Rightsizing your construction career
In a recent Grand Rapids Business Journal article, the Associated General Contractors of America note that 71 percent of construction companies surveyed plan to add new employees in the coming year. This expansion of staff is necessary to meet the increased demand for new construction and indicates that the industry is projecting sustained growth for the near future.
In West Michigan, we are experiencing that same demand for new talent while also dealing with the added challenge of operating in a region where unemployment is well below national averages. Small and medium-sized construction firms are competing with large, multinational firms for the same small group of new college graduates and tradespeople.
Large construction firms can offer opportunities to see the country (or world) and work on high profile, mega projects. Large construction firms are typically using the latest technology and have significant resources at their disposal, all of which is attractive to a young person entering our field. That being said, I would like to offer the following considerations for those weighing job offers between a large multinational firm and a smaller regional construction firm.
Just by the nature of their organizational structure and the size of their typical projects, smaller regional construction companies are going to offer more diversity in work experience. A project manager working on a brand new sports stadium, like one being built for the Red Wings in Detroit, will be completely dedicated to that project, and that project only, for several years. Furthermore, entry-level positions on these projects may be restricted to just one aspect of the construction process. In contrast, entry-level project management positions with smaller regional firms allow an individual to work on multiple projects at one time and the opportunity to be exposed to the entire project process, from sales to completion. I believe that this diversity throughout a workday is one of the most underappreciated aspects of a fulfilling career.
It is not hard to argue the fact that it is easier to stand out in a small group of people rather than a large one. In a smaller firm, there are many opportunities for individuals to add direct value to the organization and be recognized for that value. This can mean faster advancement, more autonomy in your workday and, of course, more financial reward.
Choosing a smaller, regional construction provider over a multinational company also offers individuals a chance to make a direct difference in the communities in which they work and live. It is extremely satisfying to work on a local hospital or church and then meet people who have been directly impacted by the work that you and your firm have completed. With larger construction firms, you may be temporarily relocated to a city far from where you live. This can make it difficult to get the same sense of community as when you are working close to home.
I know the prospect of building a skyscraper or major sports stadium is hard to resist, but consider the impact that you can have right here in Michigan by joining one of the many outstanding regional construction managers and specialty trade contractors. It’s a chance to be part of the exciting growth that is happening right in your backyard.