Introduction and Overview of PLAN 548G and PLAN 548H

10th January 2011


In the first class I will overview the objectives of the two courses, how they are organised and the assignments, covering all the items in the agenda below and responding to your questions and suggestions. But first I summarize several general points that we will discuss during the session.

Origins of the Courses

The courses result from discussions among students, faculty and employers in 2009-'10. Students were asking for greater assistance in preparing for their planning careers and obtaining employment. Employers were telling us that not all students were well enough prepared to seek internships and first jobs and that often students did not do themselves justice in their interviews. After discussing possible ways to address these concerns it was decided to develop a suite of three 1-credit short courses that would build on what students learn in Omnibus to cumulatively address the concerns specifically:

Clarifying the Purposes of the Internship

An Internship during the summer between first and second year can be an immensely valuable professional development experience. It not only provides the opportunity to learn about what is involved in day-to-day practice of planning but in the best of all worlds it additionally

In reviewing experience with the Internship it was concluded that primary and secondary purposes should be clarified and distinguished. The primary purpose of the Internship is to learn about what is involved in the day-to-day practice of planning. Whenever the opportunity exists to also undertake research (e.g. produce a report on innovative policies for you-name-it) or experience carrying out some particular planning task (e.g. organizing an initial neighbourhood planning meeting), that is most desirable but it should be recognized as the secondary purpose and not replace the primary purpose of the Internship.

If what you are looking for is to do research or work on a particular project then remember that you can take advantage of the opportunity to include 6 credits of Directed Studies within your degree program.

If you have already gained appropriate experience and understand what is involved in working in a planning office on a day-to-day basis then the Internship can usefully focus on the secondary purpose. This is all the more relevant if you take up the opportunity to obtain permission to take a second internship as provided for in the Internship regulations.

What Students Bring to the Courses

Each student brings experiences to the course that can be helpful to other students and so we will proceed in ways to capitalize on this. In some cases this may be your previous experiences in seeking and interviewing for employment and working on a job. The experiences of those who have already undertaken an Internship or done a Directed Studies with a planning organization will be particularly valuable to those wanting to do this for the first time. Given some students are interested in an Internship or Directed Studies or a first job with an organization outside of Canada, those of you who have lived and worked in other countries can offer particularly useful advice.

Students who have taken Omnibus or my negotiation course in the last three years have summarized the past training and experience that they bring to their planning studies in developing their individual web sites that are part of the course assignments. In each of the short courses we will build on what you have created previously. It will be for each of you to decide whether you would like to refine your web sites for the purposes of seeking Internships or first jobs. We will discuss the pros and cons but you will not be required to do this as part of the course assignments.

If there are any second year students who have not taken either one of my other courses, I will discuss with each of them what would be the most useful ways for them to proceed having not yet developed a web site for themself as part of those courses; although some may have developed an appropriate one for other reasons.

What I Bring to the Courses

Before teaching this course for the first time last year, most of my experience with seeking Internships and first jobs comes from advising students who were doing this. From the other side, I have done a lot of interviewing in hiring students, staff and faculty in varied situations both in and outside of the University. Most of my work experience has been in British Columbia and within the University but some of it has been outside of UBC and some of it has been international. One particularly useful area of my experience for these courses has been in the three professional organizations in which I have long been a member: PIBC/CIP; the Canadian Water Resources Association; and the Association for Conflict Resolution. Take a look at my bio, CV and web site if you would like to know more.

Learning Together

This is the second time these courses are being delivered and they incorporate lessons from the first offering last year. I hope we can learn together how to make them as productive as possible. I would greatly appreciatie your feedback and suggestions for how we might enhance what we are doing. Please do this as we proceed so we can make changes during the present course offerings. I have set up a blog (G2Y) that will provide one way to assist us. My goal is to create with your help a web site and blog that are continuing sources of guidance and resources for obtaining Internships and first Jobs that launch your planning careers and the students that follow you in SCARP.

Customizing Your Strategy

As I have read materials in developing these short courses, I have become more and more impressed by the importance of each of you developing strong capabilities to customize your strategies to fit whom you are, what you are seeking, and the individuals and organizations whom you are approaching and speaking with as you seek internships and employment. We will discuss three major sources of differences that it is critically important you anticipate and become adept in handling:

Choosing advice on how to do it: There is an immense variety of advice out there, in books and on web sites and from individuals, on how to most effectively seek positions and obtain employment. While there is much in common in the advice offered, there is also considerable variation amongst the approaches recommended. It is critically important that you look for approaches that you find to be comfortable and work for you and in the contexts you are using them.

Preparing for how to do it: Without exception all advice emphasises the immense importance of preparation in developing and implementing your search strategy. However, what kind of preparation is relevant and the specifics of your preparation can vary immensely between opportunities and individuals. You therefore have to prepare for each opportunity specifically and over time create a range of strategies relevant to you and your planning career path.

Adapting how you do it on the fly: The challenge is made all the greater for you in that, even with good preparation, you will very likely not know key things about the individuals with whom you will talk and their organizations, before meeting with them. You have to be prepared to learn quickly and adapt your approach as interviews unfold.

In the courses we will explore the nature of these three challenges and ways for you to meet them.

Interview Practice

All advice stresses that to be successful in getting the position you desire you have to first secure an interview and then you have to persuade the interviewers that you are the best person for the job. In the courses we can do a lot to help improve the odds on you being successful in securing an interview. We can also do much to help you know what you need to do to give an impressive interview in different types of interview formats and situations. We can also explore how you can best practice for interviews and can start doing this outside of the class sessions and beyond the course. There will not be enough time in the class sessions for you to do any more than get started on the critical task of honing your interview skills through practice, practice and practice.