Pro Tips for a Global Career

In the next 15 years Asia alone will add 800 million urban residents. Growing populations mean growing opportunities for planners to work abroad.

Indulge your wanderlust! Come to this year’s National Planning Conference and explore the ways APA can help you think locally and act globally.

Check out the session on “Working Abroad.” It brings together panelists from the recent Career Reality webinar, ready to expand on their comments and take questions from conference goers. Here’s a quick recap of what they had to say during the webinar:

Recent graduate Travis Glascock, urban planner and designer for Jacobs Advanced Planning Group, emphasized internships. “Internships are a great way to build a reputation,” he said. Building a reputation takes time, and networking is the first step. But when people have firsthand experience of your work, you earn their respect at the same time you develop your skills. Internships also are a chance to challenge yourself, he said, adding “Don’t let your weaknesses discount your strengths.”

Aimee Gauthier, chief program officer for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, had a different perspective. “If you are working from the U.S. on international development, it is in a management or research role, not on a program or project level. If you want to work on projects, then you need to be overseas,” she said. “Place matters. Cultural variations on place and cities are amazing.”

Tim Van Epp, owner of Eurasia Environmental Associates and APA’s International Division chair, provided a long view on working abroad. His three decades as a consultant include more than 25 years working internationally. He gave these takeaways — literally — from his long career.

  • Take courses. Get the right education and develop the right skills.
  • Take stock. Why do you want to work internationally?
  • Take advantage. Sign up for programs to study and work abroad.
  • Take your hunt on the road. Shut off your computer, go meet people, and get in front of them.
  • Take down the pile. Don’t build too big a pile of small overseas experiences.
  • Take the long view. It’s a long career, so have patience.
  • Take away resources. Develop. Exchange. And connect with APA’s International Division.

To round out the conversation, Jeff Soule, FAICP, added his thoughts as APA’s Director of Outreach and International Programs. He stressed the work being done by nonprofits, U.S. government agencies like the Peace Corps, and international agencies like the World Bank.

Soule also cited Habitat III, a major global summit taking place in October 2016. Habitat III represents a great opportunity for APA members to contribute ideas, put forward best practices, and voice concerns. Learn more about APA’s Habitat III activities and contact Jeff to find out how you can get involved.

Intrigued? Come to the Working Abroad discussion in the NPC Career Zone on Sunday, April 3, 4– 5:15 p.m.

About the Author

Bobbie Albrecht is APA's Career Services Manager.

Image: Streetscapes before and after planning. Image courtesy Aimee Gauthier of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.


March 21, 2016

By Bobbie Albrecht