Take the chance to do some voluntary work alongside your studies.

A great opportunity that I’m glad I got involved with this year was taking up a place on the RTPI Devon and Cornwall Young Planners organising committee, which I joined back in September and have been volunteering my time toward intermittently ever since.

The name ‘Young Planners’ is slightly misleading, as it’s a group that planners of all ages can get involved with during the first ten years of becoming a planning professional. The remit of the group is generally to put on CPD events and socials for young planners in the Devon and Cornwall area providing a valuable opportunity for them to continue to develop professionally as well as to network with other planners outside of work.  Our events draw planners from the various local authorities in the area, as well as from the private sector and is a great way to engage with others in the same kind of roles and to hopefully learn something new whilst having some fun along the way.

Being on the organising committee, myself and another member of the group recently took on the role of organising a CPD event for professional planners at Plymouth’s relatively new Waste to Energy power plant. It was a good chance to practice some project management, and event organising centred around an issue that is highly relevant to the way we live today (what should we do with all the waste our society is creating). These will all be really useful talking points when it comes to interviews in the future (I hope). On top of this, the event was really successful getting fully booked up by planners from all around the region and offering a really insightful look at the complex challenges that can go into building such a contentious development in the heart of an urban area. I think everyone found the visit to be a really enjoyable one, and an eye opening peek into the sheer amount of rubbish that we as a society throw away and the effort it takes to divert as much of that away from landfill as possible.

Another event we ran during my time on the committee included a workshop into the planning appeals process. This was delivered by a government planning inspector in a pub in Totnes just after Christmas and included a social over food and drinks. Looking towards the future we’re also in the beginning stages of putting on a boat party social over the summer which should be cool!

All of this is voluntary but I think it’s a valuable way to spend a little of my time each week. I mean just turning up to these events as a member of the Young Planners group (and not being on the organising committee itself) offers a lot of opportunities to build upon what we have been learning on our masters programme, and to network and build up relationships with planners already in the working world, which is vital when it comes to job hunting. On top of this, taking a more active role in the organising of such events has afforded me some additional responsibilities and experience which I can talk about in interviews, as I’ve already touched upon.

Whilst the masters programme is really full on in terms of time commitments, there are plenty of chances to take up voluntary work like this, and I hope that I’ve demonstrated here that such experience doesn’t necessarily only have to come from the work place itself and can be a valuable asset to your employability.