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Occasionally in the threads I see comments like "I guess I was a planner even then " (describing a childhood event). When did you really realize your calling? I'm still a newbie; if this one's been done, let me know!
Four things happened... it was a series of events that lead to me being a planner and not an epiphany for me:
1) My mom was a geography major, so I was teethed on geography/geology. By the age of five I could tell the difference between glacial and river cut valleys when my mom would point one out (this is something she wrote in my baby book)... so that gives you the gist.
2) I was a geography major in college. One of my elective courses was recreation planning. I liked it...
3) After I finished the Rec Planning course, my professor set me up on a paid internship writing the Recreation Element to the City of St. Helena's Comp Plan. This was when I was 19 and still in college in the summer of '89. I worked all summer for a $3000 stipend. I got it in a lump sum at the end of the job... it was the most money I had ever earned in my life. I thought... my god, I'll be rich!
4) The St. Helena job was really more of a city planning job than rec planning, so I decided to take an Urban Planning course the next semester... so then when I needed cash the next summer, I landed an internship with the City of Davis that paid $7.35 an hour, so I took it over the layout job I had at the paper which was paying $5.25. After I received my Geo degree I got promoted to Assistant, and then Associate Planner. So I never meant to be a planner... it just kind of happened when I wasn't paying attention.
After a few others, I ended up as a public administration major. Somewhere as an upper classman I learned what a planner was, and thought it was interesting. Still, I figured on going into administration. Instead, I landed an internship in economic development after graduating, and before heading off to the Army. I was hooked. Two years later I was enrolled in a geography masters program and working in a nearby community.
I went to college intending to be an architect....but was not allowed to declare my major until after my first year....during that year, I discovered I had no architectural talent (couldn't draw freehand or build models worth a damn), but "discovered" planning. I was hooked after the 2nd week of PLAN 100 during the second semester of my freshman year, and haven't looked back since.
I was majoring in cultural anthropology, drinking beer, and hiking at the University of Wyoming, when I gradually realized that the rapidly-evolving communities of ranchers and rednecks that were right there were just as interesting as any of the faraway (and mostly long dead) people I was studying about. Met a planner who worked for the state, who gave me a bit of a boost in the right direction (I didn't know that planning existed as a profession until I was 20) and also got involved in some research in one of the first coal boom towns of the '70's. Went and interviewed and found the planning programs of the early '70's to be basically irrelevant for someone with my interests, but I stumbled onto a small interdisciplinary center at the U of Wisconsin that would let me build a program that would be of some use, breezed through that, narrowly avoided having to take a job in Minot, ND before finding a way to return to Wyoming, and the rest is history.
I was really interested in geography and place in High School. I had a great geography teacher and was able to take an urban studies course in HS (Grade 11) . I pretty much decided then that I wanted to be a planner. Until then I wanted to be an architect, but with no artistic skills nor math and science skills I had to be realistic.
If I had known about landscape architecture in HS I probably would have taken that instead.
I had an urban studies enrichment class in Grade 7...that got me seriously turned onto urban issues. I've always collected maps (especially transit maps), doodled my own city designs, etc. I still didn't clue in that there was a planning profession, so most of high school I wanted to be a journalist or a history teacher. When it came time to pick a university, I did a little research and discovered that there was such a thing as planning. The fact that I didn't need OAC/Grade 13 math to get in was a bonus.
As I was bombing Accounting and being forced to change my major, I became a Sociology major. Two years later I realized I'd like to be employable and went with Public Affairs. I didnt fall into planning until an intership senior year. I ended up with Sosh and geography minors, and 8 credits short of geology major.
I ended up in planning by accident. I did enjoy geography in school but, like others here, I wanted to be a archeaologist. I ended up at a small university and hated the archeaology prof so ended up taking Canadian Studies. I did my thesis on eco-tourism and the culture and heritage of a small town.
