Posts tagged ‘Civil Engineering Jobs’
More A/E firms are adding behavioral and personality assessments to their interview process. These tests or inventories “show” tendencies or ways that you are most likely to respond to your surroundings. Proponents say results from the assessments when used with a face to face interview will help predict a good “fit” between you and the job for which you are applying. These evaluations are standardized and carry statistical analysis to add to more commonly used conversational interviews. It has been reported that, unlike a normal interview, it is impossible to “cheat” on an assessment; impossible to answer questions that you think will give you a profile that an employer is seeking. And, you should not try to cheat. Eventually, your true personality will show itself. Firms believe the more they can discover about a persons strengths in personality as well as technical knowledge, the better the chance for a long term employment fit.
Recently I heard a story that shocked me! An executive shared with me one of his behavioral and personality assessment stories. After multiple interviews for a key leadership role in a mid-sized firm, the CEO asked him to meet with a psychologist for an assessment. As he entered the psychologist’s office, the CEO entered also and sat down. The psychologist began with his very in-depth assessment and the CEO remained. This is unethical and highly unusual. I asked the executive why he didn’t ask the CEO to leave or just stand up and walk out! Easy to think what we all would do but tougher when actually in the situation. Afterwards the executive candidate did tell the CEO it was inappropriate for him to have been in the assessment and he withdrew as a candidate.
Back in my graduate school days (many years ago) I recall writing a paper on the worst personality assessment tool I had come across. The test results were based upon which color you liked the best. The test had the validity of a newspaper horoscope. So as I was contemplating this blog, I took one of the common assessments utilized in our industry: The DISC assessment. Without going into too much detail, I will summarize: It was accurate. My chosen profession as an executive recruiter working with architects, engineers and scientists is a good fit!
In my experience, I have seen that when used accurately, various assessments can be helpful. However, often I have witnessed these tools to be used to knock out otherwise good candidates. Readers of the results often “see what they want to see.” They turn a positive attribute into a negative one. It is important that interpreters and users of the collected data be EDUCATED on how to use the information correctly and to weigh the results accurately!
Have you taken any assessments as part of an interview process? Which ones have you taken? Do you think it is invasive, helpful or neither? Do you think you were not offered a job because of testing?
Received a call today from a civil engineering Senior Project Manager. During the conversation he asked me “How does my salary measure up against others?” Over my 25+ years of recruiting, this is one of the most frequently asked question. And, it is not easily answered. Salaries range widely across the US. Benefit packages range widely as well. An engineer with a specific educational background and technical experience may make as much as $30K more in New York or Los Angeles then they do in North Carolina or Michigan. And with our recent blog on salary compression, salaries of two employees who sit next to each other with identical resumes may differ in compensation by several thousands of dollars!
Your human resources department is not going to share your colleagues salaries; however, they may share ranges for your position. That will give you a starting point.
So what is one to do? Short of interviewing with other firms to see what they may offer or talking to colleagues who work at other firms, here are a few sites that offer some guidelines.
Results are from salary surveys: indeed.com, simplyhired.com, ASCE.org, payscale.com. Keep in mind, that even the information on these sites vary greatly. After identifying various salary ranges, check out your cost of living comparison in your location with your salary here: cnn.money
How do you assess whether you are being paid competitively? Please let us know!
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?
It is that time of year again and the political landscape is heating up! A Google search shows that past/current Mayors of Omaha, NE, City of East Orange, NJ and Norton, OH were/are civil engineers. Current Portland, OR Mayoral candidate, Steve Sung, spent 32 years as a civil engineer for the city of Portland. With two candidates for California and Indiana congress, civil engineers are “taking to the streets” to lead policy formation.
Recently I asked civil engineer and past Mayor of Frederick, Maryland, Jeff Holtzinger, for his thoughts on civil engineers and local politics. Here is his comment:
“Civil Engineers are a good fit to solve the problems many cities are facing with aging infrastructure and infrastructure that has been outpaced by growth. I also think the analytical thinking which is part of an engineering background gives engineers an advantage in problem solving.”
