Embracing Opportunities for Late Career Planners

Among the realities of a long career is the question, “When are you going to retire?”

Planning attracts people whose value system hinges on the need to contribute to public welfare. Do you retire from a vocation? For many, retirement may mean giving up their current career for a new way of working. 

We spoke with a couple of planners who share their insights on the possibilities beyond 9 to 5.

"Maintaining viable relationships and being productive motivate me,” said Tim Van Epp, AICP, who chairs APA’s International Division. “During my career I have focused my time and energy on building a successful consulting business, filling the pipeline with new projects, collaborating with teammates and partners, meeting clients’ needs. Now that our kids are on their own and we are financially secure, I am excited about being able to select from a broader range of projects and initiatives, including volunteer activities, that pique my interest, draw on my creative skills, and benefit communities and the environment."

"In particular," Van Epp said, "I have found that more involvement in APA volunteer work has served as a useful transition:  I get to work with teams of similarly committed planners, for example, through the International Division Executive Committee or a New Jersey Chapter Community Planning Assistance Team project. It has been particularly fulfilling, for example, to see the International Division’s hard work and close collaboration result in winning the Division Council’s 2015 Overall Performance Award.”

When talking with Pete Pointner, FAICP, I got swept up in his enthusiasm for his work.

By evolving into an independent consultant, author, speaker, and workshop facilitator, Pete maintained the momentum of his career in community and environmental planning beyond his last day at the office. With a career spanning 50 years, Pete doesn’t see a separation in his work and life; he lives the adage, “You’ll never work a day in your life if you do what you love.”

Pete enthusiastically explained  that following his passions for historic preservation, environmentally compatible development, and context-sensitive design created the gravitational pull that enabled his network and led to his getting hired as a consultant. Pete’s formula is simple: “Know your capabilities, market, and network. Find out who is doing work that requires your skills and start building your relationships. Networking is your marketing; when you’ve had the time to form a relationship, you build trust.”

“You’ll need to develop your project management and writing capabilities,” he added. “Clear, concise writing — without jargon — is a key skill that can turn proposals into offers. Do your homework and make sure you have an awareness of the political forces on projects."

Pete has shared some of his ideas in a free e-book available on his blog.

Across all professions, people are reaching traditional retirement age only to discover they're not ready to retire. Volunteering or setting up a consulting business are just a couple possibilities. APA hopes you’ll share your thoughts and concerns regarding late-planning-career choices and transitions, including suggestions for how APA can be supportive.

About the Author

Bobbie A. Albrecht is APA's career services manager. Send ideas to her at balbrecht@planning.org.

Top image: APA's Community Planning Assistance Team program (CPAT) offers opportunities for late career planners to use their expertise and give back. Photo of Spanish Fork, Utah, team: Deborah Meihoff, AICP, team leader; Andrew Vesselinovitch, AICP; Sean Daly, AICP; Robert Simons; and Robyn Eason, AICP, LEED AP ND BD+C.


June 6, 2016

By Bobbie Albrecht