Be the Hero of Your Career

How to Take Control of Your Construction Management Career

Socializing with associates from the industry, one of them was scrolling through social media and burst out a mutual acquaintance’s name and commented, “He always lands on his feet.”

Learning who he was speaking about, my first thoughts were, Does he?

See, this individual has changed employers and taken new jobs three times in the last five years. The past two times, he took the one that a sales recruiter had pumped him up for, making him feel like he was going in as the hero. The employer he selected paid him the most out of all the others whom he considered, and it all happened at the speed of light.

When you look closely at real-life heroes, you find they can’t save the day when they are not in control of the circumstances to do so. When any job seeker takes the highest bid without fully understanding the magnitude of their incoming circumstances, both employer and employees are at risk. When it comes to employment, the higher your price tag goes, the higher the expectation of you. The time you are allotted to meet that expectation and the resources you are afforded can determine your success or failure, usually associated with longevity.

In movies and television, we often see flashbacks into the lives of action heroes. During those flashbacks, we see that most of them are motivated by purpose. They have recognition, too, that if you move too fast, move out of selfish ambition, or are unprepared to face the circumstances, everyone gets hurt, and sometimes someone good dies.

Preparing for a Layoff

The most recent layoff this individual had was because the contractor was terminated from the project. The executive employee will tell you the project was too far gone before they hired in, and the company will tell you this executive said he had the ability to restore the relationships and turn the project around. The truth lies somewhere in the story from the triage of the others on the project team who were left on the unemployment line not suspecting job loss was even possible. They were focused on their daily responsibilities and far removed from contractual vulnerabilities.

As a company owner, executive, or project manager, receiving a letter that says, “I am writing to respectfully inform you that as of (contract termination date), our company no longer requires your company’s services,” can be welcome or dreaded. Most, if not all, construction contracts have this clause available for the owner or even the contractor to exercise with due cause. Typically, whoever is managing the account on behalf of the contractor knows it is leading up to this, and although those working closely with the owner and owner’s team may be savvy enough to know the relationship has come to that, often others involved in the project are caught off guard. This is especially true if the individual hired for that project (and the company itself) does not have another project to transition to.

You may be saying this is a rare occasion, although, just this past year, I can name over a dozen projects where this took place, leaving more than half of the project teams finding themselves unemployed and others taking assignments they would not have chosen to be on if they knew this would happen.

In addition to finding yourself unemployed due to contract termination, projects have permitting delays, redesign delays, and financial delays, to name a few, that can lead to an unexpected layoff. You may or may not be offered to work through project delays with your employer; the work you do while waiting for the project you are excited to start can secure your paycheck yet cause insecurity with your inner self and possibly even your future success. In this business, there is no guarantee that if you deliver a great project from start to finish, they will keep you for the next. Factors such as timing, location, and carry costs are to be considered.

Protecting Your Financial Security

How do you prepare yourself to be at your best when you receive employment news that your payroll is ending with your current employer?

  1. Work towards having a three-month savings set aside to pay your household bills. Financial peace can remove the fear associated with job loss. According to various financial experts, 60% of people live paycheck to paycheck, where a gap in employment as short as two weeks can cause them to go into debt or oftentimes further debt. Debt causes emotional distress and leads to poor decision-making, snowballing to further poor decision-making and higher risk if there is another layoff.
  2. Verify and don’t justify the situation you are hiring into. If you are not doing a minimum of two interviews with an employer, for both of you, the risk of discovering something that might hinder the relationship after your work there becomes exponentially greater. Why? Neither you nor the employer had an opportunity to process what was discussed and clarify anything that might typically be a deal-breaker. You hardly know one another. Just like rushing into marriage after a breakup, the quicker you rush into hiring on with a new employer, the higher the chances it will not thrive and survive with time.
  3. Keep your resume, project list (if applicable), and reference list up to date. Emotionally, during a layoff, individuals are going through a grievance and grieving process. Yes, I said both, especially when you don’t see the layoff coming, and the employer assured you of stability, even though you hired in excited to be helping them turn around a troubled project. Very few people, if any, are emotionally well enough to prepare a professional resume and often do more harm than good by blowing one out. Losing your job falls in the top ten of the most stressful life experiences. Having your documents in order is peace of mind—no different than having a will and trust in the event of a sudden death.
  4. Learn the construction management business and how to navigate the signs of a possible layoff. There are typically signs that proceed a layoff and signs that communicate your role is safe. The biggest signs are when the owner or contractor is not meeting their contractual obligations and receivables are affected. A second sign is multiple personnel are cut. Don’t be fooled by a single layoff of someone you like who is convincing you that you should leave too. Single employment terminations are mostly due to the individual’s lack of results or commitment to their role. Communicating your concerns with your direct supervisor will help you gain the assurance you are looking for or confirm your suspicions with their level of transparency.

Taking Control of Your Construction Management Career

Successful construction managers want to be in control of their careers. At FLCC, Inc., our trademarked Career Coaching and Matchmaking process helps construction management professionals go from passenger to pilot of their careers. We act as your guide and offer you a proven process to follow.

Hopefully, we will not see this individual, who seems to always land on his feet, fall on his head by continuing the pattern of a new employer every year or two when stable employers won’t risk hiring him. There is not a perfect employer, and there is not a perfect employee, yet the companies and individuals that plan to eliminate risk typically are those who don’t just land on their feet by talking themselves into another job. Solid employment relationships don’t just allow one side to land on their feet. The successful matches walk step-by-step with their employment match for long-term mutual success.

If you need a discerning ear to help you become the hero of your career right where you are or with a planned career move, connect with us.

To Gaining Control of Your Career,

Suzanne Breistol



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