Posts filed under ‘Civil Engineering Jobs’

From Civil Engineer to…

With the recent recession beginning to fade further  in the rear view mirror, many civil engineering firms are struggling to find available talent.  As the economy improves and we are beginning to conduct searches in regions or specialty areas (i.e. land development) that we have distanced ourself from over the past few years, we have found that many of the civil engineering professionals we used to network with on a  regular basis have disappeared into thin air.  Not really.  But they have left the civil engineering consulting industry in order to make ends meet after being laid off.   Rather than scouring the country for available opportunities only to compete with dozens of other candidates who share their same story, they chose to do something different.  So without further ado, here are some great examples that we have unearthed from our national network of civil engineering professionals…

…they have gone from civil engineer to:

  • Middle School Science Teacher
  • Pastor
  • Youth Minister
  • Attorney
  • Leather Apparel / Accessory Manufacturer and Retailer
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Home Remodeling Contractor / Business Owner
  • Microbrewery Owner
  • Equipment Manufacturing Sales Rep
  • Civil Engineering Software Sales Rep
  • Corporate Real Estate Development

Most, if not all of these people were FORCED out of the industry and had no other options. But as a result, they uncovered new skills and a new passion for something completely different that provides food for the family, and for some, food for the soul!

I would not wish the unemployment line on anyone,
as I know it can be an extremely difficult life challenge.

Maybe they had one foot out the door anyway regarding
their level of interest in their civil engineering career, but none-the-less,
these people made lemonade out of lemons.

Please share with our readership any career transitions that you or your civil engineering peers have made as a result of being laid off. Was it worth it? Or was that transition just a stop gap until such a time that a suitable opportunity presents itself back in civil engineering? Please let us know, we would love to hear from you!

Authored by:


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

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

November 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm 13 comments

Raise the Bar for Engineering

Engineers of decades past have had more credit hours required of them compared to the engineers of today, yet engineers of today have so much more to learn than those engineers of past generations.  As a result, there is a new campaign supported by the likes of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), and the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) that is catching fire:

RAISE THE BAR FOR ENGINEERING

If you have not noticed, many engineering companies these days are requiring Masters Degrees for any candidates they consider for current or future jobs.  Why?  Today’s engineer can no longer rely solely on a Bachelors Degree and senior civil engineering staff to teach them all the knowledge and technology necessary to be successful, because they do not always understand it all themselves.   The challenges of today’s civil engineering infrastructure are much more complex than in years past, and a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering allows the engineer of today  to be more prepared to take on those complex challenges.  Universities have the continued pressure to graduate their engineering undergrads in four years, but this will not provide the undergraduate civil engineer with the knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a Professional Engineer.

Carl Mack, Ph.D,  Executive Director for the National Society of Black Engineers says, “If you want to be competitive in this global environment, in this very changing and complex world, an undergrad degree just isn’t going to cut it.”

As you will hear in the video below, education beyond the undergraduate degree has been a requirement for every learned profession except engineering.  Professional Engineering is not setting the same standards as a doctor or lawyer or any other profession that requires an advanced degree; as a result, it is time to “Raise the Bar for Engineering.”   By increasing the educational requirements for the Professional Engineer, many experts agree that this will help boost the profession to the stature where it belongs.

Take a look at the following promotional video for this initiative:

An opposing opinion was left on the YouTube page where this video was found:

“This is a misguided initiative. There is certainly very little value an engineering Masters degree would provide the practicing engineer. Most Masters degrees, and even most Bachelors degrees, are research and theory based and provide little practical knowledge for the real world. On the job experience is more valuable. To compare our profession to doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, etc. is fair, but let’s be honest, there’s no way employers are going to pay at the same level as those professions.”

This initiative seems to make sense, as the impact that engineers make on our society is overlooked for no good reason.  Their talents and skills are critical to our world, so comparing them to attorneys or doctors from a stature standpoint I do not believe is off target.

What do you think?  Are you FOR or AGAINST this campaign?

