Are You The Smartest Civil Engineer In The Room?

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Are you the smartest civil engineer in the room?  If you answered “yes,” might it be time for you to explore a new opportunity?

I am not sure where the quote originated from, but it has often been said:

Smartest Person in the room

Last year I published a blog about about firms who are stuck in their old ways, and no matter how successful those “ways” worked for them in the past, should civil engineering firms not have the ability to evolve as a company, they will be left in dust.  This same concept certainly applies to the individual civil engineer as well.

No one is perfect, I suspect we can agree on that.  There is always room for improvement, and unless you surround yourself with people who are more talented than you, if not overall, at least in specific areas, your career will remain static.  Often times I hear from civil engineers that they have “topped out” or hit the proverbial “glass ceiling.”  Because of certain situations they very well may have advanced as far as they can with their current organization, but figuratively speaking that may also be their way of feeling as they are the smartest person in the room.  Surrounding yourself with those whose intelligence surpasses your own can allow for the following:

  • Learning of new engineering concepts
  • Learning of new management, financial, and business operational techniques
  • Learning of how technology is changing the way business is done
  • Exposure to new opportunities and activities outside of the workplace
  • Challenging of authority and learning as a result
  • The ability to compete more vigorously

 

Once you surround yourself with more talented people, you will witness the domino effect take place, as more doors will open and more opportunities will present themselves, which can lead to professional and personal development.

So every once in a while, be sure to take a step back and observe your surroundings…are you the smartest person in the room?

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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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February 8, 2016 at 9:46 am 2 comments

Hiring 55+: That Silver Hair May Be A Silver Lining

Goerge Burns
Back in 2012 I started a discussion on LinkedIn, and then wrote a blog in response to that discussion that revolved around the employment of those 55 and older.  The idea that employers shy away from hiring those with 35+ years of experience is disheartening and unfortunate, and in fact, in the line of business that I am in of recruiting civil engineering and land surveying professionals, this line of thinking is not necessarily uncommon.  The perception often is that those 55 and older are “riding off into the sunset” and lack the passion and energy.  Though this very well may be true for some, there are PLENTY of civil engineers and surveyors who are vibrant, passionate, extremely knowledgeable, and remain very competitive who see themselves working until their mid 70’s, or in the case of Bob Vollmer, until nearly the century mark…take a look:

In that LinkedIn discussion that I alluded to earlier, one of the participants commented as follows in regards to the “seasoned professionals” he works with:

“I am presently working with a group of seasoned professionals that can handle just about any problem with little direction. What a difference in the caliber of design product! The client knows and appreciates that quality and I am confident they will continue to use our service. Managers should be aware of the value of that quality and the little comparative cost difference as a percentage of the entire project it represents. “

That said, as the war for talent in the civil engineering and land surveying profession continues, don’t be so quick to toss aside that resume that shows a graduation date from the 70’s or early 80’s,

THAT SILVER HAIR MAY VERY WELL BE A SILVER LINING!

 

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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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February 1, 2016 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

Has Your A/E Firm Taken Over Your Identity?

question

Are you known as a civil engineer, architect, landscape architect and planner OR are you known as an employee of your employer?

Recently an outstanding executive engineer was set to interview with my client. This engineer had worked as a leader in his firm for 20 years. At the start of the process, he told me had participated in a three-month long interview process for another opportunity only to not receive an offer. He was informed that he was not hired in the previous firm because they thought he was known as “Bill Smith, ABC Engineers.”

In other words, he was no longer “Bill Smith, PE, well respected leader in the ACEC engineering community.” Instead he was known as “ABC Engineers’ Bill Smith.” The firm told him that they were concerned that he had been with his employer (and successful) for so long, that his identity with municipalities and agencies was too intertwined with his firm’s identity.

This made me wonder: Can a firm take over your professional identity? Do you become the “brand” of your firm?

