Last week in my blog post I touched on looking at potential upside in companies where there was more risk than in an established firm with a long track record in the market. People often hear about startups and think silicon valley….certainly not construction!
The reality however is that construction is an insanely risk laden environment and companies come and go all the time. In turn other companies spring up out of opportunity in the marketplace and you have a new player on the block. The advantage to the companies in this “new player” category for a potential employee is that you’re not bottlenecked behind 50 people on your journey to an Executive role. The disadvantage is that one bad project and you might be back out looking for work.
When I talk to people and assess their situation I like to delve into their tolerance for risk. A 28 year old Assistant Superintendent will usually have a greater tolerance for risk than a 53 year old General Superintendent with three kids in college.
It comes down to this- what do you want? Simple. Do you want a big opportunity and the ability to move quickly within the ranks of a company? Then you have to be willing to give up the 401k maybe for a few years and accept a potentially weaker benefits package.
So my advice when seeking a job change is to really assess what is most important to you. This will help you identify the types of companies you would like to target.
When I was 22 years old I landed my first job in the recruiting world working for a large staffing firm out of downtown Boston which focused on Construction. I was offered the following advice from the owner of the company… “Make yourself indispensable and life is easy.”
At the time I thought I understood the advice. In my mind I had to be the best in the room to make myself indispensable….simple I thought. Now, after working with tons of potential placements I’ve got a pretty good feel for what makes an employee indispensable.
This is the biggest one there is. People LIKE to be around other people who have an infectious enthusiasm for what they do. It motivates them and everyone around them. People with a solid outlook and who make the best out of their situation will naturally gain support from peers.
We currently have a client looking to replace one of their top people in the finance group. The reason? Well it turns out their work is great and they get everything done on time but they have a horrible attitude and poison the office environment.
2- Show Up
Seems simple right? It is amazing how much of life is showing up and how doing a LITTLE extra with the right attitude goes so far in the eyes of our clients or superiors. People who tend to succeed are not just workaholics as some people like to think. There is a tendency for those on the lower end of the ladder to point at the top and say “Oh…yeah he’s in the INNER circle.” or “She gets every opportunity.” Those people who succeed very rarely do so because the know someone or because they work all weekend long. Usually these people are very good at recognizing time and place. Meaning that let’s say you have Friday off to visit family down the Cape for a long weekend and although its been on the books for a long time its not a HUGE deal. Suddenly at work you hear that there is final bid going in Friday at 5pm and its crunch time. Stepping up right there before being asked and volunteering to help out and take the time somewhere else could be the difference between your promotion in 10 months or staying right where you are.
3- Playing well with others
In engineering school there is no class called “how to get along with people”. There should be but there isn’t. One of the absolute KILLERS we hear in our industry when reference checking is “He’s a hot head” or “She did not get along with her team.” It is so important to try and work well with others. These are your future references and these people MIGHT be the difference between a promotion or a new job.
To wrap it up…being indispensable is not about being the BEST at everything. We often hear that word and think oh…thats not me I’m more average. The truth is most people are average…thats why its called average. The difference makers are the little things that separate you from everyone else.
When we work with a person to assess whether or not a career move makes sense for them; one of the big focuses has to be on benefits. While base salary is important, its really just a small part in the bigger picture.
So, having a lot of experience looking at people’s benefits packages I’ve come to find that there is generally a direct correlation between the quality of the company and the benefits they offer.
First off one thing we all realize is that benefits are expensive. In today’s era of rising healthcare costs it is more expensive then ever to offer a fully backed plan where the company pays 100% of the cost. This can be a massive savings to the average employee.
What we find is that companies with very strong benefits packages really care about how their employees view their overall experience with the company. Simply put, they are creating reasons for people to stay with the company for a long time.
The Other Side of the Tracks
On the exact opposite side of the coin we see the employer that offers say, 70% coverage with a weak plan, no match on a 401k BUT….usually do a nice sized bonus and the salary might be a little higher. We have found in general that these companies tend to cycle through more people. They tend to be a little more reaction oriented hiring late for projects, cutting staff quicker when work slows and surprise…having those bonuses come in a little weaker than initially promised.
