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, drew 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. The books include frameworks, case studies, reflective methods, advice, and personal anecdotes. They are available at Routledge, Amazon, and most retailers.

"A Guide for the Idealist" Posts


In Memoriam: Rick Willson, FAICP

Guide for the Idealist Creator

Richard Willson, FAICP, professor, consultant, author, artist, and lifelong mentor to many in the field, died unexpectedly on December 6, 2022. He was 66.

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