Launching Your Planning Career: A Guide for Idealists

The planning profession is rooted in the optimistic idea of betterment: transforming communities from the ground up to achieve livability, sustainability, and social justice. Attaining this entails a healthy measure of idealism. However, it also requires that young planners are realists, prepared for long timeframes, ethical dilemmas, warring stakeholders, and red tape.

For young planners, facing these obstacles unprepared can be deflating, or worse, disillusioning.

Richard Willson, FAICP, draws on his years of experience in the classroom, as a researcher, and as a mentor to young planners. His insights provide processes for making choices in the career "launching" phase — addressing decision making, doubt, types of work, and work settings.

This blog series is amplified in Richard Willson's books, A Guide for the Idealist: How to Launch and Navigate Your Planning Career, and Reflective Planning Practice: Theory, Cases and Methods, and The books include frameworks, case studies, reflective methods, advice, and personal anecdotes. They are available now at Routledge, Amazon, and most retailers.

"A Guide for the Idealist" Posts


About the Author

Richard Willson, FAICP, is a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona. He has also served as department chair, interim dean, and academic strategic planner. Willson's research addresses planning theory and practice, parking policy, and climate change planning.

His book, A Guide for the Idealist: How to Launch and Navigate Your Planning Career, amplifies the themes in this blog series and provides a path to effective practice and personal development. Willson is also the author of Parking Reform Made Easy, Island Press (2013) and Parking Management for Smart Growth (2015). He consults with regional and local transportation agencies such as the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, cities, and developers of urban infill projects.

Willson holds a PhD in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, a Master of Planning from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelor of Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo.