The start of the 2023 New Year is the perfect time to think about how you can develop your professional career. The career path for those in construction has the potential to be rewarding, but you may find that it is challenging to navigate a constantly changing landscape.
To help make it a little easier to get started in the New Year and to focus on professional development that furthers your career, we’ve gathered advice and insight from 17 professionals who are thriving in their roles in construction.
Further Your Career By Always Learning
Continuing to learn is essential, according to several leading industry professionals. How can learning impact your career? This is what they had to say.
“Continuously look to seek out new learnings. Doing this will help you find innovative solutions to problems you may face, and also keep you engaged and relevant in an ever-changing industry.”
– Adam Plunkett, Group Manager of Business Technology & Planning at John Holland
“Never think any task or experience is beneath you. Especially if it’s something you are expecting from others who may report to you. Always be a student of the company you work for and the industry you are working in. You are never done learning and developing. Trust in the experience of the ones who came before you and the fresh perspective of those coming in behind you.”
-Matt Allread, Education Manager at Gaylor, Electric, Inc.
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“Don’t be afraid of change, and always look for ways to improve your skills. When I first started working at MG2 10 years ago, there were not many Revit experts at the time. I took this opportunity to step up and be the expert for my firm. This gave me the tools to tackle complex projects with confidence.”
– Maribel F. Barba, Associate at MG2
Leverage Your Experience
“If it is not part of your job, take your time and learn something new. The industry’s future will be built on software; learn how to code, build an app, or automate repetitive tasks. Opportunities will arise where these new skills will be leveraged, and your team members, your bosses, and your company will value you more because of it.”
– Jacob D’Albora, FMP Director of Digital Building Operations at VIATechnik, LLC
Try New Things
“I’d advise them to experiment and try new things in new ways. Look to other industries to learn from. There are a lot of processes and ideas that the construction industry does well, but there are so many that other industries do better. I’d suggest using whatever previous experience from whatever you have done, be it professionally or as a hobby, to reach the goal you have in your work.”
– Kristoffer Flygare, Technology Manager at Bravida Sverige AB
“Be willing to adapt quickly to change. Technology in construction is consistently changing, no matter your position, and being able to adjust your processes to keep up with the changes will help any individual grow in their career.”
– Kacie Hokanson, Virtual Construction Specialist at Miron Construction Co., Inc.
Grow Your Network
Sometimes, who you know matters when you’re looking for work or trying to improve your skills. Keep this advice in mind.
Get a Mentor
“Find an ally, mentor, or sponsor that can help guide you within or outside of your organization. Leverage these people to bounce ideas off, get constructive feedback, or align career goals and opportunities. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself by keeping track of all that you have accomplished, and be sure to share that with your manager during performance reviews or check-ins. You may not get every role or promotion you apply for, but you won’t know unless you try!”
– Danielle O’Connell, Sr. Director, Emerging Technology at Skanska USA Building Inc.
“Build relationships everywhere you go. Be genuinely interested in what others do in the AEC industry and build relationship capital. By doing so, you’ll gain knowledge while also building a network of people who support you throughout your career advancements.”
– Breawn Felix, Regional Support Services Manager at Swinerton Builders
“My advice to someone looking to level up their career is to get involved with as many groups or organizations in the industry as possible. The more networking that you do, the better it will be for your career. Each group can help open different doors or paths that previously were not available. The other piece of advice is to find a mentor. Someone that has been through everything before can be your biggest asset in guiding you down your path.”
– Landon Arciero, Senior Project Manager at Largo Concrete Inc.
Share Your Work
“Take advantage of the fact that building things is inherently interesting. Most people, even those who aren’t interested in the built world, have a vested interest in the places they live, work, and play in. There’s also the added bonus that every new construction project directly impacts the community it’s in, so regardless of career path, there will always be an audience for your work. So, my advice is to share it! Take lots of pictures, and tell people about what you’re doing.”
– Christian Waldo, VDC Manager at Lydig Construction
Use Tech to Your Advantage
Technology is changing, and it’s being used more than ever in construction. Here’s what industry experts want you to keep in mind about the advancement of technology and digital spaces.
