Thursday, June 7, 2007

Start of a Career

Eight in a Series about my pre-professional jobs

By my Junior year of college I had finally picked a major, Political Science, but I still had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I only picked a major because the university made me. Late that fall I saw an notice in the departmental newsletter that the local regional planning commission was looking for an intern. Start of a Career

This announcement caught my interest because urban planning was one of the career paths that I was kind of considering. I have always had a life long love of geography and differences between different communities has always fascinated me. I always found my self wondering why one community developed one way while a community just down the road developed in a completely different manner. Give these interests I decided to apply for that internship. I didn't know it at the time, but this was the first baby step into my career.

The agency that I got my internship with was a regional planning organization composed of all the counties and cities in the metropolitan area. Their basic function was to attempt coordinate the planning efforts of all these various jurisdictions.

About the time that I started my internship the data from the 2000 Census was released, I was tasked with analyzing to see what kind of interesting information was hidden deep within it. I found doing this demographic analysis to be totally entrancing. I loved how from a mass of seemingly meaning jumble of numbers that an interesting story could be told about a community. This experience was one the major factors that lead me to pursue a career in planning.

Like many other internships this one had its share of menial tasks, a good example being the stuffing of countless envelopes When the director forgot his hat in mittens at meeting across I was the one sent to retrieve them. Menial stuff like this bother much less at internship did not bother, because unlike the other menial jobs that I worked, paying my dues here could and did lead to something much better

One project that was educational and menial at the same time was the plotting with GPS the entire sewer system of an entire town. The good part of this project is that help me become proficient in using GPS. The down side was that in order to collect the necessary data I had to stand over an open sewer manhole for about a minute as the GPS registered its position and I measured the depth of the manhole. The stench of the sewer gas could be quite horrific.

As an intern I never had my own official office, rather I used the office of whatever position that was vacant at the time. The office was located on the top floor of the tallest building in town. The view from the 20th floor overlooking down town and the river was spectacular. My current office is great and I am grateful to have a window, but the view is nowhere near as awe inspiring, I gaze out on to the Super Wal-Mart parking lot across the street. For about a half year I occupied a corner office, not bad for an intern, a corner office of the top floor of the tallest building in town.

Another thing that made the internship/job so wonderful was how well the organization treated me. Initially the internship was to be unpaid six month experience. At the end of that term I was given the chance to stay on for in paid position. Granted it was only $8 an hour, but the hours were totally flexible and that was at the time most I had ever made. Not only that they applied this rate retroactively to my prior six month of unpaid work, a very nice gesture.

By the end of my two and half years there as was well on my way into the planning profession, I was doing the work of an entry level planner. By this point I had no doubt that urban planning was the career that I wanted to pursue. So I began the process of applying to grad schools. Thanks in large part to the experience that I got at this job I got a full scholarship plus a paid assistantship to the University of New Orleans.

Next job: More Menial Labor


Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

VA Friend said...

I, too, was a political science major, also forced to choose a major because it was that time in my college career. I think I would have liked urban planning but my college didn't give us much help in what we could do with a degree like that other than go to law school. So that was my mission until my junior year my parents freaked out because I wasn't graduating with a pre-professional degree, so I started taking education classes really to please them. I figured it would be a good back up and with political science major and history minor I could teach high school history or government. I entertained the Peace Corps until I realized that I would be basically dropped off in the middle of nowhere and have to live out my mission with no other peace corps people. So teaching was a great back up. I have never regretted not going to law school and have never regretted "settling" on my back up plan. I knew we had a lot in common!! first the chevette and now our college majors!!

gaelstat said...

Speaking of sewer gas, you might enjoy this link: