Copy and Paste, Or How to Think Outside the Text Box

Hey, remember me? I used to write posts here. My apologies. I went away on Paternity Leave and … ahhh, never mind, no excuses. I’m planning to provide regular updates again, but they’ll be spread out a bit more than before. I’ve exhausted most of the topics I wanted to write about and unless you have specific questions, I’ll just post when something strikes me. I’m hoping for once a month or so. On to the topic at hand.

I’ve mentioned before that a huge part of your job as a Planner will be writing. I’ve also mentioned that many of the projects you’ll work on will be similar. The obvious connection here is COPY AND PASTE! While this sounds like a no-no, it’s actually pretty common practice, and a great way to be more efficient and productive. If you or a colleague have written Urban Design Guidelines for a mid-size City in Ontario, and you’re working on Urban Design Guidelines for a mid-size City in Vancouver, go ahead and copy and paste any relevant text. If you wrote an overview of the Provincial Policy Statement for Guelph, and you’re working on a project in Barrie, go ahead and re-use that text – it’s all relevant. In fact, I like this approach because it gives me the chance to refine text each time I use it, making it better and better, until I feel it’s perfect. Of course every City is different, and every project has its nuances, so there will be lots of chances to prepare original text (might as well take the break when you can get it).

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Public Consultation: Say Hello to the Bad Guy!

If you’re not a ‘people person,’ you may want to pursue a different career!

As Planners, our responsibility is to represent the public interest or the ‘greater good,’ which means working with the public throughout (most) projects. While public involvement varies (based on project scope, budget, location, etc.), most projects have at least three meetings with the public, including:

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Before You Submit That Resume…

For me, one of the scariest things about job hunting is the horror stories about resume fielding. We’ve all read about employers who throw out resumes because they’re stapled wrong, they use Times New Roman font, etc. While I wish I could say these stories are false, there’s some merit to them.

The competition is fierce out there. It’s not crazy to assume that a company gets multiple resumes a week, or even multiple per day – often without any positions being advertised/available. It’s a big effort to field these, contact applicants, have interviews, etc. so it makes sense to eliminate as many as possible before this stage.

The good news is most (decent) employers won’t just dismiss a resume for something petty like fonts, staple fails, weird signatures, etc. So while most advice focuses on making your resume stand out, my advice is to make it strong, and make sure there’s no reason for it to get thrown aside.*

There’s a million websites that’ll tell you how to write a good resume, so I’ll skip a lot of the gory details and focus on seven things that I think are important – and how they apply to a Planning/urban design position.**

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Do I Really Need Planning Theory?

I’ve never had a student ask me this, but it’s something that I always wondered when I was in school – do I really need Planning theory?

In both my undergraduate and graduate degree, I took multiple theory courses. As a grad student I TA’d twice for a first year Planning Theory course. So its safe to say, I know about Rationale Comprehensive Planning and Incrementalism, the Garden City and the Radiant City, Robert Moses vs. Jane Jacobs, Planning ethics, etc. etc.

The question is, do I use any of this knowledge as a practicing Planner? The short, snarky, “I told you so” answer is… no!

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Your First Job: What To Expect When You’re Accepting

You’ve received your degree. You’ve had your interviews. And now, you’ve landed a job. This is it… What all the old folks meant when they said, “you think school is bad, wait until you get a job.”

The good news is, it’s not so bad. And, if you land the right job, it’s pretty great. You’ll be well on your way to a long and rewarding career.

But how do you know if you’ve landed the right job?

Depending on how many interviews you’ve had, you might feel like you’ll be happy with any job. My advice: Don’t settle, you’ve earned this! You’ve invested years getting ready for this, and your reward should be a job that is exciting, engaging, and fulfilling. Continue reading

Does it Pay to Volunteer?

Update: Just a quick update based on some important feedback I received. This post speaks only to volunteering while you are in school – if you have the time, without impacting your studies (as I did). In no way am I suggesting, or do I support, that you should work for free once you have graduated. You’ve worked hard for that degree and should be compensated fairly.

When I was writing my thesis, this was how my typical day went:

  • Wake up and shower
  • Sit in my office all morning researching
  • Wander out briefly at lunch seeking any kind of human interaction
  • Return to my office and write until my eyes bled

It was the same in my second year, except I lost my office, and we got a puppy, so I worked mostly from home (and had to get up every 5 minutes to take said puppy to pee).

Needless to say, this was a bit of a dull routine , so I decided to volunteer for a couple of days a week. After asking a few Prof’s to recommend some companies, I made contact, had an interview, and was a working man shortly thereafter. Continue reading