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03/11/2017

Freedom of contract

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More young planners are becoming contractors, says Oyster Partnership's Katie Ayre - and there are definite advantages

Traditionally, there have been two clear directions for planners entering the job market: public sector or private sector. Each has pros and cons, and the common view is that planners in each require a different skill set to excel.

Graduates and young planners I talk to generally agree that public sector planning offers better work-life balance and job security; private sector planning, they say, offers greater prestige and a higher salary.

But the market is changing, and there are abundant opportunities across both sectors for young planners with up-to-date knowledge, perhaps some experience, and willingness to work hard and learn. What we’re seeing is greater flow between the two sectors than in the past, and a desire among employers to see young planners with skills traditionally associated with the ‘other’ sector. For example, local authorities are seeking young planners with commercial acumen; consultancies like candidates with development management skills. 

Traditional boundaries are dissolving. For young planners, this means there’s an abundance of opportunity to build a strong and diverse portfolio of work and skills. But how best do you take advantage of that?

We’re also seeing more young planners taking up contract work as a career choice. Traditionally, it was retired professionals who went down this route, but the fast pace, flexible hours and competitive rates are a real draw for those starting out in a changing job market.

What are the benefits? Contracting can be an attractive halfway house between permanent employment and self-employment that offers independence, freedom of movement and strong sense of ownership over work. With agencies such as Oyster Partnership taking on administration and accounting, the pressure of owning and running one’s own practice is eased.

"Traditional boundaries are dissolving. For young planners, this means there's an abundance of opportunity to build a strong and diverse portfolio of work and skills"

Contracting also enables planners to mix private and public sector work more freely and build the diversity that modern employers like to see. Young planners can also build good networks through contracting and, critically, develop a valuable adaptability – to new situations, people, systems, geographical areas and planning sectors.

Whether for the short term or the long, contract working can give planners the skills to be a valuable asset to either a local authority or a private consultancy. If you’re undecided about the direction you’d like your career to go in, it’s definitely worth considering.

Katie Ayre is a senior consultant with Oyster Partnership, the headline sponsor of the RTPI Young Planners’ Conference 2017.

* This article appeared as advertiser content in the November 2017 issue of The Planner.

Image / iStock

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