A “personal” or “professional brand” is an identity built around you personally. It is in basic terms, who you are and how you want the world to see you. Personal brands can be flexible and are becoming helpful for use in your career – at all levels.  A “business brand” is an identity built around a company or business. These brands are usually not flexible and can be critical to a firm’s success or failure.

Many of us are taught to be aware of our behavior when we attend business functions as we are representing our firms. We typically introduce ourselves by our name and our company affiliation. To separate your professional identity from your company’s is tricky. That is where your personality and relationships come in. You are representing your company, but remember you are also your brand.

LinkedIn and other professional social media outlets are helping many of us develop our own “personal/professional brand.” Blogs, participation in technical associations, published technical papers, LinkedIn profiles and published writings (like this one you are reading) are great avenues to have people learn who you are and what you do. For example, after reading this, it would be my hope that when someone asks “Do you know anyone who is an architecture or civil engineering recruiter/headhunter?” that you would reply “Yes. Carol Metzner does that.” :)

 

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Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

January 27, 2016 at 5:14 pm Leave a comment

Honesty & The Exit Interview

Exit InterviewsExit interviews are rarely an enjoyable experience – for the company, or for the employee.  Now, from time-to-time “high fives” are given when sub-par, poorly producing employees resign. Or employees skip out to their car and begin gleefully singing and offering up a rapid fire of fist pumps in the air excited about moving on to a new employer. But I believe that in many cases, when someone resigns, a good, quality relationship is broken and the exit interview can be difficult.  That said, resignations and layoffs are a part of life, and companies and employees live another day and continue to prosper no matter how awkward that moment in the exit interview may be.    So often I hear about how exit interviews are a complete waste of time, and that they are more of a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” process and mentality, and really just a necessary evil.  But WHAT IF those employees who were leaving were REALLY honest, and that leaders conducting the interview truly ENCOURAGED honesty during the interview.  A true dose of honesty could make a great impact on many organizations, big and small, but a high level of commitment to the evaluation of results of exit interviews must be made.  Many organizational leaders are already stretched thin as it is, I get it, and putting in the time to undertake such a task likely presents great challenges and can easily be put on the back burner as other priorities take precedence…but what if?

If honesty is encouraged where as those leaving your company would actually feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, consulting firms and organizations who employ civil engineers could truly continue to evolve and better themselves.  Certainly there will be those employee experiences and comments that will be considered outliers, but if you are hearing a steady dose of what really works and what they really enjoyed, and continue to enhance that culture or those programs or those projects, you will continue to retain your top talent.  Typically employees are much more inclined to share the positive than the negatives , as they do not want to burn any bridges or hurt any feelings.  But by having an honest conversation with those exiting the building for the last time where they feel comfortable ALSO sharing the negatives can be of great value to an organization.

  • **Maybe a manage or director who is great and widely liked by clients shows a completely different persona to his employees, which leads to resentment or diminished morale.
  • **Maybe some of the systems that you have in place are antiquated and prohibiting you from keeping up or passing by the competition.
  • **Or maybe a branch or satellite office is not getting the attention from corporate leadership that it so desires, and as a result the staff working there feel like the ugly duckling.

There is a saying that I have heard a couple of times recently that states, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”    Try looking at exit interviews not  merely as a formality when turnover occurs, but try REALLY using them as a learning tool and a way to provide future value to your organization.
This was the third entry in our HONESTY series.  The first two entries in this series are as follows:

What to Expect as a Candidate from your Recruiter

What to Expect as a Client from your Recruiter

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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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January 22, 2016 at 12:18 pm Leave a comment

It’s Not About The Title or The Money: Stop Lying To Yourself!

money

If I had a penny for every time a job seeker told me that they would not reject a job offer based upon the title or the money, I could have bought an island years ago!  Stop lying to yourself.

Inevitably, 95% of job offer rejections center around money or title. That is acceptable and sometimes even reasonable. However, telling a recruiter or perspective employer that you will not be making a decision based on money or title is just not true (95% of the time).

