Time Magazine’s cover for May 2013 was entitled, “The ME, ME, ME generation”. The article that accompanied it is about the Millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000.  It discusses how the good intentions of the parents of this generation in trying to boost self-esteem has backfired and created narcissistic behaviors that have carried into the workplace. The author notes that while high self-esteem is great for getting a job, it is not so great for keeping a job.

While Millennials are often accused of these stereotype behaviors, in construction we see these behaviors in all age groups.  Personally, I think people became aware of these behaviors as the millennials were entering the workforce because of the sheer number of them.  Where I sit every day, I see more people from older generations who think they deserve something special from an employer just because they have paid their dues in time.

WIFM “What’s in it for me” can sometimes be the station that plays in your head when interviewing for a new job. Changing the station to WWFY – “What works for you” or WWFC “What works the company” will create opportunity for yourself.   Also, it will empower you to be able to listen for employers themselves who are tuned into WIFM.  They will not have clear-cut answers to your questions.

If you are in the habit of reading articles as to why employees and employers part ways, you will often find the authors will focus on what an employer should be doing better.  The employees state they don’t feel trusted, empowered, respected, appreciated, it recognized.  But when we meet individuals who articulate their career match in a way that’s all about them, it does us no good to send that person on interview. Even if the employer would move to hire them, the employer would be exposing their company to risk over time.  Adding the type of team member who is solely focused on his own self-interest and not the common good of the company and clients is a recipe for disaster.

If I had to name one of the best character traits a person working in the construction industry can bring to the workplace, it is mutual perspective.  Mutual perspective allows a person to see both sides of a situation, and this helps people align themselves to achieve their career goals and help the company achieve its goals too.

Imagine the following scenario:  

You want the opportunity to be the lead project manager on a project and you feel you are ready to take on the position.  Your employer may agree and there may be new projects kicking off within the company.  Your employer has asked you to stay as a secondary until your current project is finished.  Mutual perspective comes in when you can see he is not preventing you from becoming a lead project manager, as he has agreed you are ready and is only waiting for the next project.  You can also see that it is not a smart business decision to remove you from your current project early, for a myriad of reasons.  It could be that your employer does not want to set precedent of project managers not staying until the end of the project, or it could be that the owner does not approve of the change right now.  The reason however, doesn’t really matter.  What matters is the mutual perspective that your employer has valid reasons for his decision, and that you can respect them while acknowledging your employer’s appreciation for you and staying focused on the close-out of the project.

When you change your mindset to be more focused on the needs of others, you will feel trusted, empowered, respected, appreciated, and recognized.

One way to do this is to ask the right questions in interviews, such as the following: 

  • What will be my responsibilities?
  • How do I gain additional responsibility within the project or organization?
  • How do you see the logistics of this position?  (Office based, jobsite based, does it vary with project pipeline, etc.)
  • To Whom will I report?
  • With whom will I work to carry out my responsibilities?
  • What will be my compensation?
  • When and how are compensation increases earned?
  • What will make me successful with this company?

By doing this, you will also be able to spot the employers on interview who are themselves overly self-interested, as they often won’t have clear answers to your expectation questions.

Rather than be surprised by unexpected requirements; it is better to know everything at the beginning than to quit in the middle of a project, as that timing will hurt your career and the company.

So, use that self-esteem at whatever age to ask the right questions while processing the answers with mutual perspective.  It’s the quickest way to find the right match for the next step in building a career.

To Mutual Perspective,

Suzanne Breistol

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