So you want to be a construction superstar? By all means, earn your education, certifications and training. Take on internships and build your resume. But what is it really like to work in the construction industry? And what should you know before you jump in? We're here to offer advice the books won't teach you. Here are 4 things construction professionals today wished they knew before landing their first construction job.
1. Determine the desired pace of your career
In commercial construction an important consideration is how long you want to spend working on a single project. If you want to experience a diverse portfolio of projects for top name brands (think Google, Airbnb, Uber, PayPal, Facebook), look for a mid-sized, tenant improvement firm with projects that average 8-14 weeks of construction per project. This will ensure that within the first year, you will have a handful of projects under your belt. If you fancy building big structures such as bridges, large campuses or high rises, be prepared to wrap up your first project in about 2-3 years--these projects are massive, and include many moving parts and you will not likely be exposed to the full spectrum of the project.
"Working for large contractors on high profile jobs is a huge waste of time. Bridges, towers, hospital, etc... Your career will move at a snails pace. Find a mid size, growing company that can give you the ability to grow at a rapid rate. " -- Nathan Drainville, Project Manager
2. Thick skin goes a long way
Having the resilience to take on challenges as they come will help more than you know. Commercial construction can be stressful. This is a challenging profession, both mentally and physically. Ready yourself for changes, and be quick to react and adapt so you can stay proactive to meet schedule deadlines.
"Nothing ever goes perfectly in construction and you should be good at improvising and problem solving when things get tough." -- Bryan Mendes, Construction Management Intern.
3. Trade secrets from the field
If you are considering going into field construction instead of the project management route, you can expect your own set of unique benefits, challenges and excitement. After all, you will literally be where the magic happens. Be prepared for the union vs. non-union dynamic, inconsistent work schedules and a tradition of trade secrets that get passed from generation to generation.
"Life in construction has a way of creating a sort of passion for us. So does the diverse group of people you'll encounter and learn from. The people create this atmosphere where they count on you (as the future of the trade) to keep it going and not let them down." -- Walter Torres, Superintendent
4. Be a doer, a seller and a process guru
One of the biggest missed opportunities in construction comes from pigeon-holing yourself into a certain role. An engineer is not just an engineer and a tradesman is more than a tradesman. In this industry, those who thrive are the ones who can be client-facing, the technical expert on the jobsite, and a process maven in the office. You are selling a service, and each employee has the opportunity to win work by positively representing your company in the office and the field.
"Engineering classes provide theoretical knowledge and techniques, but don't ignore practical business training such mastering your elevator pitch, understanding accounting and financial reports and the art of relationship-building." -- Craig Jones, Principal