As an executive recruiter, I tell my candidates that they should not walk away from a great opportunity over money nor should they accept an opportunity because of money. Same goes for title.

When potential job seekers call me, regardless of their experience level, I ask them a number of questions.

  1. Why are you looking for a new job?
  2. What do you want to do?
  3. What location(s) do you want to work? Are you open to relocation?
  4. What type(s) of company/companies do you want to work for?
  5. Are the answers to questions 2, 3 and 4 absolutes?
  6. What are/were you making and when is your next increase anticipated?
  7. How important are money and job title?

Why are you looking for a new job?
Are you unhappy in your current job? If so, what do you dislike AND what do you like about your situation? If you don’t define likes and dislikes, you won’t be able to red flag them and identify them in an interview. The thought “any job is better than the one I have” won’t help you in your job search. What must you have in a new job? What would you like to have in a new job?

What do you want to do?
Do you have an idea of what you want to do and are you qualified to do it? Be honest with yourself and about your abilities. If you like a variety of work, keep options open when looking at jobs. Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?

What location(s) do you want to work?
If you are not open to relocation, then do not say that you are. Many firms will not be open to telecommuting.  Do not go for an interview that requires relocation with the thought “they will love me when they meet me and allow me to telecommute.”

What type(s) of company do you want to work for?
Do you like working for a small firm, with a family feel? Do you like the resources and project scope of a large national firm?

What are/were you making and when is your next increase anticipated?
This is not a trick question. Be honest.

How important are money and job title?
If you must make a certain amount of money to live your life, then say so. If you need an officer title and won’t consider anything less, then say so. Don’t get into the interview process saying one or both items are not important and then back out later because you didn’t receive an offer with a certain dollar amount or title. It’s inconsiderate to everyone involved.

As the saying goes “Change is the only constant.”  The days of joining a company at 21 years of age and working there until you are 67 years old are GONE. As you entertain job opportunities be honest with yourself and with others at the start. You will find yourself with an excellent career opportunity with the right compensation, title and company!

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Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

January 19, 2016 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

What To Expect As A Client From Your Recruiter

Honesty

An experienced search consultant can be many things to a client they are working with above and beyond just recruiting: adviser, provider of market intelligence, resume screener, reference checker, recruiting coordinator, and expert negotiator just to name a few .  One thing you should always expect from your search consultant as a client is honesty.  Here is how your expectations of honesty should play out when working with a recruiter:

The Job Order.  You should always find a recruiter who is an industry expert.  Often times recruiters take any positions that arrive on their desk and have a hard time saying no.  A good recruiter should be honest and should be able to say “no” when an opportunity is presented to them that falls out of their wheel house.  I appreciate all the calls I get from existing and new clients requesting my services, but from time-to-time I must be honest and tell them they would be better off selecting another recruiter who has the true expertise they are looking for.  For instance, I specialize in recruiting civil engineering and land surveying professionals mainly in the areas of land development, transportation/highway engineering, bridge engineering, water & wastewater engineering, and water resources.  There are a number of specialties that are on the fringes, that may seem logical areas for our continuum of expertise, but are not.  These areas might include construction management, structural building engineering, or environmental (site remediation) engineering.

The Time Frame. Often times I have new clients that approach me with exciting new searches, and they ask me how long they think it will be before I can deliver some solid candidates.  If a recruiter can make you a promise like that I would be skeptical at best.  The honest truth is we do not know.  In our business timing is everything, so it is about catching the right candidate on the right day with the right opportunity.  Now, from time-to-time we may have readily available candidates that we are actively working with they might fit, but normally speaking, those situations are few-and-far between. Searches are customized and tailor made to uncover candidates with specific skill sets that meet your requirements.

