I was recently on a date and my date and I were making small talk trying to get to know one another, where we are from and what we do for a living. Now usually when I tell people what I do for a living, community planning, I met with two responses:
Response A: That’s really interesting, so you plan out whole communities? That sounds like a really cool job, tell me more!
Response B: Hmm, interesting. So wait, what do you do, you just look at plans all day?
The latter response is a little less enthusiastic than the former. So when I told my date what I did, I’m a community planner, I help communities, work with politicians, lead community plans…my date replied, “huh…that’s interesting.” I chalk that up to Response B. Now I will say that I usually humble about what I do and will talk down my job rather than talk it up. And that could be seen as a lack of confidence in what I do, which would say more about me than the job I do, I guess.
But her response led me to wonder, how can I make suburban community planning sound sexy? And I thought about what I do on a day-to-day level. Should I talk about variances and development plans…no, not sexy enough. Zoning battles and making maps…no, no, no still not sexy. Maybe I’ll gripe about my job, everybody likes talking down about their boss…but I work with communities so talking down about them just makes me seem like an asshole…so scratch that. Alright, I tell people I run community plans and that communities need me…but then that sounds like I have a god complex.
Really there is no way to make being a bureaucrat sound sexy. You can explain other professions quickly in one sentence that sound way cooler or heroic even if they are not. I’m a cop – I fight crime. I’m a firefighter – I fight fires. I’m a teacher – I teach our youth. I’m a planner – I plan communities…but only when there’s a consensus…and political will…and funding and years of effort and hundreds of meetings. Sexy.