As our cities’ infrastructure decays, having a background in civil engineering seems to bring an added benefit to the political table. It would be interesting to see if cities with civil engineering trained Mayors have better infrastructure at the end of their term than similar cities.
What do you think?
It was not too long ago that the infrastructure and construction boom in the UAE and the surrounding Gulf Region was all the rage. Take a look at this segment from a Discovery Channel special on Dubai to see what I am talking about:
Over the course of my conversations with civil engineering professionals I always like to ask what their take is of the marketplace and how things are going in their regions and where they see the next big area of growth (from both a disciplinary and geographical perspective). Over the course of the past week or so I have spoken with engineering professionals and executives at numerous consulting firms who alerted me to the fact that Brazil is booming and the demand for new and upgraded infrastructure is strong; as a result, they had recently, or were in the process of, setting up shop there. Now, that same demand can be said for the US as well, but as you well know, the Federal government all the way down to local municipalities are so strapped for cash that nothing much is being accomplished when it comes to improving our infrastructure. So while we sit around with our hands tied as our interstate highway system is at or exceeding capacity, while more and more US bridges become structurally deficient, and while the concept of a US high-speed rail system continues to receive much scrutiny and criticism, Brazil has a World Cup to host in 2014 and an Olympic Games to host in 2016; can you imagine the beating that their infrastructure will take (even if it is only for small period of time)? And with these major events come a true sense of urgency for all things infrastructure …and more importantly, the deep pockets to support them! Brazil’s National Development Bank (BNDES) will likely lend $29B for infrastructure in 2012, and the Brazilian government is projected to spend $25.3B on their national rail network alone by 2014.
With the onslaught of visitors expected, the infrastructure will need to meet the demands. Airport expansions are underway often with monorail systems; construction of hotels, stadiums, commercial and retail centers is booming; rail, urban transit systems and traditional highway and roadway projects are abundant, and there is a healthy investment in water and wastewater infrastructure. And, according to an October 2011 article on Investopedia.com,
“The sporting events are just the beginning to Brazil’s infrastructure build-out. Last year, outgoing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, launched a $900 billion infrastructure plan which focused on improving transportation, electrical supply and the nation’s ports. Similarly, current President Dilma Rousseff, has also pledged to improve infrastructure via massive public works plans.”
With all of the investment in infrastructure, Brazil will be poised for economic growth for generations to come.
If it hasn’t already been pounded into your head by now, we are a global economy and as opportunities arise in overseas markets for a struggling civil engineering and construction community here in the US, why not take advantage of these types of opportunities? What has YOUR company done to get a piece of that pie? And from a career standpoint - if you are looking for adventure, what a great opportunity!
Every new year many of us assess our job. As an architecture and civil engineering executive recruiter, I find January to be a very busy month! New year resolutions abound. Candidates tell me that they will not spend another year working for a company or supervisor that doesn’t appreciate them…at a job that is no longer challenging or exciting. They won’t continue to go to work each day to be surrounded by people they don’t respect. It is time for them to be energized.
What questions should you ask yourself to determine if it is time to explore a new opportunity?
Is my current company growing, shrinking or staying the same size? Do the company leaders communicate with all employees about the “health” of the firm? Do they communicate about their strategy for growth for the company? Are my values the same as the firm’s? Do I respect the company leaders? How is the company viewed in the industry?
Does my supervisor have and exhibit the qualities I respect in a manager? Am I learning from him/her? Does my supervisor keep me motivated on projects and informed about my career path? Do I feel comfortable asking for help or discussing situations?
Do I have established relationships with others in the company? Do I look forward to working with these people or do I dread walking through the office or visiting the lunch room? Are my team members collaborative or self-serving? Are they supportive or challenging?