To learn more, please visit http://www.raisethebarforengineering.org

Authored by:


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

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

September 13, 2012 at 8:58 am 10 comments

Working From Home: The Kiss of Death for a Civil Engineer?

Is telecommuting limiting to the civil engineering professional?

A couple of weeks ago a consulting civil engineering client of mine offered an opportunity to an extremely talented candidate that would have allowed him to work from home for his first 6-8 months in order to accommodate some special circumstances.   The candidate ended up delaying the acceptance of the offer until the first quarter of next year as his situation would be fully resolved (hopefully the opportunity will still be available).  The details of the circumstances are neither here nor there, but at the end of the day this candidate determined that as flattered as he was that they would make special accommodations for him, he would not feel comfortable in a work-from-home situation as he would be “out of the mix.”   He is a team player and not having immediate access to his team, and the “perception” that he would not be giving 110% because of his physical absence he saw as a detriment.

Interestingly enough, I recently read an article on the Harvard Business Review website titled, Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged, by Scott Edinger.

According to the article, remote employees were more engaged because:

1.  Proximity Breeds Complacency – that is, leaders who work in the same building, let alone the same floor, regularly fail to interact face-to-face with their employees, preferring rather to communicate via email.

2.  Absence Makes People Try Harder to Connect – that is, leaders are more deliberate in their communication with those off-site employees.

3.  Leaders of Virtual Teams Make a Better Use of Tools – that is, leaders are forced to use video-conferencing, instant messaging, and even the telephone, just to name a few; an advantage that their peers may not necessarily take advantage of by having everyone working in the office.

4.  Leaders of Far-Flung Teams Maximize the Time their Teams Spend Together – that is, since the time the team actually spends together on location is limited, when they do get together the level of focused attention is higher than it might be otherwise.

I do not necessarily doubt the findings and opinions of this article, but my question is, was the candidate in the experience that I alluded to at the beginning of this blog right in his decision?  Since we are dealing with a Civil Engineering consulting firm and considering that the candidate would be a full-time permanent employee with the title of Sr. Civil Engineer who is looking to continuously advance up the corporate ladder, I would say that, in as much as I was disappointed in the fact that he declined the offer,  he was probably correct.  And here is why:

1.  Knowing the determination and intelligence of the candidate, he could have successfully handled the situation.  But he felt that, especially with a new employer, he did not want to be perceived as a slacker.  Even though he would have given 110%, his absence from the office could easily be mis-construed.

2.  Part of his motivation for exploring a new opportunity was because in his current role, he lacked mentorship.  Working from home for at least six months would limit the mentoring opportunities available to him.

3.  Working from home for a large civil engineering consulting firm as a project engineer often makes it difficult to grab people, share ideas, ask questions, and bounce concepts off of peers and managers “on the fly.”

4.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Enough said.

Unless you are a regional or national business development executive who is jet-setting all week, or a technical engineer who is completely satisfied with maintaining a long-term technical engineering role with no real advancement, you are better off  working at the office as opposed to remotely from home.

Does your firm allow for work-at-home opportunities on a regular basis?  Have you been part of a positive work-from-home experience?  Have you seen people fail in work-at-home situations with their employers?   I look forward to hearing you share your thoughts and experiences on this topic as a civil engineer.

Finally, if you are on LinkedIn, please click on the following link to take our following “one-click” poll on this topic:

http://linkd.in/OUO66f

Authored by:


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

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

August 30, 2012 at 10:04 am 10 comments

Civil Engineering Firms and Hiring Retired Military

This week I was thrilled to hear a Client say “My ideal candidate would be someone who was in a leadership role in the Army Corps of Engineers, Navy, etc.” Throughout my 20+ years as an executive recruiter for the civil engineering industry,  I have usually heard the opposite. US civil engineering firms have tended to seek executive candidates who have run or are running other competitor consulting firms. It is certainly not politically correct to say, but I recall hearing “let someone else train those candidates what it means to make money and stay on budget. We don’t have the luxury to do so.”