From this, I decided I wanted to do something with heritage buildings but when I talked to a prof at another university about the hertage preservation degree he suggested I would be better off taking planning because it was a professional degree and I could take heritage planning courses.
Unfortunately this was only half true since no heritage planning courses were offered when I was taking my degree but I love working with small towns. The only thing I would give this profession up for would be owning a used book store.
I was graduating from college in December and I had planned to go for a Master's in Public Administration. Unfortunately the schools I wanted to go to only allowed fall admissions, not spring.
I figured I had two choices. Work at Taco Bell for 9 months or find another major.
I had a boyfriend that was still in school at my college. So, being dumb and in love, I just flipped through the catalog of my university and came across Urban Planning. I knew I wanted to work in city government and thought heck if I don't like it I can just go to PA school in the fall.
It turned out that just a few weeks in I knew it was a perfect fit for me. It combined my technical/analytical side with my love of city government.
That's a really good thing because the boyfriend and I broke up 6 weeks after I started planning school.
I wanted to go to Grad School for Public Administration. I had taken some classes as an undergrad Political Science student and I liked them a lot. When I was flipping through the coursebook I saw that you could get a joint Masters Degree in Public Admin and Urban Planning. Then I looked at the Urban Planning courses and thought they seemed more interesting than the Public Admin classes and decided to go into Planning only.
I graduated with bachelors in Psychology and worked a few months at 2 part time jobs at group homes and quickly realized it sucked and I could do little with my degree. I couldn’t see myself administering any type of counseling and/or therapy and any sort of clinical or research driven career in psychology would have probably required a phd. So I was in the same situation I was in after high school – not knowing what I wanted to do with myself. I flipped through local grad school catalogs to find a subject which could draw on a social science background but be more applied and career oriented. I never really heard of the profession but it really fit my interests (who knew you’d have to deal with people so much, though). I took one planning course and enrolled full time the next semester. I should have picked a more exotic location than 2 more years of college in Rhode Island, but it turned out alright. I wonder if I’ll be doing this thirty years from now or if I’ll be doing something completely different.
Fictional Answer (feel free to use it on job interviews)
I don't like to talk about this, but . . .My interest in planning began abruptly at the age of seven when the bureacrats knocked on the door one spring morning. When I saw the look in my mother’s eyes after reading that eviction notice I knew I had to fight the system. I organized a group of 200 stakeholders’ children of who cut school and marched outside of City Hall. After chaining myself to the porch of our triple decker the mayor finally ordered the bulldozers away. To this day there is still a 4’ tall bronzed statue of me holding a picket sign and pointing into the distance.
1. I grew up in Detroit in the 1970's when it was in the middle of its free-fall. There used to be stories on the local news about how U-Haul couldn't keep moving trucks in the Detroit area, and the city-suburban animosity was huge. I kept thinking, "why leave the city when we can work together to improve it?"
2. I was the family navigator. I always had the map on family trips, and even diverted a road trip through Montana by about 400 miles because I wanted to go past Glacier National Park, and no one else did. But I had the map.
3. I thought I wanted to be an architect or an amusement park designer (especially after visiting Disney World). But an eighth-grade career day opened my eyes to planning.
I decided to become a planner before I even knew what one was. Ever since I was 7 or 8, I was the one who always read the maps and navigated on family vacations. I would also ask my parents to drive through the downtowns of just about every city we would pass which they would indulge even though they do not really like the crowds and traffic of cities. Growing-up in a rural county that had no planning until about 5 years ago, I had no idea planning was even a career. While my family was building a new house I would cart away block and bricks and build cities complete with skyscrapers, roads and bridges all over the building site - Hotwheels heaven.
I got into planning as a career by siting in on the wrong anthropology class during my sophmore year. It was a 400 level urban anthropology course and I loved it. I somehow managed to talk my way into getting an overide for the course and within a month I changed my major to Urban planning and admin.
This job had to be a caling for me b/c I'm certainly not doing it for the money and fame.