A day in the working life of an assistant planner

The 500th member of the RTPI young planners' network talks about a typical working day with Catherine Middleton.

Emily Ushewokunze graduated from Newcastle University in autumn 2005 with an MSc in town planning and recently started work as an assistant planner for Asset and Infrastructure Management Solutions Ltd (AIMS).

Why did you decide to take this post?

When I finished my degree I initially thought of taking a couple of years off. But when I heard about the job via a technical recruitment agency I felt that it was an opportunity too good to miss.

What does your job involve?

I work four full days a week carrying out a lot of research, looking at current policy and how it relates to planned development. My job also involves site visits and appraisals and frequent contact with many planning authorities.

AIMS is a multidisciplinary practice with a small team of core staff supplemented by contractors. It operates in a niche market, collaborating with the higher education sector on university developments and related regeneration projects. I work with head of planning Geoff Wright and benefit from his wide experience of urban planning.

What do you do in a typical day?

Every day is very varied, which I like. I have learned so much in just three weeks. I am learning on the job. I think it is important to get stuck in straight away and learn from the specialists on the team.

What skills and knowledge do you need to be successful in your job?

I think that the key skills include:

- The ability to think quickly.

- Good analytical and research skills.

- The imagination to see the potential that places offer.

- Good communication, to relate to a wide range of people.

What are the best points of your job?

The best points are the variety and the opportunity to work with such knowledgeable people. There are real advantages to being the only assistant in the company because I have plenty of opportunities to learn from my colleagues.

I also find that working in a small organisation is a positive experience.

I like the flexibility of it as well as the the fact that we operate in a niche market.

How do you feel your career might progress in the future?

I hope to build on my specialist areas and grow with the organisation.

What advice do you have for students interested in a career as a planner?

The first thing to do is to get some work experience. There is currently a shortage of planners and there are many opportunities for students.

A lot of planning jobs offer flexible working hours, which is a positive factor.

Also, get involved with the RTPI while you are still at university. Become a student member and come to the young planners' conference. My university tried to get us involved by arranging speakers and promoting Planning Aid, but some students did not see the value of joining.

Reading Planning magazine as a student member is useful too, but I would really encourage people to come to the conference. It is great to meet other planners, see the human side of the RTPI and put faces to names.

I found my first degree in sociology and social policy enjoyable but very general. It did not really help me to establish my career whereas the planning qualification did. I can still use my sociology background but now have more career options. I started university at 26. Now, at 31, I have two degrees and a great job.

Catherine Middleton is the RTPI young planners' network manager

- If you would like to tell us about a typical day in your working life, contact (e-mail) young.planners@rtpi.org.uk.

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