It seems that there are stronger arguments to be offered for hiring retired/ex military. Traditionally, these are people who have been given assignments, challenges and missions with direction to accomplish them. They must succeed under unique circumstances, overcoming difficult obstacles.  They have been trained how to lead and how to motivate teams not only on a group level but an individual one.  These candidates can bring a unique and fresh perspective to the corporate climate.

To tell a retired Colonel who has successfully lead significant programs and large teams while navigating difficult terrain, that he isn’t the best candidate to run a civil engineering department, has been difficult and often frustrating. During this period of civil engineering rebuilding, I hope to see new perspectives on hiring retiring military!

What has been your experience?

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
  View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

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

August 28, 2012 at 10:48 am 2 comments

What Happened To The Civil Engineering Internship?

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com
  View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

Another casualty of the economic downturn: The Civil Engineering Internship. Recently I received a call from a career development coordinator for the engineering department at a respected University. We discussed the difficulty in finding internship placement for her recent civil engineering graduates. In the past, the department saw each graduate easily find civil engineering apprenticeships. In the past 2 years the University has struggled to find any for their students, let alone jobs post graduation.

When I worked as a corporate recruiter, internship experience was an added value on a resume. Whether it was working with a summer survey crew or assisting in processing plans, the students with experience received favoritism from many hiring managers. These students were perceived as having valuable practical knowledge. One manager said “this student knows what it means to get up and go to work at a civil engineering firm.” He would routinely hire these students over their counterparts who had no relevant apprentice accomplishment.

While some civil engineering firms have been hiring, they are holding on bringing in students. What will the effect be on the civil engineering profession 4- 8- 12 years from now?
civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

July 31, 2012 at 11:35 am 7 comments

Civil Engineers – Enjoy the One Project at a Time Lifestyle as Long as You Can

Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., LEED AP, ACC
Civil Engineer, Author, Coach and Speaker
Author of Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career
Anthony is also the author of a FREE e-mail service for engineers called A Daily Boost from Your Professional Partner. Click here to read about this service.

This is a guest blog post by Anthony Fasano, P.E.  Anthony is a civil engineer, engineering career coach, bestselling author and founder of Powerful Purpose Associates.

Anthony is giving away a special webinar for CivilEngineeringCentral.com readers on his Powerful Purpose Associates website.  Read until the end of the post to find out how to get it.

WARNING:  You most likely will have to work on more than one project at a time in your civil engineering career, except for maybe the first few years.

I remember when I first graduated from school, I started doing structural engineering because it seemed cool to me at the time and I didn’t even know what site engineering was yet, which would eventually be my chosen discipline.  I was designing the footings and abutments for a bridge.  The design lasted for months (it felt like years) and I couldn’t wait for the next project.  If I had to sketch out one more rebar layout, I was going to jump off a bridge (no pun intended).

Fast-forward about 10 years, I was now an associate partner at a reputable engineering firm, heading up their private/site development engineering department.  The department wasn’t too big, maybe 10 people or so, however I found myself managing 15 to 20 projects at one time.  15 to 20 projects meant 15 to 20 clients, 15 to 20 budgets, 15 to 20 bills to be done, 15 to 20 bills that haven’t been paid, oh yeah and my favorite, 15 to 20 Town Planning Board Meetings!  I loved what I did and I was good at it, but it was very stressful and took a toll on both my health and my personal life.

A few years ago, I made a bold decision, and left my design-engineering career behind to become an engineering career coach.  Since that time I have coached and helped hundreds of engineers to get clear on their goals, increase productivity and improve work-family balance.  I have also given seminars to thousands of engineers on the same topics.  Through all of this work, I have found that there is 1 HUGE OBSTACLE that engineers face in their efforts to achieve career success (which means something different to everyone).

