I often get asked what a young professional should do to become successful in construction. Here are a few thoughts.
1. THINKING THAT CONSTRUCTION IS AN EASY JOB.
Construction is tough. Things will go wrong. The hours are long. Clients and owners will be difficult. The weather will be horrible. It’s not fun being outside in the dust, heat, rain or cold, while others have a nice cosy job.
2. EXPECTING TO BE HOME EARLY.
You go home when the project is finished for the day. I can’t count the countless times I stayed late on a project when things went wrong – the crane broke, the concrete arrived late, or we just had to get the job finished today. You shouldn’t be making a habit of staying late to finish your work – that’s just poor planning. But, there will be times when you have to stay late to see a problem through. You can’t abandon your team to solve a problem or finish a task while you are sitting at home.
3. JOINING A COMPANY BECAUSE OF THE SALARY.
You finished your studies and all you want to do is earn the big money? Well we all want to earn the best salary, but unfortunately just because you have a qualification and a piece of paper doesn’t mean you know about construction. Believe me there’s still lots to learn, and what you learn in the first few years in the construction world will set you up for success or failure in the rest of your career. Join a company that will give you the best experience, one that has a good reputation, one with good people, and preferably one that has a structured program for new construction professionals. A good solid foundation will help you build a successful construction career, and the money should follow afterwards.
4. LOOKING DOWN ON THE TRADES.
We depend on good tradespeople. We can learn lots from them. Respect those working for you and you’ll earn their respect.
5.NOT ASKING QUESTIONS.
Everyone is busy in construction, and few managers and tradespeople have the time to teach new recruits. However, these managers and tradespeople often have vast experience and knowledge to share – you just must get the information out of them.
6. THINKING YOU KNOW EVERYTHING.
Even after 30 years in construction I know I can learn lots more in construction.
7. EXPECTING TO HAVE AN OFFICE JOB.
Construction happens out on the project site. Too often people think they can sit in the office and look at their computers, studying the construction schedule and reading reports. Nothing beats being at the work face. Looking at the quality and safety on the project. Talking to those working on the project – understanding some of the challenges they face. Looking at how processes and methods can be improved. Understanding the mood and morale of the project team. Even as the managing director of a business unit I still made every effort to get to my project sites at least once a month, and where possible more frequently.
8. ASSUMING THAT RESPECT COMES WITH A JOB TITLE
Or that respect come from being buddies with your team, or for being lenient with them. Respect must be earned. You have to be fair and tough. Respect is mutual. Respect others and they’ll be more likely to respect you. Respect comes with knowledge and trust.
9. ASSUMING THAT YOU WILL BE USING WHAT YOU LEARNED AT UNIVERSITY OR COLLEGE.
As a young entrant into construction you will be expected to do all kinds of mundane stuff, you may even have to do the coffee run or organise the barbeque! You are going to do heaps of things on a construction project that you were never taught at university or college. Most of all you are going to have to master many of the softer skills which you probably weren’t taught – like communication, time management, delegation, negotiating, problem solving and dealing with people.
10. THINKING THAT YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO THE WORLD.
I often hear young people say that they go into construction so they can change the world. Provide water, electricity and sewage connections to the poor. Others think that they’ll be constructing iconic landmark projects that will be admired by the public. Unfortunately, most of construction isn’t like that. Most projects are fairly boring and hardly get a passing mention.