A/E Leaders Make Changes: Staff Should Take Note!

self knowledge
When I began recruiting within the A/E industry in 1986, consulting firms purported the ability for staff to choose between a technical track or a management track. In reality, if you were a competent engineer and personable, then you would be pushed up the management track (whether you wanted to or not).

If you weren’t as outgoing as your employer desired, then you were encouraged to follow a technical career path. Consequently, I witnessed many staff rise to positions in firms that they neither wanted nor were really good at doing. They followed the course as many of us were taught that the goal is to be a manager, a leader.

Over the past two years, a trend has developed with senior level architects and engineers. They have reached a specific level in their careers and realized, “I don’t need to prove my capabilities to myself or anyone else.”

Towards the last third of their career, many desire to take on roles that they love. For many, this is focusing only on client management or large programs. For others, the desire is to mentor staff and/or overseeing technical competences.

I’ll provide an example. I recently found a leader who was excited to leave their role managing 500 staff, across multiple offices and states, to grow a small office for a much smaller company. He wanted to “have fun at work again.” And, after working for a large public engineering firm, he wanted to “practice engineering again” and not feel like he was working for an accounting firm. These sentiments are becoming the norm not the exception.

Fortunately, I realized in my late 20’s that I was an average department manager. Convinced that my goal was to manage people, I didn’t feel the “fit” in the job. Armed with that realization and the confidence that I was a good recruiter, I founded The Metzner Group, LLC. Twenty-seven years later, here I am.

Hopefully, the trend of those in the last third of their careers will motivate those architects and engineers who are in the early stages of their jobs. Do what you LOVE, not what you think you are supposed to do!

Freedom that self-knowledge brings is enjoyable!

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

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August 17, 2016 at 2:18 pm 1 comment

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Refreshing Lemonade

With much success comes a certain amount of failure.  Over the course of my career recruiting civil engineers I have not only had to turn lemons into lemonade myself, but I have been fortunate enough to coach candidates to do the same.  Here are some tips from two decades of recruiting civil engineers on how you can turn lemons into some freshly squeezed, refreshing lemonade:

Bruised LemonLooks Do Matter.  When you are at the grocery store hand selecting the right lemon to buy, you pick it up, give it a little squeeze, look at the color, look for soft spots, bruising, etc, all before you put it in the cart.  The same concept should apply to your resume before sending it out.  I have talked to some great candidates over the years who were having difficulty generating any interest from any firms.  After evaluating their resume, I understood why.  It has been documented that hiring managers view resumes in seven seconds or less; so no matter how great your experience is, if your resume is sloppy, dis-organized, and generally unappealing to the eye, it may end up in the big stack, and not the short one, if you know what I’m saying.  So take your lemon of a resume and organize it well; be consistent with your font and font sizes; use a mix of bold, italics, underline, and bullet points (but don’t go overboard), and turn it into a tall glass of cool lemonade that anyone would enjoy picking up and sipping on.  Taking the time to do so shows you care.

Lemonade Taste TestThe Results of the Taste Test Matter.  Unfortunately, not every interview will lead to an offer; on those occasions where they do not, one should ask for honest feedback from the hiring manager, or if you use the services of a recruiter, from the recruiter.  Informing a candidate they did not make the “cut” is never an enjoyable experience, but I try to provide honest feedback so they can improve their interview skills and learn how they fell short.  It could be simple items like not making eye contact or seeming dis-interested; it could be lack of energy; it could be failing to do the necessary due diligence on the firm prior to the meeting; it could be failing to sit down the night before your meeting to reflect over your career, projects, roles, etc in order to properly prepare yourself to answer all questions that come your way.  In the end, you just did not come out on top in the “taste test.” Whatever the case may be,  reflect on your experience and gather all the information you can to turn that sour tasting cup into some sweet lemonade which will take first prize in the next “taste test.”

