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I attended a graduation ceremony last week, and I'll be honest: I got a little choked up (it was my son's very adorable pre-school graduation). Graduations formally mark an important passage in life (notice how many graduation pics pop up on Facebook in June?), and each year at this time I am reminded of transition. My son will be entering a new grade in school, and at the other end of the scholastic spectrum, a new generation of urban planning students are winding down their school experience and preparing to enter the workplace.
In my own office, summer interns are offering new ideas and a boost of energy. Urban planning can be an overwhelmingly broad field to dive into, and those who can embrace uncertainty will find the learning curve more manageable. Most new planners know they want to help make better places, but the question of what urban planners actually do and how they do it might not have been made clear, even in graduate school.
I reflected on my own experience as a new planner in a blog post for the American Planning Association - North Carolina Chapter during this time last year. I remembered my own experience transitioning from graduate school to the workplace, and the unexpected 'entrance exam' I needed to pass to secure my first planning job. In the article I also included a video that recalls some early experiences as a happy new planner long on idealism and short on experience.
The planning department permit counter is a headfirst dive into front line customer service, and a sense of humor helps maintain a positive perspective in a sometimes thankless role.
If you are a new planner, take advantage of any workplace training and orientation events you can access. Ask questions. Don't struggle alone. We were all new at one time. Even the newest employees have something immediate they can offer. Figure out what that is and share it with your team. Be the person that solves problems, no matter how small.
And if you have a new planner in your office, welcome him or her. Be a mentor. Ask about their goals. Ask them to help move that side project forward that you've been thinking about but never have the time to focus on.
We are only a few weeks into internship season and I am already amazed by the productivity and new ideas coming from the group. This is a time to pause, think, and laugh about where we started and where we are headed, and appreciate the great people on our team.