“You are the architect of your future.”
As with most timeless sayings encased in a cookie, this one is especially relevant given today’s economy. Construction unemployment reached a ten-year high of 22.7% in December 2009, and has continued to be high ever since, “falling” to 20% for the month of March. College graduates are struggling to find employment and many who were recently employed find themselves without work as well.
While I do take exception with the word “architect” in the fortune and prefer “engineer” or “contractor,” the message is clear: we need to take control of our futures.
I have found a new willingness among graduates to pay their dues to become gainfully employed. This represents an attitude change from previous years when graduates seemed less willing to gain field experience before becoming project managers. They are beginning to understand that it takes more than completing a college education to land that dream job. We have found that our best project managers have at least four years of hands-on field experience before they can become an effective estimator or project manager. Professional society involvement also helps build leadership skills as well as give students and recent graduates exposure to the many facets of
the construction industry before they land that first job.
Everyone knows it is important to find a stable job, but we need to refocus on laying the foundation for a rewarding career. When I am in a position to hire and see the impressive resume of an experienced construction industry professional who has worked both in the field and in the office and who has
kept up an active participation in professional organizations, I go into the meeting with a degree of confidence I do not have with someone who merely lists a job title. I have shared some of the best resumes I come across with my two nephews, who are engineering students in college. I emphasize to them and other new candidates to the industry that this new professionalism and expected experience level will face them when they graduate. While in college, they need to focus on basic math skills and good written and oral communication skills, but they also need to consider opportunities to obtain
real world experience and involvement in professional societies that demonstrate their interest in a career in engineering or construction.
As professionals, we can take a lesson from the recently unemployed and consider our own resumes. Are they wellrounded? I recently hired a project manager primarily from the personal relationship we developed over the past several years at professional society meetings. Why not use your professional society as a resource for job opportunities, before putting yourself at a 33% disadvantage by going to a headhunter and having your employer pay one-third of your first year salary as a fee to an employment agency? Foster your contacts while you are employed, in case you need to join the increasing number of job seekers.
In Texas, alone, there are 8,500 members in ASCE that work for Texas companies. Why not get a job from one of your peers you have learned to know and trust over several years of professional society involvement? That strategy is just good sense. Technology is changing rapidly, and your professional society is the place to gain knowledge to keep your skills updated in this competitive environment.
Getting a job is one thing, but being the architect of your future is quite another. Getting involved in the industry you love should begin in college. Maintaining professional relationships throughout your career keeps you at
the forefront of professional development, enhances job security, and keeps the industry strong.