It’s graduation season and that means a new batch of construction management students will soon be entering the workforce. It’s an exciting time in our industry’s history and the 2021 graduates will be entering the construction field at an opportune time.
Our owners enjoy mentoring professionals entering the industry, so we gathered some of the advice they have given over the years to those just starting out.
If you’re just entering the workforce, welcome! Here are a few of the tips to help get your construction management career started on the right foot:
Spend Time in the Field – Construction project managers who have never worked in the field are at a disadvantage. If you are a trained tradesman, you can likely check this off your list. But if not, spend some time in the field however you can. That might include visiting jobsites, shadowing a superintendent, or helping out as a laborer to clean up a jobsite. Lean on your network to find out how you can make these opportunities happen for yourself and go out of your way to get some field experience under your belt.
Get Out of the Office – It’s easy to get buried in the paperwork, but don’t let that happen. Go to jobsites and look around, listen to the conversations happening, watch what an inspector is focused on and talk to your subcontractors. While problem solving can happen from behind your desk as well, nothing can replace face-to-face conversations and on-site observations.
Ask for More – As you get started in your career, keep your ears peeled for ways you can get more involved. Ask for more responsibilities, request to listen in on phone calls, shadow the office manager, and accompany the project manager on the jobsite. Keep asking for more because continually learning and doing will give you a solid foundation for growth.
Embrace Technology – As an industry that has historically lagged technologically, that tide is turning and construction companies of all sizes and in all trades are realizing the benefits technology can have on their business. Embrace the change happening now within construction offices – and look for ways you can help bring in technology to streamline operations even more.
The Business of Construction – Keep a close watch on the business side of your projects. Learn how much materials & labor cost, watch how successful negotiations work and even take business classes outside of work. Nothing in the field will run smoothly unless the business is humming behind the scenes.
Go Small to Medium – Signing on with a bigger general contractor or construction management firm is something that often appeals to new graduates at first. They recognize the names, the projects are newsworthy and the budgets are big. But we encourage graduates to consider small to medium-sized general contractors in the $10 million to $50 million revenue range, where they can really learn about all aspects of projects while discovering different parts of the business as well. It’s an opportunity graduates won’t often see with the big firms.
Your Blueprint for Success – “Your Blueprint for Success” is our company’s tagline, and the blueprints you work with will be the base of your success moving forward. Spend all the time you need understanding the drawings so you know exactly what your clients are building. As you order materials, you need to understand where those materials are going and how they fit into the bigger picture. If someone tells you a measurement isn’t right, look at that blueprint to see if there’s a mistake or figure out if a change needs to be made. Knowing your blueprints will set you up for success.
Take Note – We learn every single day at our office, but the learning that takes place in those early days is exponential. Your brain might be ready to explode during that first year but to quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Take note of what you’re learning with special attention to what you like and where you feel there could be improvement. You can’t see something for the first time twice, so use that clarity to your advantage.
Construction management is an exciting career path – every day is different and you’re constantly learning new things. Watching a plot of land or an empty space go from nothing to a finished product and knowing you played a part in that is incredibly rewarding.