By: Andrea Clark, 2017 North American Conference Winner
Two months ago, I did not know IAP2 was a “thing”. I learned about the organization from a transportation planner at my summer internship. She suggested I apply for a scholarship to attend the conference, and because of that conversation I attended my first IAP2 conference last week. I met a wonderful people and learned a lot, but what I really left with was a sense that my skills are valid.
A few weeks before the conference, my professor had each student take the StrengthsFinder assessment. My top five strengths can be categorized as “soft skills”. Although it was no surprise, these skills can be overlooked in a highly quantitative field. Can I list intuition and empathy as skills on my resume? Will anyone hire me because I can read the vibe of a room? As I heard professionals share stories about their work during the conference, I realized how important “soft skills” are to thoughtfully plan and facilitate public participation.
Conference sessions on environmental justice, situational analysis and collaboration emphasized really engaging and listening to people from a place of mutual respect to understand their concerns, needs and interests, particularly people who have been marginalized. Being around a group of professionals who embody these “soft skills” validated my own. I see how my strengths and skills will benefit my future work in equitable and sustainable urban planning and community development. I look forward to developing these skills with IAP2 resources and trainings over the years to come.