Dropping a LemonDon’t Just Drop The Ball (or Lemon).  I recently had a really strong candidate who was a finalist for a position to lead a new office that my client was opening.  Part of the final evaluation between the final two candidates was to have them develop a business plan that would show what the first, third, and fifth years would look like.  One particular candidate spent a good twenty hours doing research and reaching out to peers and business contacts, only to end up taking second place…and it was a strong plan.  Now that’s a lemon.  But lemonade could easily be made over time by proactively reaching out to other like firms who may have an interest in opening an office in that particular market, and actually marketing your plan and ideas to them.  If one takes the time to put a plan like that together, it is safe to say that their level of excitement is pretty high.  The detailed plan, along with the passion that would likely come through in presenting that plan to different organizations is bound to appeal to at least a few organizations.

Garbage can

Toss the Sour Lemons.  Chances are you will encounter some “sour lemons” over the course of your career, and no one likes sour lemonade.  Inept managers, unethical firms, stagnant or toxic work environments, inflexible employers,  brutal commutes, old-fashioned or uncreative cultures…all are viable examples of “sour lemons.” Everyone’s palate is a little different, but don’t be afraid to toss those sour lemons and move on.  As you progress in your career, you will be able to refine what you believe to be the best lemons to generate the perfect glass of lemonade, and hopefully you find that recipe sooner than later. The sooner you create that recipe the longer you will be able to enjoy it.

 

 

 

I love hearing and sharing stories, so if you have a story to share about how you turned a lemon into lemonade, please let us know below in the comment section!

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

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June 1, 2016 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

Self Belief & Embracing Your Inner Badass

“The moment you have the audacity to start believing in the not-yet seen, your reality will begin to shift…you have to change your thinking first, and then the evidence appears.  Our big mistake is that we do it the other way around.  We demand to see the evidence before we believe it to be true.” ~ Jen Cincero, Author

 

 

In my world of civil engineering executive search this is a very powerful statement.  I have the privilege of working with civil engineering executives, leaders, and consulting firm owners who have a vision for growth.   These leaders have successfully built businesses or service lines, but they are looking to further expand into new geographies or new service lines, and they seek our guidance in identifying top talent in the industry to help them achieve that vision.

The challenge is, not necessarily findingInner Badass the candidate who meets the desired skill set, but finding the candidate who meets the desired skill set AND who is able to “believe in the not-yet seen.”  That is, the civil engineer or civil engineering executive who is able to buy into the vision, and who can look themselves in the mirror and say to themselves, “yes, this opportunity does pose some risk, but my past experiences and the success that I have earned up to this point in my career will SQUASH that element of risk!”  In other words, finding candidates who have the level of self confidence to successfully pull off an exciting, and often career changing professional feat.  So many times I interact with folks who rather than seeing the opportunity set before them as  true “game-changer,” they become apprehensive and need to see some sort of evidence that things will work out, when in fact they are the ones who have the amazing opportunity to write the story, or create that evidence THEMSELVES!

Those who have the self-awareness and know how to kick ass and take names, but who don’t come across like a bull in a china shop are the one’s who can TRULY make a name for themselves and make sizable impacts in the growth of an organization.

Let me give you an example.  Right now I am conducting a search for a client – a small firm in the Southwest US who is looking to expand into a brand new geography.  The company president has spent the last 18 months performing his due diligence, getting all the necessary certifications in place, meeting with all the right people and developing relationships with potential clients and partners within that marketplace.  He is now ready to pull the trigger.  We have uncovered half a dozen candidates who love the idea of leading an office, sharing in the profits, and taking an ownership stake in the firm in two years.  They have all the tools, a business plan is in place, financials are out on the table, but in the end, they fall back into the trap of being “comfortable” where they are.  A psychological “flick-of-the-switch” would make ALL the difference for some of these folks.  If they were truly able to assess all they have accomplished up to this point in their career, and then maybe puff their chest just a little bit, their career could end up being quite different.

