There used to be one thing I dreaded most when I was a public sector planner. It was a link on our website that read: “Email all council members at once.” Oh, the power of that button. That button could lead to countless hours of extra assignments, stress, and project complications. While in some circumstances that button made for a better project, it still makes me shake to think about it.
At some point into our careers or through the experiences we have, we might find ourselves asking: what’s it like on the other side? For land planners, that question relates to whether to specialize in public or private sector planning. For me, that question came after 7 years of planning within the public sector, working for multiple governmental entities. And it was followed by, what do I want my career to look like?
My curiosity for the private sector had been growing during the years I spent facilitating projects from the public side. During this time, I was blessed to work on many innovative projects, great people on both sides, and with firms that provided the needed reminder of why I got into the planning profession. When I was fortunate enough to have these unique projects and others, I tried to let my curiosity lead the way by staying engaged in the planning process, asking questions, and learning more about the opportunities and constraints from both sides. This curiosity led me to express more interest in the work that RVi did, and to ask if they would be open to chatting more about opportunities within the company. Luckily for me, they said, “Yes.”
Surprisingly enough, after 6 months in the private sector I’ve found that while the environment is drastically different, the fundamental skills of planners are universal across both the public and private sector. The key to transitioning your career, as I like to tell myself, is not much different from what makes any employee successful. Stay engaged, empathetic, and throw yourself fully into whatever the situation calls for. Be open to learning new skills and taking actions that help the team, no matter how small.
I believe that successful career transitioners are always looking for opportunities to grow personally and ways to enable the brilliant people beside them create their best work…at least that’s what I told myself before I took the leap! Whether you decide to move or stay put, remember that growth is a choice. While as a public sector planner you might not have the same background and experience the job description speaks to, the right attitude and belief in your ability to adapt usually results in a positive experience. As a private sector planner, I do still witness the effects of the infamous website button – and my understanding of that experience helps me respond more effectively and more empathetically to our clients and public sector partners.