Are You Having Fun With Your Career?

Having fun at workEarlier this week during the course of conducting a search for a client of mine I spoke with a TxDOT Engineer who would make a great candidate for a position I was recruiting for. After discussing with him his career and the specifics of the opportunity he explained, “Matt, that sounds like a great opportunity for someone, but I’m having too much fun to leave to go anywhere else.” Not the outcome I was looking for, but we had a good laugh and talked about the importance of having fun in one’s career. I see it as a very important element of a job – I mean you are spending anywhere from 8-10 hours a day (and often more for some folks) at work, you might as well enjoy what you are doing, right? It got me to thinking what I love so much about my job as a search consultant and what makes it fun for me:

1. The challenge. The pursuit of finding the ideal candidates for my client that will help them prosper and grow is very exciting to me. The opportunity to deliver a candidate that can make an impact on my client’s business, and the opportunity to provide a new role for someone who may not have that same opportunity with their current company gives me great satisfaction.  It is also fun to compete with my teaming partners and AGAINST other recruiters!

2. The relationships. Having the opportunity to serve so many wonderful clients over the years and forge some great working relationships is what gets me out of bed every day. Certainly I have worked with my fair share of clients who were not necessarily my cup of tea, but that comes with the territory. It is an honor to work for many great clients who are equally as passionate about what they do for a living as I am.

3. The variety. I am fortunate to work with a wide variety of consulting civil engineering firms across the country. Some clients are small, local consultants who serve their local community, while others are large regional and national firms. I am exposed to working with all types of civil engineers in land development, water/wastewater, and transportation, just to name a few.  I speak with company CEO’s, Vice Presidents, and wide array of principal level shareholders; I speak with technical experts and project engineers; I interact with human resources and business development executives, all within the civil engineering profession.  Every day is a little different than the day before, and every conversation is different than the one prior.  The variety that I am exposed to keeps me challenged and on my toes.

What is it about YOUR job as a civil engineer that makes your job fun for you?

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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
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November 20, 2015 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

ASCE’s Civil Engineering Magazine – 7 Questions

I was honored to be featured in the September 2015 issue of ASCE’s Civil Engineering magazine. A few years back I had blogged about social media and the impact and role it played in the civil engineering profession. Based upon that blog, I was contacted by the editor of Civil Engineering magazine to see if I would be interested in contributing to the “7 Questions” series specific to the topic of new marketing and branding strategies for civil engineering consulting firms. It was a great Q&A session and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to participate. I have attached a .pdf version of the article, please let me know your thoughts and let me know where you agree (or disagree for that matter), and what trends YOU are seeing when it comes to marketing and branding in the civil engineering profession.


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

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November 20, 2015 at 10:12 am Leave a comment

Job Hopping – Good or Bad?

Job Hopping

A track record of frequent job changes in the civil engineering profession is frowned upon, there is no way around it. Some industries may allow for it and it may be deemed acceptable, but not within the civil engineering profession. There are plenty of valid reasons why people jump ship, but if you find yourself in the never ending search of greener pastures, you may want to pause and think twice. Here is why:

1. A company is going to invest a considerable amount of time and money in developing your skills, providing training, paying a good salary and providing benefits, and often awarding bonuses. When they view a resume with frequent career moves the thought that crosses their mind is “why should I invest in this person when they are only going to leave after 2-3 years?”

2. Beyond quality work, a civil engineering practice is built around quality relationships and trust. If a civil engineering consulting firm makes it a habit of hiring those with an unstable employment history clients will become frustrated. That is, they begin to build a rapport and level of trust with clients, but should those clients see a revolving door of project managers or engineers assigned to a project that raises a major red flag and they likely will begin to search for another consultant that can offer a more stable team of engineers that they can trust. I realize the revolving door can also be an issue where the employer has to take a hard look at themselves, but that’s for another blog.

3. In most cases, companies are looking to grow. They want to know that the employees they hire will be a part of that growth. Of course the employer needs to provide that opportunity and must show that career path, but if you have a habit of getting bored, or trying something new, or jumping ship for a couple grand more in salary, that will catch up and bite you in the rear in the long term.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and when we qualify candidates for our clients we analyze and discuss our candidate’s career not only from a technical skill set point of view, but from an employment chronology perspective as well. Just yesterday I spoke to a candidate who had some solid experience and a really nice project resume, but had made some frequent job changes over the course of the past 10 years. As we dove into those situations, the moves he made were valid. It was not a circumstance where he left for a more significant role each time, or left for a larger salary each time, or left because he did not get along with everyone. He was laid off twice, once because he was working in land development in the DC area when the housing bust hit, and once because he was working on a portion of the Keystone Pipeline project that came to an end.  Another move he made was because he got married and he and his wife chose to live closer to her job.

I believe that making some strategic career moves over the course of a 40+ year career is vital. It allows for advancement opportunities, it allows for a change of pace if you are stuck in a rut, and it allows for exposure to some new and exciting ideas and people. But my advice is to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN with your current employer. Work hard, be innovative, don’t be afraid to fail, and communicate effectively with your boss. When you have done your best and are no longer able to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN, then you should consider greener pastures.
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Matt Barcus
President :: Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner ::
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November 20, 2015 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

I Look Like a Civil Engineer

Civil Engineer

If you have not caught on to the trending new website for civil engineers spreading across social media and the internet, it may be time to check it out. There is a new website titled “I Look Like a Civil Engineer.” The website was developed with a vision of providing stories and inspiration to the civil engineering community, while championing diversity. Not only diversity of gender and race and inspiring women and minorities to enter the world of civil engineering, but also diversity of experiences within the profession. The site is full of inspiring stories from civil engineers across the country who share how and why they got into the civil engineering profession and where their passion stems from. Real civil engineers of all races and genders and looks inspiring others to follow their passion while promoting the civil engineering profession at the same time. It is a great time to be a civil engineer, and the outlook for the profession continues to shine bright. Be sure to check it out. Share the site with your peers; invite a student who shows an inclination towards math and science to visit the site; or better yet, share your story!