What keeps me going is that I have indeed been fortunate enough to place dozens of civil engineers in leadership roles where they have been tasked with starting a new group, opening a new office, or turning around a struggling operation..and they have KILLED IT!  It is a great honor to watch some of the professionals we work with really take the “bull-by-the-horns” and make considerable contributions to the vision of our clients.  In the end, it was their “inner badass” that played a big part in their achievements.

As a recruiter, it is frustrating to see some really good candidates turn down some amazing opportunities; not because we lost out on a placement, but because we catch a glimpse of greatness in these candidates, and we only wish they would have caught that same glimpse themselves.

 

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

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May 4, 2016 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

I’m No Civil Engineer, But This Has To Apply, Right?

CreativityOn a daily basis I speak to all types of civil engineers.  Those who specialize in rail & transit, highways, traffic & transportation planning, land development, and water/wastewater, just to name a few.  Above all else, what I hear most when I ask them what they love about their profession, is that they love the opportunity to be creative.  The ability to look at a raw piece of land and the different contours and deliver an idea to a client that is new and original;  the ability to be a part of a design team responsible for designing a bridge that isn’t just sensible, but perfectly fits the landscape within which it is being built; engineering and creating the best work zone traffic control plan to keep drivers and construction personnel safe while maintaining a steady flow of traffic.

The level of creativity that an engineer is able to express is often dictated by the company culture within which they work.  Some consulting engineering firms are just flat out “drab,” right?  No innovation, no desire to take some design risks at risk of a losing proposal, designing subdivisions or site plans only so they look like every other one they have ever completed.  Often times this mentality is driven by hard nosed clients with strict budgets and timelines.  But what if your company leadership has been able to develop a level of trust with their client base that would allow for some flexibility in those timelines, resulting in higher levels of creativity?  Sure it may cost the client a little more money, but might the end result be worth it?

Watch this 2 minute video of a group of 5th graders to catch my drift:

Now I’m no civil engineer, and I get that it’s a little more complicated than this video, but doesn’t this simple concept make sense?

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

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April 28, 2016 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Stuck In “No Man’s Land?” Here Is One Way To Get Out…

No mans land

No man’s land.  You all know what that is, right?

Literally speaking, it is a piece of land that is unoccupied, or under dispute between parties who leave it unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty.  You may also understand it as that place in the ocean, usually thigh deep, where when a wave rolls in you are not far enough out to “jump” the wave, but you are in a safe place where you won’t completely be pummeled by the wave either.  Or that spot on the tennis court between the service line and the back base line where if you find yourself standing when a ball is hit to you, it can be very challenging to make an effective shot.  Whether you are knee-deep in the ocean, or stuck between the service line and base line, you can certainly survive the situation, but you are in a position where you are not reaping the full benefits of having put yourself in the ideal location.

Have yCivil Engineers are not inherently sales peopleou found yourself in “no-man’s land” with your civil engineering career?  Is the piece of “land” that you presently occupy in your career allowing you to merely “get by?”  There are plenty of ways to get yourself out of “no-man’s land,” but I am here today just to suggest just one of those ways.  That way is to master the art of selling.  Many civil engineers cringe with the idea of having to cold-call or strike up a conversation at networking events, but by investing time in sales training or sales activities, you will break out of that professional purgatory within which you currently reside.

Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most talented and well known artists to have ever lived, produced 900 paintings and 1100 sketches over the course of his career.  Of those 2000 works of art, Van Gogh only sold one during his lifetime.  So even though he is considered one of the greatest artists in the last 2000 years,  his work did not generate any revenue until long after his death due to his inability or unwillingness to sell his artwork.  You may be able to engineer and manage the hell out of a project by being creative and by getting the project out the door within schedule and within budget – you may even save your client’s money on a regular basis.  But that will only get you so far.  Unless you are climbing the “technical” career ladder which exists in some firms, you will find yourself stuck between the service line and the base line.