Am I able to work on projects that are challenging and diverse? Do I like the work that is presented to me? Do I have an opportunity to learn and try new skills? Do I have autonomy to do my work? Do I have the ability to contribute to the overall success of the firm?
Do I receive a competitive base salary? Did my company change their benefit plan so I pay more for less? Am I receiving incentive bonuses for exceptional work?
There are many other questions to ask when deciding to make a job move. It is important to make an informed decision. Changing jobs is often more emotional than logical. Before wasting your time, a recruiter’s time, your current employer’s and potential future employer’s time– do your homework and evaluate your situation.
One thing is for sure: If you “can’t take this.. not another day” at your current job, then start exploring your options!
Picture this: the sun, beach, sand, waves, porpoises ….wind turbines?
A variety of wind farms are being proposed, designed and constructed across the US. Cape Wind proposes the first offshore wind farm on Nantucket Sound, “… Miles from the nearest shore, 130 wind turbines will gracefully harness the wind to produce up to 420 megawatts of clean, renewable energy. In average winds, Cape Wind will provide three quarters of the Cape and Islands electricity needs. Maryland’s Governor proposed a plan to build offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean (Maryland lawmakers today refused to pass the plan this year). His was a $1.5 billion field of giant turbines about 10 miles off of the Ocean City, Maryland shoreline, while the eastern edge is approximately 27 miles from the coast. And in Delaware, NRG Bluewater Wind has won the exclusive right to negotiate with the federal government to build an offshore wind farm.
Will these “green” initiatives bring green engineering jobs? “Bluewater Wind officials estimated in 2008 that the project would bring 400-500 construction jobs to the state, as well as at least 80 ongoing operations and maintenance jobs. A Port of Wilmington official estimated last year that building a regional turbine assembly facility there could result in about 770 jobs during construction, and another 750 operational jobs.” The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reported in 2010 that the wind energy sector that employs 18,500 staff in the manufacturing sector could “support tens of thousands of additional jobs manufacturing wind turbines and components if the right policies are put in place.”
Civil engineers will be needed for a variety of roles within this “green” engineering market. For example, the wind farm infrastructure consists of roads and drainage, wind turbine, met mast foundations and buildings housing electrical switch gear, planning, modeling, preliminary design, QA/QC and construction of wind farm infrastructure for sites and utilities for access roads, crane pads, crane paths…
Many of us will be interested in reviewing the results of states and P3 proposals. Will other states step up and add these green engineering jobs or, like Maryland, will legislators blow the turbine proposals out of the water? :)
Last year an executive at a national civil engineering firm was overheard saying that staff who held the company “hostage” by demanding high salaries and outrageous benefits were now getting a cold reality. They would either accept pay and benefit cuts or would be welcome to leave. After all, they could be replaced by other talented civil engineers who would be happy to have a job. This executive thought the company had been strong armed into high salaries and comprehensive benefits in a demanding marketplace. Additionally, he decided that many employees showed no loyalty to the company during good times. Staff threatened to leave for opportunities and remained when they received counteroffers. Now, he felt that “what goes around, comes around.” Engineering businesses are known as professional services firms. They are only as good as the talent they have on their teams…and the amount of projects in the marketplace.
Salaries respond to market conditions. Clients are driving the lack of return to normal as the supply of work remains low. When engineering consultants are busy, clients are willing to pay higher fees to secure the firm they want planning, designing and constructing their projects. Likewise, when firms are looking for projects to keep their staff employed, salaries are lower as are winning bids.
Salaries are also reflected by the great purge of 55 – 65 year old staff. As politically incorrect as this is to discuss, this economy has allowed firms to let go of senior civil engineers who are technologically deficient in deference to hiring younger professionals who are more marketable. These younger staff are LEED accredited, BIM proficient, command lower salaries which means lower bill out rates and potentially more winning bids. It is more economical to have a senior civil engineer oversee as a QA/QC manager, while junior and mid level engineers produce the work. The job market is now flooded not only with 2009 and 2010 graduates, but also with 35-45 year experienced engineers. Although I understand the thought process behind keeping salaries low in a competitive market for project wins, my previous blog comments in “Never Underestimate the Gray Haired Engineer” holds true. (A future BLOG will discuss the ramifications of removing senior engineers to save dollars).
