'm of the private side.

This was my thought as well. I have a few friends/acquaintances at private engineering and planning firms and it seems like they are ALWAYS at night meetings, either presenting for a project they are trying to get approval for or working for the local municipality as the firm the city contracts with for planning review. Of course, that's not life in every engineering firm or for every role in the firms, but definitely something to take into consideration if you haven't already.

Are jobs 1 and 2 in the same metro area?

Personally, I'm very risk averse so I'd likely choose the city planner position since it's the more secure of the two but as Mendelman mentioned above (and I have no entrepreneurial spirit), you can always get the experience from the private firm and start looking for public jobs after a few years if you decide that the hustle of the private side isn't for you.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
 

crwhit

Member
Messages
2
Points
0
Do you have any private sector experience under your belt? If not, I would suggest that there is more growth and potential for you in the private sector PM role, all things being equal.

Having gone from public to private and back again, I think more planners should make that leap and try to get some experience on the 'other side.' It will make you a better planner. You will be able to have a better understanding of why planning "emergencies" happen, and that they're not always the result of applicants being needy or requiring handholding. Having a better understanding of land transactions, financing milestones and contractual obligations will make you more responsive, more thorough and more ready for leadership if you ever transition back to the public sector.

I will say, though - your work-life balance and stress level will be better off in the public sector. In my role working as a planner for a land use law firm here in AZ, I had more night meetings than I ever did working for a City. And even when you aren't attending meetings, you're staying late to meet deadlines or to capture billable hours needed to keep your job. It can be extremely stressful - particularly when your client is under the gun to get zoning approval or permits by a contractual date or risk losing construction financing, etc. I found that I spent more time as a "fixer" responding to emergencies and speedbumps than I did as a "planner."

That said, it has its benefits. You will gain lots of experience very quickly. You will learn to understand the codes and regulations of MULTIPLE jurisdictions. And most importantly, you will network. By the end of my time in the private sector, I was on familiar with and on good terms with many planners and city officials throughout the entire state. If you do good work, and your public sector counterparts like and respect you for it - it can open many doors when you want to transition back the other way.
 
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