A Guide for the Idealist is a must for young professionals seeking to put their idealism to work. Speaking to urban and regional planners and those in related fields, the book provides tools for the reader to make good choices, practice effectively, and find meaning in planning work. Built around concepts of idealism and realism, the book takes on the gap between the expectations and the constraints of practice. How to make an impact? How to decide when to compromise and when to fight for a core value?
The book advises on career "launching" issues: doubt, decision-making, assessing types of work and work settings, and career planning. Then it explains principled adaptability as professional style. Subsequent chapters address early-practice issues: being right, avoiding wrong, navigating managers, organizations and teams, working with mentors, and understanding the career journey. Underpinning these dimensions is a call for planners to reflect on what they are doing as they are doing it. The advice provided is based on the experience of a planning professor who has also practiced planning throughout his career. The book includes personal anecdotes from the author and other planners about how they launched and managed their careers, and discussion/reflection questions for the reader to consider.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: A Guide for the Idealist
PART I. Launching
2. Am I Good Enough?
3. Making Choices
4. What is My Work?
5. What Work Setting?
6. Career Plans Are Useless
PART II. Succeeding
7. Principled Adaptability
8. Being Right
9. Avoiding Wrong
10. Navigating Supervisors, Organizations, and Teams
11. Working with Mentors
12. Conclusion: Your Idealist Story
A. Generational Differences
B. Methods of Reflection
Richard Willson is a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Cal Poly Pomona, California. His scholarship is in planning theory, professional development, and transportation planning. Richard Willson holds a Ph.D. in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners.
"This guidebook for novices in a field that tugs between idealism and practicality succeeds by revealing lessons Willson learned from an exemplary career as a reflective educator and practitioner. There is much to learn from him because he writes thoughtfully of the paths he followed, the insights he gained, and the values these instilled in him."
Martin Wachs, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Urban Planning, UCLA
"Willson argues we need not be ashamed of professional idealism. He shows the reader how a principled adaptability builds character and competence meeting the demands of a complex world. We each can learn to make provisional increments of planned improvement using practical judgment that keeps the big picture in focus."
Charles J Hoch, Professor of Urban Planning, University of Illinois at Chicago
"Willson explores the contrast between idealism and realism —that is, between the advocacy for solutions to challenging transportation problems and the acceptance of a situation as it is. The book offers practical advice for maintaining the ability to be effective in uncertain environments without compromising strong convictions about analytic techniques, design standards, efficiency, and planning values."
TR News Magazine, September-October 2017