Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.
Not sure if you want to be a planner? Recently my colleagues
and I have received a spate of emails from prospective students around the world
wanting to know whether planning is a field they should pursue. Their extensive
lists of questions show that this is a pressing issue for them. This entry
answers some of the more common questions and aims to help prospective students
come to programs with a shorter and more focused set of topics to explore.
Sunday, April 5, 2009 - 8:56am PDT
Finding a first full-time “real” job in planning
seems a daunting task at present. However, cities are growing, infrastructure is being funded, and there
will be jobs for planners. The following tips can help one navigate the market.
Be prepared to go to Kansas. By this I
mean that there are certain places much loved by young planners—New York, Boston, San Francisco—and these
are not the best places to start looking for early planning jobs. Sure they
have them. For low pay. Where you’ll find yourself at the very bottom of the
totem pole with years of photocopying ahead of you before you make it to the
Saturday, March 7, 2009 - 4:36pm PST
Two years ago the Planetizen editors asked me to contribute
a monthly blog posting. The first one appeared in February 2007 and I have
managed to submit posts
monthly for two years. In accepting the assignment, I decided that I needed to
have an angle. I write, teach, and practice about the substance of planning so
I decided to do something else—provide advice for students on how to enter and
succeed in planning programs. Martin Krieger at USC already provided a terrific
advice column for doctoral students so I
decided to focus on students in professional planning programs.
Saturday, January 31, 2009 - 8:56am PST
Terrorized by the literature is the title of a chapter of Howard Becker’s excellent book, Writing for Social Scientists (1986, Chicago). Whether through terror or misunderstanding, the literature review is one of the areas that students in planning find most confusing. While I have dealt with the literature review briefly in my blog on writing proposals, the tips below provide more detailed advice on how to compose a literature review and how to find important literature in the age of information overload.
Saturday, December 20, 2008 - 7:34pm PST
With the return to prominence of physical planning and
increasing use of GIS, planning students are becoming interested in developing
portfolios of their work. This blog entry provides tips for this process exploring why
portfolios are useful, who they are aimed at, and how to design the portfolio.
It provides many of the resources needed to design your own!
Sunday, November 30, 2008 - 3:20pm PST
Recently I’ve been writing about skills that
planners need—the findings from surveys of employers and the key role or writing in the
planning skill set. Skills like writing, graphics, data analysis, and the
ability to listen are obviously important. As Ethan Seltzer and Connie Ozawa
’s 2002 survey found, however, several more general
skills are also key. I reported these in an earlier blog and they include:
working well with the public and with colleagues,
being a self-starter, being able to finish work on time and on budget, and
understanding public needs.
Saturday, November 1, 2008 - 7:49am PDT
What do planners do? Last month I highlighted the findingsof several surveys of planners aiming to identify core skills for theworkplace. They highlight the importance of skills in communication,information analysis and synthesis, political savvy, and basic workplacecompetencies and attitudes. In all these surveys, however, the ability to writewell is at or near the top.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008 - 12:02pm PDT
At the beginning of semester students are signing up for
classes and planning their degrees. Lately, a question I have been asked quite
frequently is which classes will make new planners most employable? Students
ask if computer aided design or GIS will be key. However, surveys of planning
practitioners show that a far more basic set of skills is important—skills in communication,
information analysis and synthesis, political savvy, and basic workplace competencies
Below, I highlight three of these studies from across three decades:
Sunday, August 31, 2008 - 8:19am PDT
Visual communication is becoming more sophisticated in
planning, however many online image sources are restricted and require payment for use. Others,
such as flikr.com and Google Images are extremely useful but have uneven quality
and information provided about the images can be difficult to assess. While flckr.com and Google Images will remain a key resource, a
number of other online image databases provide more consistent metadata along with free access.
Thursday, July 31, 2008 - 8:40am PDT
Lastmonth’s blog outlined how to find books recommended by many planners—important,classic, or accessible.
However,summer is also a time to push your viewpoint a bit further. For those wantingreadings that might push you tothink differently about planning, the following lists are useful startingpoints. (And a note to planners—we need more of these lists reflecting different placesand people and issues!)
Sunday, June 29, 2008 - 2:14pm PDT