Firms need to remain competitive to win work. While most will agree that civil engineering salaries had finally reached the level of their high tech counterparts, the economy could not sustain them. Infrastructure needs, natural and man made disasters will force work to our marketplace. But, the economy and clients (both governmental and private) will dictate industry salaries.
The ever-shrinking job market, aging baby boomers and rapid technology growth have created a need for storm water generalists who can do it all—use off-the-shelf and proprietary tools to conduct modeling studies; plan, assess and design storm water and water resource projects; resolve complex problems such as conflicting design requirements and unsuitability of conventional materials; and prepare and review a myriad of reports, including technical and regulatory specifications, contract documents and cost estimates.
No longer is storm water management a niche position filled by hydraulic and hydrologic specialists; now it encompasses everything from business development to contract bidding and administration to project management.
Furthermore, storm water-related jobs are not limited to civil engineering and construction companies; they now are found in federal, state and local governments, scientific consulting and services firms, research and development companies and waste management organizations.
At the same time, rising population growth, crumbling infrastructure, growing concern for the environment and a need to comply with tighter environmental laws and regulations have created increasing demand for environmental engineers knowledgeable of storm water management. Many developers today are taking a proactive approach by working to prevent rather than control problems, requiring engineers who can use science and engineering principles to ensure the preservation of natural resources, the use of environmentally beneficial materials and the health and safety of residents. Environmental engineers also design remediation systems to counter the effects of pollutants on soil and groundwater and retrofit existing storm water systems to mimic predevelopment hydrology and restore ecosystems to their predevelopment state.
Storm Water Staff as Generalists
With unemployment on the rise, it is no surprise that some career boards report a 50% decline in the number of storm water-related jobs over the past two years. Fewer jobs usually means that the people who do have jobs have more to do, and that seems to be the case here. More storm water-related employees are expected to come to the job not only with knowledge of the general engineering field, hydrology, hydraulics and water quality, but also knowledge of best management practice design and local, state and federal water programs’ regulations as well as experience in site design, work plan development, data collection and analysis and preparation of technical memoranda, reports and presentations.
To get a job in today’s tight market, storm water-related workers must possess technical knowledge dealing with a range of topics, including soils, pollutants, watershed management, storm water/drainage management, water rights, water quality modeling, environmental permitting and economic analysis. In addition to these hard skills, engineers are expected to be fluent in softer interpersonal skills involving organization, management, communication and problem solving. Successful employees also need to be self-motivated, with the ability to work both on one’s own and within a large team environment.
Higher-level jobs require knowledge of and experience with more advanced topics such as conducting hydraulic, hydrologic and water quality modeling studies, using specialized computer software for data analysis, developing GIS applications and developing and updating computer code to create new analysis tools. Advanced workers also provide senior leadership for engineers involved in storm water-related projects and may prepare proposals and conduct other marketing activities to gain new business.
Storm Water Staff as Environmentalists
Engineers have a long history of working to minimize the environmental impacts of land development and to maintain or improve our nation’s environmental health. Many storm water-related workers are tasked with protecting our natural habitats, systems and resources by finding ways to maintain existing hydrologic patterns, reduce impervious surfaces, maximize undisturbed natural areas, minimize runoff and pollutants and take advantage of the natural retention, absorption and infiltration capabilities of vegetation and soils. Increasingly, environmental engineers are required to provide “green” and sustainable site management technologies and practices, making sure to integrate sustainability into every aspect of the development project.