First let me give you the biggest make-believe obstacle that everyone uses as an excuse – TIME MANAGEMENT.  Time management isn’t really the obstacle that most engineers face.  The obstacle leads to poor time management, but it is not related to time management.  The #1 obstacle that engineers face in their career is LACK OF FOCUS.  That’s right LACK OF FOCUS.  Sound familiar?  Are you able to read through an entire e-mail without getting a phone call?  Are you able to finish a design task or report on one project before a client calls with a fire that you have to put out?

The answer to those questions is probably “NO!” How many of you would love to go back in time, just for a day, to when you started your engineering career so that you could work on just one task all day long without interruption?  Go ahead and raise your hand – I have mine raised!

So what can we do to try to improve our focus?  Here are a few recommendations based on my work with engineers and my study of this topic:

1.    Establish some of your most important tasks for the day and do them before you do ANYTHING else.  When deciding on these tasks, assume that you would only be able to get those tasks done that day – if that was the case would the day be a success?

2.    Try to do less things.  I know what you are thinking, if my job is to manage 15 projects, how can I do less.  Make a list of everything you do and wherever possible start delegating tasks.

3.    Space meetings and phone conferences out.  Engineers try to be as efficient as possible and schedule phone calls and meetings one after the other to avoid dead space in their day.  Unfortunately this approach often leads to rushed meetings or missed conference calls and keeps you in that “I have to hurry because I have something right after this” mentality.

4.    Don’t let other people manage your time (as much as possible).  Check e-mail and phone messages periodically (even if it’s every 30 minutes) but not as they come in!  This one habit alone can change your life.  I know because I made the change.

That leads me to an important word – HABIT.  Implementing changes like these listed above would mean creating new habits in your career and life.  Easier said than done.  Through my studies and work with engineers I have discovered some ways that you can implement powerful new habits like these into your life.  There isn’t enough time in this post to explain them, however I have recorded a special brief webinar for Civilengineeringcentral.com readers where I review the key steps to take to implement these or any career and life changing habits.  You can download this webinar right now on my Powerful Purpose Associates website.

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

July 19, 2012 at 9:45 am 3 comments

Losing Great Recruits to the Competition? Here is Why… (Part 2 in a Series)


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

Today’s blog is the second in a series of entries that will help those executives in the AEC community understand why they might be losing out to the competition when competing for great candidates and top talent.  Having recruited civil engineering and architectural professionals for over 15 years I have witnessed some fantastic interviewing and hiring processes…and I have witnessed some miserable ones as well.  Most processes fall in the middle of that spectrum, so by understanding what you may NOT be doing and making some subtle (or not so subtle, depending how poor your process really may be) changes may help you reel in a higher percentage of those good or great candidates that may have joined the competition in the building down the street or the floor below!

The first blog in this series discussed the concept of “rolling out the red carpet.” 

Today’s Topic:

MOMENTUM

Not maintaining momentum can KILL your chances of hiring that top prospect.  The pace of the interview process in a moment of time is crucial.  I’m not talking about having an offer sent to a candidate’s blackberry after the first interview before they even leave the building, but by keeping a steady pace of the process from initial inquiry to offer is so important.  I cannot stress this enough.

Momentum is important for multiple reasons:

A. It keeps you focused on the candidate and your thoughts and memory of the interview fresh.

B. It keeps the candidate excited and interested.

C. It shows the candidate that you are indeed excited in the prospect of brining them on board.  Extensive delays from interview-to-interview with the same candidate is often perceived by the candidate that the client is undecided or not real thrilled about them, and every day that fades to black without contact or scheduling of an interview or feedback takes a little bit more wind out the sails.

D. Delays in follow-up interviews or reference checks allows for an opening for another firm to shimmy their way on to the candidate’s radar screen.  If you are taking your good ‘ol time and the other firm understands the concept of momentum, they can make up considerable ground and by the time you finally lay out an offer on the table the other company will be doing the same; this of course decreases the likelihood of acceptance of your offer.