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

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November 20, 2015 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Hurricane Katrina 10th Anniversary

On August 29, The City of New Orleans will experience the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. With the expertise of planners, architects, engineers, construction teams, The City of New Orleans has improved its hurricane protection system, upgrading and repairing much of the destroyed infrastructure. As we reported over the past 10 years, a number of the failed levees came from design oversights. This disaster proved to be a wake-up call for cities and states across the US.

We at thank the teams in the architectural, engineering, planning and construction industry for their work in repairing previous failures and for securing our infrastructure. Lessons learned the hard way.


Note: Failure image above and the “5 Civil Engineering Failures that lead to Design Breakthroughs and New Technologies” can be located at Ohio University, Russ College of Engineering and Technology.

August 26, 2015 at 1:28 pm 1 comment

Flashback: Where Have All The Civil Engineering Firms Gone?

According to press announcements, there have been at least 30 merger/acquisitions within the past MONTH in the US civil engineering and architectural consulting firm community. The blog below is just as relevant today as when it first ran on Civil Engineering Central in 2008. Refresh yourself with the write up and let us know what you think of the continued consolidation in our industry!

Acquisitions in the civil engineering community exploded in 2007 with steady activity up to now. A client jokingly told me, “Eventually we will all work for about five firms. That is all that will be left!”

While I think my client’s comment is a slight exaggeration, the pace of these M&As does not seem to be slowing. What has happened to the traditional firms of the past?

Certainly, these consolidations allow firms a great way to increase staff and presence in particular locations or technical arenas. But, if you joined a firm because of a specific company culture, what do you do now?

Are these large national and international firms of combined technical talents good for our industry? What do you think?

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Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 14, 2015 at 3:55 pm 1 comment

Civil Engineering Employees Should Embrace Company Ownership

Privately held civil engineering firms can attract staff by offering the benefit of ownership through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). Privately held firms give stock to motivate and reward employees. Companies also offer staff the chance to purchase company stock. Work hard and own a piece of the company, which translates to employees sharing in the success!

Today as firms build succession plans and transition leadership, implementation of ESOPs are increasing. Steve Gido, Principal at Rusk O’Brien Gido + Partners, says the incorporation of ESOPs into a company’s benefits plan changes upon the current financial conditions and also leadership preference. “The popularity of ESOPs waxes and wanes with economic cycles and tax laws. We have found that some leaders love them and others don’t.”

Company leaders aren’t the only ones with mixed feelings about ESOPS. In the wake of the Enron scandal in 2001, employees are hesitant to invest too much of their retirement savings in company stock. This viewpoint is understandable. If the company stock takes a beating, then so does the employee’s retirement savings. But, are there other factors contributing to employees rejecting potentially valuable company stock?

Employee loyalty is a powerful concept within any company. A loyal employee is committed to the success of the firm. This includes propelling the company ahead of the competition by doing great work, helping to recruiting top talent and championing the firm’s mission.

With mergers and acquisitions on the rise within the ENR Top 500 firms, layoffs are also on the rise. Subsequently, employee loyalty is on the decline. Industry consolidation often brings cuts of redundant staff and services. Loyal employees end up without a job and the staff who are retained tend to be less engaged. What happened to a firm’s loyalty to its staff?

If an employee was fortunate to own stock, then the individual could receive a good payout from the stock’s value. If an employee does not own stock, then that person may simply be out of a job with little to no financial compensation for their previous service.

As a civil engineering recruiter who advises engineers on job offers, I stress the value of working for a firm with ownership potential. Most tell me if they are going to put money aside, they would rather invest in a company retirement plan, aka 401(k), rather than company stock. Many junior to mid-level civil engineers tell me that it is unimaginable to them that their length of employment at any firm would be more than five years. They are convinced that in a large A/E firm, they are just one of many engineers. Similarly, engineers employed by small to mid-size firms believe they are at the mercy of the efforts of more senior engineers and the marketing staff. Engineers ask, “Why would I care if a firm offers stock ownership when I probably won’t be there five or more years?”

Another reason many employees don’t take advantage or see the value of ESOPs is because they live paycheck to paycheck. I can sympathize with this viewpoint. I also bypassed saving for retirement early in my career. As a young recruiter, I was afraid to contribute to my retirement as that money may be needed for immediate, short-term needs. Planning for retirement for wasn’t important since retirement was MANY years away. I had plenty of time to save for retirement. Although I now put money aside, retirement age approached much faster than I expected.

ESOPs are an important component to retirement planning and one civil engineers should embrace when presented. Various studies have demonstrated plan benefits of participation. Companies that utilize ESOPs grow approximately 10 percent faster than companies that do have employee ownership. Subsequently, ESOP participants receive salaries that are up to 12 percent higher and have retirement packages valued as much as three times higher compared to those similar companies that do not offer ESOPs. Since diversification is also important, approximately 60 percent of ESOP firms offer at least one additional retirement plan option.

So while detractors present strong points as to why they do or will not participate, ESOPs provide demonstrated results for better company performance, which in turn leads to higher wages and increased retirement savings.

Carol new profile

Carol Metzner President, The MetznerGroup Managing Partner, View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 8, 2015 at 9:45 am 1 comment

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