We get contacted a few times a month by new prospective clients and almost immediately we ask about their benefits package. A company with a very weak benefits package is not something we will “sell” to one of our candidates.
The One Exception
Here is the one place where I make an exception….brand new companies with tremendous upside. This is a rare occurrence but we do work with companies from time to time where they are in start up mode and cash is tight. Candidates who are interested in being in on the ground floor with a new company are open to risk and often that comes at a slight price. In that case there is merit in taking reduced initial benefits package.
Part of what we really try to push on our candidates is the idea of “Career Equity” when seeking out a potential job change. Many of our candidates initially think in black and white terms such as base salary, vacation time and bonus potential. Right behind those three things usually come benefits, commute and overall quality of life. Now…all of these things are huge factors when making a change but we also need to examine the not so obvious “career equity” gained in your next move.
What is “Career Equity”?
When I’m talking about “career equity” I am referring to the gain you receive from working at a specific employer or gaining access to pathways which could lead to a more rewarding financial picture down the road.
So lets take the example of Tim who is a 7 year Project Manager with a small Civil Construction company in New York and is looking at making a move. Tim feels he is a bit under paid and also would like to one day run large construction projects in the $100MM range. Tim is earning $ 87k per year with a car allowance and working on $10MM project.
Tim takes two interviews. The first company is a direct competitor of his current employer and the interview goes well. He knows the exact type of work they do and they recognize he would need no training on their end. The company offers him $110k plus a vehicle and the title of Senior Project Manager.
The second company is a major player in the $100MM plus mega project market. The company is national and has a great presence in the New York area. The VP of Opps likes Tim even though his experience is on the much smaller side than what they do. He thinks Tim could be a star down the line but needs to really learn how they do things. He offers Tim the title “Project Engineer” and a base salary of $100k plus the same allowance he has now.
Using the Crystal Ball
So a lot of people will automatically say that Tim makes a mistake going to the bigger company. After all he leaves $10k on the table, plus a vehicle and the better title right? Wrong.
Tim’s move to the competitor would do nothing to increase his marketability 10 years down the road. At that point he would be pigeon holed into the market of smaller sized jobs and would be priced out from moving to a larger company as he won’t offer them value.
If he moves to the larger company with more challenges and less money his 10 yr expectation sky rockets. Not only will he be marketable to all the major players but he would be just as marketable if not more to the mid-level and smaller companies as well. He has in essence opened up 10x opportunities for the future.
Considering All Factors
No situation is simply black and white and we understand that a job search is a complicated process with many layers from commute to future earning potential. What we advise our candidates to do is consider that long view and the unseen equity they will get out of their next move.
In todays construction market chances are you are getting a few calls a week from eager recruiters anxious to place you in the next great opportunity across their desk. If you get a little annoyed with us you’ll have to give us a bit of a pass…there’s just a lot of great opportunities out there right now.
Now let’s get to all you well employed construction professionals out there! In todays market if you decide to put your resume out there with a recruiter chances are very high that they will be able to get you multiple interviews at a fairly rapid pace. That’s why before we put our candidates out on interviews we spend a lot of time explaining exactly what will happen next.
Take Stock in Your Current Situation
Maybe you’ve been with the same company for 7 years and you are wondering is there a better paying job in the market for you. Maybe you’ve been fed up with the fact that despite the great benefits at your company that you haven’t received a bonus for 4 years despite being the most productive worker in your group.
Those are all viable reasons to get curious about the market. What I tell people is to also look at what you HAVE currently that might lose in the process of a career change. Do you leave early two nights a week to bring your kids to baseball? Can you work from home one day a week? Are you due a bonus in 3 months?
Those are all things I tell people to consider before looking at new options. If you’re current employer gives you something that can’t be replaced and you feel you can’t give up….then my advice is to stay tight.
Gearing Up For The Ride
Lets look at the life cycle of a job move in todays market. Friday at work a recruiter calls you and pitches what seems to be a pretty tasty opportunity with a rival company.