E. It allows you to move on to other candidates that you were interested in more swiftly in the event of a turndown.  Let’s say you put all your efforts into candidate A, but you were aware of candidate B as well but chose not to interview them until your learned the fate of candidate A.  If you are dragging your feet and candidate A ends up turning down your offer, candidate B may already be off the market.  Ideally, you should be interviewing multiple candidates at the same time if possible.  The “all your eggs in one basket theory” is not a good idea here.

So How Do You Keep Momentum Going When Everyone is So Busy?

A.  Have access to everyone’s calendar and plan the next meeting at the end of the previous meeting (assuming there is a fit).

B.  If you need a day to talk amongst the team that interviewed the candidate, that is okay.  But don’t wait longer than 24 hours.  If the feedback is positive and you want to move forward, then find 6 available options for the next meeting to present to the candidate (3 days/times during business hours, 3 evenings/times for after hours meeting).  This will eliminate the constant back-and-forth that would normally occur suggesting one date and time at a time.

C.  For employment law reasons, companies are required to track applicants; have the candidate complete the employment application prior to the first interview. This way that part is done and over with.  Sometimes these applications are a hassle, and candidates keep delaying this task, so taking care of this sooner than later is recommended.  This also gives them a deadline to meet.

D.  Your day is likely filled with meetings, site visits, lunch meetings, etc…so task your in house Recruiter (if you have one), your Human Resources Professional, or your Administrative Assistant with following up with the candidate.  Of course if you are using a search consultant, this would be part of their duty in servicing you as their client.

E.  The same resources mentioned above in “D” should immediately begin checking references as soon as the candidate has provided them.  References can take some time, but if you have someone who is easily accessible to stop what they are doing to take / make that call and write up the appropriate report you will keep the momentum.

F.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this:  consider hiring an executive search consultant who specializes in the professional skill set that you are looking to hire.  Recruiters are notorious for understanding and keeping the momentum and they will be able to handle all of the above.

G.  Should you and your team be excited about the candidate, and should their references check out, be immediately prepared to formulate an EXCITING offer letter, and be sure to include a decision deadline.

How does your company keep momentum going with candidates?  Or, as a candidate, what are your experiences you have had where a company was pursuing you and they did a great job with keeping momentum?  Or, also as a candidate, did an organization lose out on you because they failed to keep the momentum going? Please share your stories!

Next topic in this series: FAILURE TO CONTINUOUSLY CLOSE

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

July 10, 2012 at 10:08 am Leave a comment

Losing Great Recruits to the Competition? Here is Why… (Part 1 in a Series)


Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner, CivilEngineeringCentral.com
View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

Today’s entry is the first in a series that I will be writing aimed at helping those executives in the AEC community understand why they might be losing out to the competition when competing for great candidates and top talent.  Having recruited civil engineering and architectural professionals for over 15 years I have witnessed some fantastic interviewing and hiring processes; I have witnessed some miserable ones as well.  Most processes fall in the middle of that spectrum, so by understanding what you may NOT be doing and making some subtle (or not so subtle, depending how poor your process really may be) changes may help you reel in a higher percentage of top talent rather than losing them to the competition in the building down the street or the floor below!

Today’s Topic: 

The Red Carpet:  If you are not rolling it out, candidates will not roll in.

Actually rolling out a red carpet from the reception area to the President’s  office and putting up the candidate at the Ritz Carlton and providing limousine service is not necessarily what I am talking about here – and that would actually be quite odd in the civil engineering world.  What I am really talking about is having the candidate have an enjoyable and memorable interviewing experience. Here are some ideas as to how your civil engineering consulting firm can “roll out the red carpet” during its interview process:

A.  First Impressions. Have a clean and organized office exterior and internal reception / waiting area.  We are dealing with engineers and architects here – they design exactly where water and dirt should go and they design beautiful bridges and buildings.  They expect a clean cut and organized facility and reception area that is designed and maintained with pride.  Unmaintained landscaping and cobwebs in the corners don’t make for great first impressions.