The Word on the Street.  Honesty can sometimes be a hard pill to swallow, but a good recruiter will be your firm’s eyes and ears, and an honest recruiter should be able to have a professional conversation with you when your firm’s reputation is not so great.  When recruiting for a client, if I continually hear the same objections from perspective candidates specific to my client’s reputation, I feel as though I have an obligation to report that to my client.  This market intelligence will allow the client to truly evaluate their public perception and make changes, or it will lead to a conversation that will allow me to overcome those potential objections.  For instance, I have a client who from time-to-time is considered a “sweat shop.”  I approached my client with this information, and in fact they produced a report for me showing that their average hours hovered around 45-46 hours/week.  Hardly a “sweat shop” in the consulting civil engineering world.  This honest conversation provided me with the needed ammunition any time the topic surfaced and to have some honest conversations with my candidates as well.

Salary Expectations.  Every so often I will have a conversation with a new client revolving around salary for the proposed position they are looking to fill.  Because we are experts recruiting civil engineers, we talk to civil engineers all day long and have our “finger on the pulse” as to the range of salaries that are being offered to the different experience levels and specialties underneath the civil engineering umbrella.  If our client is being tight on the purse strings, we will let them know, and nine times out of ten they are appreciative of that honesty.  They often have to go by different salary surveys they find on line or through national organizations, but salaries and compensation plans tend to be very parochial in the civil engineering community.  Sub-market salaries can absolutely kill any chance of finding that civil engineering rock star that is so desired, so don’t be afraid to ask your search consultant his or her opinion of the salary range you have earmarked for the open requisition.

Interview Feedback.  No one enjoys being the bearer of bad news, hence the old saying “don’t murder the messenger.”   Your firm may have a GREAT opportunity, but if your interview process is not a well thought out process it will come back to bite you in the rear end.  Many firms fly by the seat of their pants when it comes to interviewing, and in the end, an unprepared interviewer or team of interviewers can derail an interview process and turn off a really good candidate, leading you back to square one.  A good recruiter will extract honest feedback from their candidate, and if that feedback ends up being negative as a result of an uncomfortable interview environment, an ornery line of questioning, etc, he/she should let you know about it.  Granted there are two sides to every story, but use that feedback to better position yourself the next time a strong candidate walks through your door and sits across the desk from you.

Over the years I have developed many strong client relationships based upon trust and honesty, and it is a two way street.  The ability to put everything out on the table will go along way when working with an experienced search consultant and will lead to far better results in securing the quality talent that is so desired.

This blog is the 2nd in our Honesty series.  The first in the series is titled ” What to Expect as a Candidate from your Recruiter.”

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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner :: CivilEngineeringCentral.com

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January 12, 2016 at 2:39 pm Leave a comment

It’s All About Relationships.

relationships

Relationship: the state of being connected

Engineering projects, project teams, department teams, clients, civil engineering recruiters all have one similar characteristic – RELATIONSHIPS. This includes our relationship with ourselves, our colleagues, our supervisors, our clients, our candidates. We cannot escape this inevitable connection.

How we treat others, through our words and more importantly our actions, will direct our success. It’s about being connected and trying to treat everyone with respect and consideration. If you have established, good relationships, no one can take them away from you.

As an architecture and civil engineering recruiter, I’m asked daily as to how I conduct my searches. My answer centers around the relationships I have established throughout my nearly 30 years of recruiting. Recruiting is a profession that is much more than a business. If done correctly, it involves understanding client needs, culture and personalities, and trying to make the best match with a candidate.

Those of us who love our jobs understand that we are dealing with people’s lives. We try to get to know our clients and candidates, and many become longtime friends. I find that the same can be said for just about all in the engineering consulting business or for that matter, any business.

Prior to the development of LinkedIn, connections were a bit more difficult to establish and sustain. It took a conscious effort. Today with the assistance of social media, a click of the mouse and I can reach thousands of A/E connections.

But with the ease of staying connected, are many consultants losing that ability to pick up the phone and keep the REAL connection? If you lost your job tomorrow, would your connections answer the phone if you called? Are your clients really YOUR clients or are they your company’s clients?

It’s all about relationships.

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Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

January 7, 2016 at 10:57 am 1 comment

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