Sunday night after speaking with your significant other you’ve decided to submit your resume to the recruiter regarding what sounds like a pretty good opportunity.
Monday the recruiter calls you and gets a handle on your salary range and career aspirations. You give them the ok to send your resume to the client and then you get back to your day to day.
Monday at 1pm you get an email from the recruiter…could you possibly go in for an interview on Tuesday at 3pm? Wow…that was fast but you decide to go for it and book the interview. You tell your boss you’ve got a doctors appointment that day and take a half day.
Tuesday comes and after lunch you head home and get dressed for the interview. Armed with your resume and some confidence you head into the interview and meet the hiring manager. The meeting goes great and the position feels like a good fit for you career goals down the road.
Wednesday you open your email after coffee and find an urgent email from the recruiter…”Please Call Me ASAP!”. You jump outside for a few minutes and call the recruiter who informs you that there will be an offer in your inbox within the hour! This is great news the recruiter tells you!
11am - The offer comes in to your inbox and they’ve made you a good offer with great benefits….but you can’t help but feel a little off about the whole thing. After all you’ve been at your company 5 years…and your boss has treated you well. You decide to talk to your significant other and discuss it over dinner.
Ok…so I think you see where I am going with this. The market moves VERY fast these days. Many companies are eager to snatch up talent as fast as they can and it can be very jarring for the candidate. Friday you were pretty happy at your company before a recruiter called you and here you are Wednesday with a job offer!! What the hell happened in 5 days????
The purpose of this blog is to educate you on what to expect out there and to help you moderate the process and not have it feel like the process is taking over and you’re being carried down the river without a paddle.
First off we almost ALWAYS work to schedule a 2nd interview for our candidates and get any final questions answered. If you find yourself working with a recruiter and they’re bulldozing you into making a snap decision then stop and ask them for a second meeting. There’s no harm in that and this is a life changing move. Getting that second interview will allow you to ask all the final questions you may have and take the process back a bit so that you get to thoroughly vet the opportunity. Even if the company has made you the offer it is completely normal to want a few more questions answered.
Also ask around if you can. This is construction and you probably work with some of the same Subcontractors and Architects. Find out their reputation from the people you trust. This could help put you at ease or make it clear to run in the other direction.
My final parting advice on this topic is to REALLY spend time thinking if you are truly ready to make a move. Take time and fully break down your full package from benefits to base salary in order to know exactly what your full compensation is. This allows you to educate your recruiter on exactly what your financial snapshot is.
Spend time speaking with those close to you and really identify if this is a good time for you to explore another opportunity. Things like pre planned vacations can be worked around but bigger issues like maturity of vesting should be really looked at.
If you do decide to make that move and look at the market then hold on tight! There are awesome opportunities out there these days and its a great time to position your career on the track to high level success.
This is something I see happen with people time and time again. They get so hung up on on their current “title” that they pass up great opportunities with top contractors simply because they may have to take a slight step back in rank initially. First off, with the best companies out there they want to ease people into their system and have them get acclimated to the company. Second, job seekers need to look at the BIGGER picture! Ask yourself the following:
1) Is this company a better long term opportunity?
2) Is the money and benefits in line with what I am seeking?
3) Do I believe in myself and my skill set? Do I believe that I can add value and make my mark on this company?
See THESE are the important questions to ask. Getting hung up on a slight title change is ludicrous in the long term view and will certainly keep you from achieving max potential.
Are you sitting idle? Here is something we see over and over again with a passive candidate. You’re certain that your current position is never going to allow you to grow as you would like BUT you wait……and you wait. Why? This happens for a LOT of reason but for most people they simply do not want to deal with the short term pain of moving positions.
So what is the short term pain? Well…that’s everything involved in transition to a new company or position. From new co-workers to new computer systems…as a species we are generally not change oriented.
There is a good chance that this blog speaks direct to you. My advice is to make a list of all the things you’d like to change about your current position and see if you can realistically achieve that where you are. All growth comes as a result of action! Take some!