In 1972, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enacted the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System storm water permit program to regulate sources, such as developments, that discharge pollutants into U.S. waters and waterways. In 2007, the EPA introduced the Green Infrastructure initiative to highlight opportunities for municipalities to increase the development and use of green infrastructure to infiltrate, evapotranspirate or reuse storm water.
Legislation is changing at a fast pace, and environmental engineers have to keep up with the latest rules, regulations and enforcement procedures at all government levels. Increasing numbers of localities are adopting low-impact development ordinances as treatment control for pollutants and pursuing the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. To comply with these environmental regulatory requirements, engineers must be familiar with the specifics of the ordinances and engineering standards related to storm water management in addition to keeping accurate, clear and concise records.
To complete a land development project successfully, environmental engineers have to examine the project in its entirety, considering each design decision in terms of costs and benefits not only to the company and client but also to the environment and balancing the costs of different types of green materials with the benefits of long-term storm water management.
As this article has shown, storm water management trends, technologies and legislation are ever-changing. In order to maintain a job in this field, it is more important than ever for storm water-related workers to take advantage of every continuing education opportunity that comes their way.
To be successful, storm water-related engineers need a strong understanding of the water/storm water industry and new design standards and technologies. They also need experience in water resources, drainage, flood control and green infrastructure technologies. These individuals must read technical journals, attend professional conferences and interact with colleagues in order to keep up to date on the latest materials, standards and technologies and offer the greatest value to their employers. Even experienced storm water-related engineers need to keep abreast of the latest topics and often can benefit from a refresher course on the basics.
In the same way, if companies want to keep their employees, they must provide not only competitive salaries and benefits but also opportunities for continuing education and enhancement. In today’s work environment, learning new things can be a win-win situation for both employers and employees.
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I have given many surveys to civil engineers through social media with regards to career development and advancement. Lately I have found that due to the economy many companies have been making changes with their staff in any way possible to stay as efficient as possible. This has resulted in many engineers having been forced to take on roles that they may not want or enjoy.
Many engineers have been asked to relocate to other office locations based on workload, increasing their commute and putting them in an uncomfortable atmosphere. Other engineers have been transferred to other departments based on workload. So you may have been working on private development projects for the past 5 years and all of a sudden you find yourself out doing bridge inspections.
How do you maintain productivity and passion in your day-to-day career when you are taken out of your desired role and/or location? Here are a few recommendations to keep your attitude and energy up while going through this situation:
- Be thankful for your job as there are currently many people without one. This doesn’t mean to be happy with your job, you don’t want to create a mindset that this job is “good enough” for me or that you are just going to accept it, the truth is you don’t have to.
- Paint yourself a very clear picture of the job you would eventually like to have. Be specific by listing the type of projects you would like to work on, your role on those projects, the general location of the projects if that matters, etc.
- Review your current day-to-day activities and see where the experience you are currently gaining will be helpful in your ideal role, once you achieve it. For example, if you have been re-assigned to manage something other than your ideal role, take the time now to improve your managerial skills which will apply in both situations.
- During these times, strengthen existing and build new relationships both within your company and throughout the industry. Take advantage of any downtime you have to re-connect with existing and prospective clients as well as other industry professionals. Attend more professional society events, with the idea that the more relationships you build, the more opportunities that will be available to you.
- Do one thing each day, no matter how small that will help you in achieving your ideal job or role. This might be an e-mail, phone call, internet research, read an inspirational article or quote, etc.
One thing that a professional coach helps people to do is realize the opportunity in every situation. Every time something you perceive as “negative” happens, ask yourself the following question, “Where is the opportunity in this situation?” You will be amazed at the list of positives that you will draw from a perceived “negative” situation.
The key is not to give up on what you’re passionate about doing, just because of the current industry situation or economic climate. Yes things are tough and we all have financial responsibilities and this is the time when we may have to accept roles that we aren’t comfortable with to survive. However the job that you want is out there somewhere until you decide that it is not!
I’ll leave you with a quote to help raise your attitude and energy up a level…..