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mercuex

Breaking into the Planning Field

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Hm, ok so I just got back from living/working abroad where I did non-profit consulting but now I'm looking to get into planning since it's pretty much my lifelong dream (that and going to space, but I'm choosing my battles carefully). I realize that since my undergraduate degree is in social anthropology, if I ever want to be taken seriously I need to go back to school and get my MUP, which I fully intend to do. Problem is that I got back pretty recently so I don't have time to apply/go to a planning school (of my choice) this fall, so I have to wait at least a year.

So instead I've been looking for jobs in the field in which I'm experienced (non-profit management), without too much luck. It goes without saying that it's a pretty tight market for non-profit professionals. Since it's been almost two months and still no job (plenty of teases, though), I began looking on the Planetizen & APA websites for job listings. I found a few positions around the country on both that are Planner I (entry-level/trainee) often calling for someone with a 4-yr degree in Urban Planning, Architecture, Geography, Public Affairs, or related. Since my degree is professionally indistinguishable from Sociology (not a clear-cut answer but the battle rages within our disciplines; this much is true, however: anthropologists often write for sociology journals, attend sociology conferences, take/teach sociology courses, and title their stuff often as sociological - depending on their mood - and vise versa), which is often seen as an allied discipline to Public Affairs and, to some degree, planning (really depends whom you ask), I figured I was at least worthy of consideration and put in my application for a few of the jobs.

I have a rich resume with lots of administrative/organizational experience, qualifications in a number of software suites (though not CAD or GIS), deep writing & research credentials (several noteworthy publications and grant writing experience), and some background in the planning/real estate development field (3 month internship with an architect/developer plus several elective planning/business/microecon courses in college).

So, do I have a snowball's chance in hell of getting any of these jobs? Or even better, does anyone know of any place (or way) where my qualifications would be more attractive to be taken as a trainee/apprentice planner? Of course, if I were to be able to break into planning I'd most likely stay at least 2+ years before going to grad school or go to grad school at night, so that isn't an issue.

I'd love to hear anyone's take on my situation. Don't be too harsh on me though, today's my birthday and I'm sensitive. :rolleyes:

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I'm currently employed, but still sort of in the same boat. I'll be applying to graduate programs in planning in the coming months. The field I'm in now, I've learned, isn't what I want to do for much longer, and I'm glad to have figured that out early on in my career.

Mercuex, there are plenty of planning-related non-profits out there. Does Richmond have a "smart growth" alliance or something like that? Advocacy groups for public transit? Have you considered volunteering in a planning-related field while doing something else to pay the bills? At best, your volunteer work could turn into a job. My girlfriend started volunteering at a local homeless shelter about a year ago; less than three months later she was director of development.

Even if it doesn't pan out that well, at the very least you'll have some type of experience and something to put on a resume.

If I get admitted into a grad program, I'd like to focus my efforts on transportation policy. Here in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area they're struggling to get a light rail project off the ground, so I'm thinking of approaching the transit authority to do some volunteer work.

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