Career change Q&A: Laura Hutson
You don’t have to start your career as a planner to become a planner. Laura Hutson, planning officer at the London Borough of Croydon, tells us how she made the move from publishing to planning.
What was your previous job?
I’d spent the past 10 years working in publishing roles, most recently as editor for the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors member journals. I worked with an editorial board to commission and then edit content from various property professionals.
What does your current job entail?
I am a planning officer in the development management team for the London Borough of Croydon. I assess and make recommendations for decisions on planning applications, also providing advice to applicants and agents as part of our formal pre-applications service. I keep councillors up to date with any applications they’re particularly interested in, and present cases that have been referred to the planning committee for members to determine.
What attracted you to planning?
My work with property journals had drawn my attention to planning, as had the publicity surrounding the National Planning Policy Framework in 2012. I was fascinated by how important and wide-ranging planning was – and by the fact that it provided the occasional opportunity to get out from behind a desk! Planning has tangible outcomes, and I found that idea, and the potential impact you can have as a planner, very attractive.
How did you find your route into planning?
I considered asking my employer if I could switch to compressed hours to release a day to attend university, and was saving to fund a part-time planning MA. But I then saw that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) was advertising for planning officers at all levels, so I applied. I was eventually offered a job as a graduate planning officer, and attended university one day a week to gain my MA.
What advice would you give to people hoping to get into planning?
Don’t forget your transferable skills. For example, I know that the communication, negotiation and project management skills I used as an editor have served me well in planning. Choose the jobs you apply for carefully; in hindsight, my first job at LBTH was a wise move as it allowed me to gain experience in a wide range of interesting schemes.