Stability Attracts Stability – Yes Construction Managers, it Exists
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Aldous Huxley, Oxford graduate and author of more than fifty books, including Brave New World, Devils of Loudun and A Women’s Vengence known for an array of pithy sayings, one of which is, “No social stability without individual stability”.

Another of his statements is, “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.”

If you follow statistics from the Department of Labor and listen to embellished news, you will likely encounter the notion that people often switch jobs a dozen times or more over the course of their lives. This statistic is often mentioned in close proximity to advise to the effect that if you don’t like something at your place of employment, it is okay to just leave.

The Employee Tenure Report from 2018 US Government Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the following data:

  • Between the ages 25 and 34, the median job tenure is 2.8 years,
  • Between the ages 35 and 44, the median job duration was 4.9 years
  • Between the 45 to 54, and median tenure at a job was 7.6 years.
  • Median tenure rose to 10.1 years for workers aged 55 to 64.

The job sectors with the highest median tenure include management, law, and education. Workers in service occupations have the lowest median tenure.

Other notable statistics include overall management positions across the board having an average of 6 years’ tenure, with the construction category being a mere 4.1 years.  Interestingly, this did not vary much between high school graduate and those with Bachelor’s degrees.  The only major difference is found amongst those with doctorate degrees, whose median tenure is double that of other workers. This leads us to wonder: Is this happening because obtaining a doctorate is usually associated with the ability to obtain a more stable job?  We see very few doctorates in construction, and usually when we do, they are teaching in universities or working for a consultancy firm.

Sadly, we come across too many management professionals in our industry who fall below the average tenure despite the way in which they describe their goals.  Oftentimes they desire stability and no overnight travel, yet blame their inability to achieve that upon others, and take no accountability of their own choices and reactions to adversity.

Forbes wrote an article two years ago regarding ten reasons successful people change jobs.

Here’s my analysis for the construction industry on Forbes’ top ten:
(click on the white tab to read analysis)

When you stay in the same organization, you gradually lose touch with the outside world. Your field of vision constricts and you begin to focus on internal priorities (who’s up and who’s down politically, your next position, and your current goals) rather than focusing on the larger world outside your company’s walls. One of the biggest dangers of staying a job too long is that you fall behind what is happening in your industry and the wide world beyond it.

Construction Management professionals engage with industry professionals and consultants daily, outside the four walls of their company or the perimeter of their jobsites. The industry offers workshops, trade shows, and networking events sponsored by associations and vendors offering opportunities for those who choose to stay informed with industry trends and opportunities.  Rarely do owners in the construction industry drive innovation. Revolution is driven by the clients for whom a company is competing, and the company’s executives’ openness to invest and change with the times in order to stay competitive.

Unless your company is growing very fast — experiencing thirty percent annual growth or more — it is difficult or impossible to give yourself the new experiences, new challenges and range of muscle-building activities you will naturally encounter by changing jobs. We have to work much harder to learn as much as fast in a company we are familiar with as we will learn by entering new organizations frequently.

Unless your company is building the same products as standard rate build-out projects, and you will not have the opportunity to do projects with infrastructure, your company most likely has new challenges and new experiences for you.  Every commercial project is unique, with diverse challenges, changing contacts, and new experiences.  The construction management process is all-encompassing, from the conception of a project to the point of closing-out and dispensing with possible warranty issues.  Master what is on your plate, the process, and cultivate the relationships to open doors for the best new opportunities in the right time.

It can feel uncomfortable to be incompetent. It is easy to forget that we learn the most when we are least competent. As soon as we know a job, part of our brain goes to sleep. We don’t have to stay open and curious. When you change jobs often, you never get out of open-and-curious mode. You’ll accumulate new learning (and just as important, a comfort level with “incompetence”) much faster by throwing yourself into new-job territory more often.

Construction is an industry of expertise.  The more competent and knowledgeable a person is, not only regarding the facets of the industry they represent, but also the intricacies and capabilities of the company for which they work, the more their value tends to increase over time.  If your brain has time to go to sleep in construction, then you are not taking the initiative to stay on your game.  Construction is ever-changing, ever-moving and ever-challenging.  If someone makes you feel incompetent, prove them wrong.

Every time you change jobs, you get to (and have to) re-establish your value. Every time you change jobs you get to redefine yourself on your own terms. If you learned a ton at your last job and were ready to become Manager of Inventory Control but you couldn’t do that at your last job because the Manager of Inventory Control was your boss, you can step up to a new altitude by moving to a new company. You can rationalize the decision to stay in your previous role any number of ways, but the truth is that the only thing you will ever have to sell to an employer or client is your expertise, and the only way to grow that is to grab every new learning opportunity you see.

If you are ready for the next step in your career, and the people or person above you likes keeping you as their secondary, or the company just doesn’t have the next level opening for you, after those requests and discussions take place, it is time to make a move. If it is available within your existing company, then it is a discussion on timing and what you need to do in order to earn that opportunity.

