The following insights are not covered sufficiently in planning school. The planning community should work with accredited schools to assure that future graduates are aware of these issues and are better equipped to handle/address them. These are presented in no particular order of preference.
- Politics, personality differences, and backstabbing can and will create roadblocks in your projects, goals, and career. Be wary, remain calm, and learn the ebb and flow of the office before diving into uncharted waters.
- You will be regularly approached (sometimes accosted) by friends, neighbors, and citizens outside of the work place on local planning/zoning concerns, especially if you work in the public sector and your meetings are televised. Try to remain calm and hear them out. Often, they just want to be heard.
- Many communities don’t give a rip if you are AICP or not. That does not mean it isn’t worth it, but don’t expect them to be dazzled by the fact that you attained it.
- When it comes down to a difference of opinion between you and the community attorney on a planning or zoning issue, the vast majority of the time community will follow the attorney’s advice. This is because they are the one who has to defend any decision in court.
- Private sector planners spend just about as much time selling and billing for their services as they do actually planning. If you don’t want to be a salesperson and a bill collector, public sector planning is the better choice.
- There is a lot of burnout amongst planners, particularly in the private sector, but this is also true in the public sector. It is important to try to set clear boundaries between work and home, as well as to find non-planning activities that you enjoy away from work. Please note – setting clear boundaries can be a sticky wicket with some employers.
- Departments within your organization with little or no planning/zoning knowledge can and will create unforeseen hiccups in the planning and zoning processes. Try to meet with them early in the review process whether it is a text amendment or a site plan. Regardless, surprises will happen – try to take them in stride.
- There is a palpable distrust of planners out there (we tend to symbolize big government) – not only by the public, but even among some co-workers and a surprising number of elected officials. Be wary, careful in what you say/do, and listen to all sides with an open mind (not easy).
- The depth and breadth of the unfortunate pages of planning history are appalling – a bright light needs to be shone upon these injustices. Issues that need to be covered more deeply in school include, but are not limited to racism, sexism, gentrification, highway displacement, injustice, inequity, privatization, environmental degradation, restrictive covenants, urban renewal (removal), and many, many more.
- You will in all likelihood appear on live television for meetings during your career and will also need to learn how to deal/work with the media. This is a critical aspect of community planning that needs more thoughtful attention in school. In short, always think before you speak and consider the ramifications of your words and actions.
Great points for aspiring urban and regional planners to consider and act upon!
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