Carve Out a “Tech-Savvy” Career
“The AEC industry is, now more than ever, making huge technological advancements. I think that this creates many opportunities for carving out a path forward in a career. I always recommend someone become as “tech savvy” as possible. Break every piece of software that you can, so that you know the limits and can help advance the software as well. Become the person that everyone knows they can count on to either have the answers or know how to figure it out. Gone are the days of being able to ignore the changes that advances in technology can bring to the job site. Whoever can best manage and understand how to best use every technology at their disposal will have a very quick path forward.”
– Andrew Cooper, VDC Engineer at AECOM Hunt
Be Ready to Go Virtual
“Advice I would give others in the AEC industry would be that construction is evolving in so many ways that there are more and more opportunities every day. Technology is advancing so quickly, and the construction field is directly impacted. Working in construction now isn’t just about being a tradesman working on a job site. The job site is becoming more virtual, and experience on the virtual end of projects is becoming just as important as someone who is building and installing.”
– Brian Harlow, VDC Specialist at Interstate Electrical Services
Prepare for Digital Collaboration
“Continue to innovate, and consider how to employ cutting-edge technology to complement their current skill sets to go beyond purely technical ones. Additionally, they will want to learn techniques for digital collaboration as well as transdisciplinary and design thinking for innovation. Get out of the compartmentalized and hostile mindset.”
– Muhammad Khalil Bin Shaiful Bahari, Deputy Director of the Group Technology Office at Boustead Projects Limited
Build Meaningful Team Environments
Building better and more meaningful team environments could help you get a step forward in your career as it develops, according to these professionals.
Listen to Others
“Take the time to really listen to everybody around you, understand individual motivation, and empathize with collective priorities. Not everybody will agree with you on the way, so resolving your own and other’s confirmation bias is critical to negotiating the obstacles in delivering the seemingly impossible.”
– Adam Bear, Strategic Digital Manager at Wessex Water
“Leverage your authenticity to add value and to build meaningful team environments. Find what makes your teammates unique, and create an avenue for that uniqueness to have a greater impact.”
– Jason Moss, Mechanical Engineer & Project Manager at AKF Group
Take Pride in Your Work
“Take pride in the work you do so at the end of each project you are satisfied with your contributions and proud to share what you helped create and build. Remember, no matter your job title or responsibility, every team member plays a valuable role in the completion of a successful project. No project is ever the same, and the industry is constantly evolving — so always ask questions. Asking questions will help you improve your soft skills and lead to gained trust, dependability, and superior business relationships. A person’s technical skills can be taught, but having and demonstrating a strong work ethic is key to advancing and achieving your career goals.”
– Katrina Smith, Project Manager at Pan-Pacific Mechanical
Follow the Three H’s
“I recently spoke about this to a few junior engineers back in India during a quick vacation. They were curious about how to advance their careers. Here are my three H’s that I think really help you advance your career.
- Honesty – Commit to honest deadlines, honest feedback, and honest reviews of milestone durations for any task or activity. Be honest if you are running late or breaking bad news to a client. When you let someone know something, be honest about the action or inaction. Use bulleted lists for discussions and presentations with a focus on what the audience (boss/client/vendor) gains out of it. This is a very intentional part of disseminating information honestly. The importance of this task cannot be reiterated enough.
- Hard work – In the initial years of a construction career, it is all about physical hard work, like going to job sites, figuring out production in the field, and understanding the unspoken challenges of being on job sites. This hard work improves your core understanding of different facets of construction, like the time taken to do certain activities, deal with existing conditions on a job site/tenant improvement, or even understand work challenges outside normal working hours. Dealing with crews, and being available for the team to help with answering questions when a project is happening on 12/16 hour schedules…all of this builds your knowledge base at an exponential rate.
- Hustle – Being good construction personnel is a testimony to your ability to hustle. The more you can get stuff done and not give up easily, the more your ability to hustle will improve. Hustle in itself could be working with multiple vendors and getting good pricing, making a sufficient number of phone calls to find a certain type of temporary material in a short span of time, building a good network of subs and clients who can help with your existing projects, or putting together a network that helps get you your future projects.”
– Suchayita (Sue) Bhattacharjee, Director of Preconstruction at Herrero Builders
Thrive in Your Construction Career
2023 is almost here, so now is a great time to start focusing on what you want out of your career in construction in the New Year. Consider what these professionals had to say about working well with your team, getting used to and familiar with technology, and building relationships, so you can see real results from your efforts.