B.  Greetings.  Have the receptionist make them feel welcome and let it be known that they were expected.  Have the receptionist greet him or her with a hand shake and maybe hand them a prepared folder with corporate marketing materials.  That way when they leave and are at home they have constant reminder of how great the interview went (hopefully).  Also, don’t make them wait more than five minutes.  And when you are ready to meet the candidate, don’t have the receptionist bring them back to a meeting room or your office – come out and get them yourself!

C.  Level of Comfort.  Make them feel comfortable throughout the interview process by introducing them to some other folks that they could be potentially working with, and be sure to show them around. Some companies may have just the hiring manager interview a candidate, and maybe one other person.  The truth is, they will feel much more comfortable at least getting to know some of the other folks they will be in the trenches with as well as what the physical work environment is like.  This will help them actually envision themselves working with your civil engineering or architectural consulting firm…not to mention that you will get to see them interact and some extra sets of eyes and ears will allow additional perspectives and feedback regarding the candidate from your team.

D.  Making Arrangements.  If you are bringing someone in from out of town, have a system in place that allows for YOUR company to make all the arrangements rather than having the candidate make those arrangements themselves only to submit their receipts for reimbursement.  This includes flight arrangements, shuttle service, car rental if necessary, hotel arrangements, etc.

E.  Thank You Letters.  Send the candidate a thank you letter; if not first, at least in a detailed response to the thank you letter that the candidate should have sent you.   Trust me – this is not done very often at all.  Some may think this is an example of a company showing their cards too early and may hurt them should offer negotiations ensue.  I disagree.  To me, this is an example of “continuously closing” that I will touch on at a later date.  Personally speaking, if I was a candidate and I got an email from a prospective employer thanking me for MY time and sharing with me some of their thoughts on our interview, I would be flattered and encouraged, and I would feel great!

How does your company roll out the red carpet?  Or, as a candidate, what are some examples where you have been given what you consider to be “red carpet treatment during an interview process that you went through?

Next topic in this series:  MOMENTUM

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

June 18, 2012 at 11:05 am 3 comments

Bridging the Talent Gap: How Good Firms Get Great People

By Kerry Harding
President and Chief Recruiting Officer, The Talent Bank, Inc.

What if I were to stand on the street in front of The White House and ask 100 people passing by two questions: “Can you name a famous engineer?” and “Can you name a famous basketball player.” Somebody did this once. On the engineer side, 3 people offered John Roebling, designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. He was the top vote getter. Of those same 100 people, 87 said, without any hesitation whatsoever, to the second question, “Michael Jordan.” I pondered a third question:
 Why aren’t there more superstars in engineering firms?

Unlike professional sports, no system exists to identify and track top design talent.
 For 2011, a simple Internet search revealed that UCLA’s Gerrit Cole was Major League Baseball’s top draft pick; Auburn’s Cam Newton was the National Football League’s top draft pick; and Duke’s Kyrie Irving the top pick for the National Basketball Association. Stats like these are available back to the early 1950s. Yet, who were the top ten engineering firm graduates in the country last year? Five years ago? Ten years ago? Where did they start their careers? Where are they now? Compiling this information would take hundreds of hours— even if privacy laws even made it possible. What does the professional sports world have that the engineering professions could implement to institutionalize this type of knowledge? Several things:

The Scout. Each year, roughly 85,000+ engineering graduates enter the profession. In their respective schools, professors deem a handful of people as “the rising stars.” Some are easily identifiable, winning student chapter awards or national student design competitions, making the Dean’s List, or winning top academic and leadership honors at graduation. No regional or national repository exists for those involved in engineering firm recruiting to tap into to annually review emerging young talent’s credentials. In pro sports, this is the Scout’s function who travels from city to city, watching people in action, talking with their coaches, etc. The opportunity exists to begin building a database of “ones to watch.”

The Draft. In the sports world, a formal process exists for bringing top talent together with top firms in an objective, organized way. The benefit is that everyone involved knows all the candidates at the outset to compare credentials. Yet, no such process exists to link engineering firms with the national engineering talent pool that emerges at graduation. True, some schools have established job bank programs to allow their own students and alumni to interact, yet most fall woefully short of the potential that exists or simply serve the immediate region.