The more often you change jobs, the more comfortable you will become interviewing, probing for Business Pain, telling Dragon-Slaying stories and negotiating to get paid what you’re worth. You won’t grow those muscles by staying put at one job!

The authentic you is who gets the job and keeps the job. We call the guys and gals in our industry who keep talking their way into new jobs silver tongue devils.  The best employers offering the best stability have no problem firing you if you do not turn out to be what you sold yourself to be on interview.  Talk is cheap.

When you change jobs more frequently, your spidey sense will get stronger. You’ll learn to evaluate employers as much as they evaluate you. You won’t waste your time working for people who don’t have a clue or won’t give you latitude to put your stamp on your job. You’ll pass them by and work with people who have vision and courage, instead!

Forbes’ perspective on this appears one-sided. Job hoppers in the construction industry can be called “crawlers” like a spider, but those that are evaluating their employers instead of evaluating how they can improve on their own performance and support their teams have blinders on, instead of vision and courage. Commitments in construction are the duration of a project at minimum, and for companies that hire for career placement, 3-5 years.  Be wise to recognizing if a company has additional work, and if they tell you they do not, perhaps they are also insinuating that you should improve before the pattern follows you.

When you stay put in one job for a long time, you can begin to perform your job mechanically. Your supply of new ideas will begin to diminish and then die out. You need fresh “glasses” to keep a channel open to the collective consciousness or wherever your best ideas come from. If you are asleep in your job, you won’t be as creative or energized about trying new things.

Construction is an ever-changing industry. If you are with your company for a long time, the way to create value and the ability for your employer to increase your compensation is to be able to take on more responsibility in the same forty-plus hour work week, and lead others to achieve their goals on time, within budget, without sacrificing quality. While it is unclear at this stage whether there are any construction management roles that could effectively performed mechanically, if you reach a point where your responsibilities are diminished, your real concern should be whether the company will choose to carry your labor burden.

There are companies that won’t hire people who have short-term jobs (even jobs that lasted two or three years) on their resumes. If that includes you, don’t panic! If a company like that rejects you, you will have dodged a bullet. There’s too much fear in an organization that turns away job-seekers because they don’t stay stuck in their jobs for five or ten years. There’s no way your brilliance could shine forth in a place like that. Be grateful for the “no thank you” letter those people sent you, and thank Mother Nature for sending you signs and signals to keep you on your path.

Rarely do we experience employers in the construction industry require all candidates have a minimum of five-to-ten years with each prior employer.  Most are realistic and look for a minimum of 3-5 years with the majority of your prior employers.  Employees that change jobs every 1-2 years and have a pattern of this throughout their career are typically found to be better at flight than fight.  They tend to move on rather than work through any challenges they may have with others, or with what they believe is fair for them. Stability comes with stability.  Stable employers tend to look for employees that know how to start and cultivate relationships for mutual benefit, and if an ending is inevitable, they leave the door open for the future.

The more companies you work for, the more your reputation in your business community can grow. The more companies you work for, the more people you will know. The more companies you work for, the more comfortable you will be walking into new business situations and figuring out what’s important. Nothing but experience can help you grow those muscles!

Your reputation is built by professionally doing what is expected of you and what you commit to doing in the committed time frame.  It doesn’t necessarily take changing employers to build your business community. Rather, it takes engaging in business with new people.  It is six degrees of separation in the construction industry, and job hopping can destroy your reputation instead of building it, as the top professionals are keepers. They earn their keep and protect not only their reputation, but also the reputation of the company with which they work.

The longer you stay in one company — even if you change jobs internally — the more set and solid your box will become. The more often and more fearlessly you step out of your comfort zone, the more your comfort zone will expand. If you don’t actively enlarge your comfort zone all the time, you will become your own worst enemy. You will start to believe that you are your job title. You won’t see your own vast possibilities. Changing jobs often will make it easier to see that there are no boxes around you.  You are capable of doing whatever you want to do, regardless of the job titles you’ve held so far.

Your title or role within a company should never define who you are. No job is guaranteed forever. Your value is defined by how you bring value to others, and our ability to appreciate the opportunities you do have while they last.  Stepping out of your comfort zone in the construction industry can mean different things to different people.  Sometimes that means trusting others to do more on projects so you can do more to work on the company.  It may mean learning a new technology or communicating differently to meet someone else where they are.

Forbes in some respects ‘spins’ its top ten reasons to think the grass is reliably greener on the other side of the fence, in order to encourage you to leave your job.  We at FLCC believe those with the ability to communicate their needs while taking into consideration the needs of others have favor on their lives creating stability. Stable people in stable companies create sustainable growth and job opportunities for others, and advancement for themselves.

If you are leaving your company to achieve something you can achieve where you are now, this is a matter for a conversation, not a resignation.  If the conversation takes place, but the desired results do not happen in the agreed time-frame, then it would be reasonable to consider a move.  When you do resign the right employer will be happy for you and leave the door open future.

Another quote from Aldous Huxley is, “There’s only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.”

Is your job-hopping justified, or do you leave when you’re out of your comfort zone?

To Stability and for Stability,

Suzanne Breistol

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