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Finding a graduate job in urban and regional planning

Finding a graduate job in urban and regional planning

about 3 years ago By Emma Murphy
Graduate urban planner



For urban and regional planning graduates, the most difficult part of graduating is trying to land your first paid role afterwards!


As a jobseeker, the first thing you need to invest time in is your resume (or CV).

When you are scrolling through Netflix and trying to choose what series to binge on next, you will click and read the synopsis before deciding to watch it or not. Think of your CV as the synopsis!

Your resume should encourage the hiring manager to want to find out more about you, and (hopefully) invite you to an interview. As such, you can’t just spend ten minutes on it and hope for the best.

As a recent graduate, nobody expects you to already have two or three years’ planning experience under your belt. You may just have your education and no practical experience, and that’s fine. But you need to make sure that your resume screams ‘I am a planner!’ at the reader.

Put your education on the front page and provide substantial details on any practical projects you have completed – I would aim for three. For those who have completed a Masters, ensure one of these is your thesis.

Break it down for the reader:

  • Date
  • University
  • Degree/masters
  • Projects – title of project
  • Duties undertaken – site inspection, community consultation, research, data collection, make recommendation and present to council or peers, etc

You can then outline your previous professional experience in chronological order. If you have a background in retail or customer service, skills picked up in these roles are super transferable, so don’t leave it out. Through this, you’ll have experience dealing with members of the public on a daily basis, and this will demonstrate strong communication skills.


Now that you’ve got your resume down pat, let’s look at the application process.

It is important to be realistic and understand that you might not land a job the minute you graduate. Some of your peers might be lucky enough to land a role straight away, but do not compare yourself to those. It is extremely competitive for graduates - for every role that you apply for, think of the number of your classmates who might also apply.

Do not be disheartened if you feel like you are applying constantly and not getting any feedback (positive or negative) though, it just takes some time.

Please read the advertisements before you apply - there is no point applying for a senior or principal role if you are fresh out of uni with limited experience. Serial appliers are recognized and, if an organization knows your name from applying for any and all roles, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Be flexible. Yes, we all want to work in the inner city… who doesn’t? The inner metro councils are generally considered the ‘sexiest’ but, as a result, are the most competitive. Initially you might need to acknowledge that you may have to travel that little bit further to get your foot in the door. Open yourself up to outer councils or regional councils who will not be inundated with applications. You also might need to consider contract roles, instead of holding out for your “dream” permanent position.

Maybe you really want to work in strategic or transport planning… so does everyone else! Consider taking on a statutory role in order to transition into the strategic, community or environmental-focused role you’re looking for.

Lastly, if you have too many restrictions on what you’re willing to do, you could find that it’s been a year since you graduated and you’re now competing against new graduates – and some who have a placement too. All of a sudden, you graduated four years ago and can’t get into the industry.

Don’t forget - keep an eye on Seek, look at the PIA job board, set up a LinkedIn profile, join the ‘Urban Happiness’ group on Facebook and use your network! Your friend working in an organization can keep you posted on when they are hiring and put in a good word.

How can I help?

I have placed a significant number of graduates within councils, in both metro and regional areas. Most of the time, graduates start in a contract role but are then taken on by the council in a permanent capacity or their initial contract role is extended. Often, they find themselves with a solid six months of council experience. This opens the door to so many other opportunities and you can quickly become hot property.

I can assist with your resume and offer advice on what to cut or what to add. I can also go through some interview preparation - what to expect and how best to prepare. I will offer some insights into what to expect from your first role, what your core duties will be and where your salary expectations should sit.

Most importantly, I can assist you to land your first role – so connect with me here.

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