The Rookie. Once a student makes the transformation from campus to company, their progress gets lost in the academic system. Professional society awards are one way that that young talented people, early in their career, remain visible. However, since a qualifying criteria is to be “under 40” that provides a window of nearly two decades of career growth and makes the assumption that all new grads have equal interests, skills and opportunities.

The Farm Team. Successful sports franchises’ system ensures a consistent supply of talent. Young talent is identified and sent to smaller, regional entities to ensure they acquire the skills necessary to compete in the upper echelons. For some, playing at this level will be as far as they progress, while others will clearly emerge as ready for the majors. In engineering firms, this manifests itself in several ways—the market sector studio, the discipline team or the branch office. Providing young professionals the chance to rotate through a variety of roles and project types will reveal where the person’s true passion and best fit lies.
Sports teams know that their people need to identify where they function best and then refine the specific skills to excel at those. Too often, in design firms, a person best suited to for actual project work gets promoted into project management or principal-level positions. Being a good center doesn’t mean someone will be a good quarterback. An ace engineer may not excel at managing people or projects.

The Major Leagues. Within any given sport, the top performers deliver results in spite of who wins their respective national championships. This is equally true with engineering firms. While there are large firms whose fortunes ebb and flow like the tide, there are others who experience steady growth and consistently maintain adequate backlog and profitability along with brand integrity. These firms are always recruiting strategic hires not just for the next year but for the next generation–that elusive but essential combination of talent and cultural fit.

The Dream Team. Through time and planning, any design firm can assemble or acquire a Dream Team for a particular market sector—where all of the positions are covered by people considered among the best in their profession in areas such as aviation, transit facilities, stadiums, toll roads and rail. Sometimes, dream teams aren’t built—they’re acquired. In other cases, through assembling a cadre of talented generalists, a firm assembles its own dream team for a specific geographic area. If you want to begin building your own Dream Team, there are several key things to begin doing right now.

Offer career opportunities, not jobs. Most jobs advertised on the major jobboards describe skills, duties and responsibilities–not exciting career challenges. This precludes the best from even applying. Define top performance for every job in a clear statement of what the person must do to be successful. By clarifying performance expectations you’ll attract top candidates and more accurately assess their competency. Use this profile to manage, reward and motivate your new team.

Figure out who you need to hire over the six months and the next five years. The hiring process needs to be forward-looking, providing time to find the best candidates available, and not lower your standards to succumb to business pressures to get someone “yesterday.”

Go after those who are looking for a better job, not those who need a job. Everyone knows that the best people are usually not found on job boards, which represented only about 10% of all hires last year. You’ll find better candidates through a formalized employee-referral program and an established relationship with a knowledgeable recruiter whose job it is to know who in the marketplace is discretely looking for that next rung on the ladder. Use a multipronged method to upgrade your sourcing programs to target the best.

Formalize a complete recruiting process, including practical training. Research shows that for most line managers, the typical interview is only 7% more accurate than flipping a coin. If everyone who plays a role in the hiring process from the receptionist to the president haven’t been thoroughly trained, you’ll wind up with similar results. Top candidates view a new job as a strategic decision based on growth opportunities and chemistry. They need more information than just compensation, benefits and job duties to make a decision—they want an inspiring interview.

Tie compensation to value to the firm, not salary structures. In the sports world, when pro teams want to attract super-athletes, their managers don’t say “Well, everybody else with X-year’s experience makes Y thousand dollars a year, so, as much as we like you, that’s as high as we go! They know that unique talent merits unique compensation. Most engineering firm managers still approach recruiting like they’re haggling with a car dealer…”How low will they go?” Recruiters across the country routinely share their frustration that deals frequently unravel over a salary difference of $10,000-$15,000—especially where there’s a dramatic difference in the cost of living. In one case, a firm lost the top candidate to a competitor because it refused to cover the candidate’s airfare for the interview. In another, the deal breaker was simply an extra week’s vacation.

In hot markets where the number of credible individual experts in the country can be counted on two hands, the difference between closing and blowing the deal can be the fee for just one small job. Design firms need to identify the top talent in their target or geographic markets, and then craft creative compensation programs that effectively combine salary with incentives. A prominent firm recently lost a nationally-renown market sector leader because it implemented firm-wide financial austerity measures with no raises, no bonuses and a 10% across-the-board pay cut for all principals, even though the studio of the person in question had posted record earnings for the period in question. Why? Another firm, already in the top five but vying for the top slot, saw an opportunity and seized it. Design firm success hinges on the synergy of individual talent with market opportunities. Attracting superstars and supporting them with a strong bench in sales, technology and operations will ensure that, when it comes to winning work, your firm will always get to the playoffs and may even win the championship.

About the Author: A former executive with the nation’s top A/E firms, accomplished author and agent of design firm change, Kerry Harding serves as President and Chief Recruiting Officer of The Talent Bank, Inc. an executive recruiting and management consulting firm founded in 1984, specializing exclusively in strategic recruiting of design professionals. He can be reached at kerry.harding@talentbankinc.com

May 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm 4 comments

Your Civil Engineering Career: Defining Moments

Babette Ten Haken
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Babette Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies

What project defined you as a professional and as a person? I originally asked this question in a post on April 9, 2012 on Sales Aerobics For Engineers Blog. The following insights, in response to this question, are offered this week by three members of the CivilEngineeringCentral.com LinkedIn group:

“I am an Industrial Engineer and since I graduated, I had worked with medical devices manufacturing corporations. In 2001, I was offered a government position as Director of Public Works for a municipality and that changed it all. I was in charge of more than 120 men covering construction, pavement, mechanic shop, heavy equipment, school transportation, etc. My employees were anything but highly educated. Some of them didn’t even know how to read or write. Some of them could only afford a bag of chips from the vending machine as a lunch. However, I had never learned more about construction, about commitment, good manners, respect, and life. They taught me about construction, about how to do things with nothing and I was able to teach them about processes and how to be really committed to serve our citizens. I saw so much need and poverty during those years. I experienced the reality of our world. I understood what ‘true public service’ is about. I worked there for three years and then moved to other government jobs. Now, I work again for the private industry but those years gave me a different perspective and a clear understanding of what really matters in life.” Aixa G. Lopez-Santiago, P.E.

“I was an independent consultant for Rand Engineering, the largest engineering company in Manhattan. We supported a seven story masonry building with needles while we gutted the old concrete slabs and changed all the old steel beams that had deteriorated in the basement. We also excavated the basement floor below the existing foundations which meant that we had also had to underpin the existing foundations. We then built a two-story luxury apartment in the space. Along with this we shifted a load bearing wall above the basement and moved it over four feet to align with the walls below by splicing the existing timber beams so that bearing could be maintained over the near wall. .. The contractors were Russian and a very reliable crew… The Architect was Canadian… Language presented no difficulty for the most part because most of the major decisions were imparted directly to the Contractor who spoke English and Russian. Other on site directions were imparted to the foreman of the crew who also spoke enough English to understand what was being said. I must say that at all times there was perfect coordination of all concerned and all went the extra mile to ensure the job was completed satisfactorily.” Richard Guy

“I began my Civil Engineering career in a design office where I quickly learned that you needed construction experience before you could become a good designer. I soon found myself working on the construction of the Verrazano Bridge. I could not wait to get to work in the morning and took every opportunity to walk to the top of the tower and take in the panoramic view realizing that this experience could never be duplicated.” Irwin Weinbaum

Sometimes we are involved in projects which end up defining who we are. Except it’s too early for us to realize this, especially while we are in the middle of that defining moment.

What is your defining moment?


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

April 25, 2012 at 9:54 am Leave a comment

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