So how do you break through and find that sweet spot where you can jump the waves and reach their peaks?  You master the art of selling. I’m no civil engineer, but here are some ideas off the top of my head as to where to start your mastery:

A.  Find a mentor.  In this case, a civil engineering professional who has mastered the art of “pursuit-and-capture.”

B.  Find training.  There are many sales training programs out there, the first one that comes to mind is the Dale Carnegie Training program.

C.  Become a great speaker.  Did you know there are over 15,000 Toastmaster clubs – I would bet there is one within 20 minutes from where you live.

D.  Self directed learning.  Books, blogs, audio books for your commute, magazines, podcasts.  Find an author or blogger or motivational sales trainer that you enjoy reading or listening to, carve out time every day for some self-directed sales training, and then implement the ideas that appeal to you most.

No man land sucks.

If you look at the leaders in your profession – those who are business owners, partners,  or company executives – one of the main reasons they were able to elevate their careers to that level is due to their commitment to sales and business development.  Commit to mastering the art of sales and business development specific to the civil engineering industry and your career will know no bounds.

Take the necessary steps required that will allow you to rush the net and make that overhead slam!

crush your civil engineering career

 

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

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April 19, 2016 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

Does Company Size Matter?

choosing between companies

The 2016 job market is in full swing and with it, if you are lucky, comes choices. Seasoned professionals as well as graduate engineers find themselves approached with opportunities. Today’s civil engineering companies are as different as their employees. In your job exploration you need to define the type of employer you will best fit.

The 2015 ENR Top 500 list reflected most of the largest A/E firms becoming even larger as a result of mergers and acquisitions. Similarly, a number of firms who were not on the top 500 leaped onto the widely reviewed list.

As an executive recruiter, I experienced leaders from the top 10 firms make notable moves to much smaller firms. In each case, the executive wanted to join a firm where they felt they could have significant impact on company strategic direction and growth. They wanted to join a firm that they felt would allow them to “get back to the practice of civil engineering.” Conversely, during the last year a number of project engineers and project managers asked me if my larger clients had job opportunities for them. These job seekers specifically wanted to join the top 100 firms as they perceived these firms to get a bigger share of complex, huge and sexier projects.  In my opinion while these observations seem to be representative of a trend last year, there are a good deal of people who focus their job search not specifically on company size, but on the job itself.

Evaluating where you are in your career, defining your short and long-term goals, assessing culture, company leadership and peers at a new firm- these answers will helping you make a good decision to join a firm. Yes, size of a company does matter but should not be THE factor in selecting a new opportunity. What do you think?

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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

March 28, 2016 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

7 Tips To Beat Out The Competition In Hiring Great Candidates

 

Fantastic job: Excited young businessman giving thumbs up while

Without a doubt, the civil engineering profession is a candidate driven market.  That is, civil engineers are in high demand in most parts of the country and when they conduct a job search they are receiving multiple offers.  Great news for the candidate as that puts them in a position of power; not so great news for the companies looking to hire them.  How many times have you interviewed THE PERFECT candidate, only to have them accept an offer from your most fierce competitor down the street?  If this has happened to you more than once, it is time to re-evaluate your interview and offer process so that your percentage rate of hiring top notch employees trends upward.

Here are 7 tips that will not break your budget or flip your schedule upside down that can help improve your chances of welcoming that next great civil engineer or civil engineering executive:

  1.  Move swiftly.   There is an old saying in the recruiting world, “great candidates have a short shelf life.”   Great candidates are decision makers, they are movers and shakers, and they do not have time to schedule interviews a couple weeks apart, only to wait another couple of weeks before an offer is made.  They know what they want and they go after it.  If you show signs of indecision or hesitancy in your process, even if it is of no fault of the candidate (i.e. sketchy work history, good not great references, etc.), they very well may see that as a sign of weakness, and as my kids often jest, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”
  2. Don’t be afraid of technology.  If you are not able to schedule a face-to-face interview in a timely manner, schedule a SKYPE call to get the ball rolling or to keep positive momentum during an interview process.  Text message quick updates, feedback, questions, or availability – these messages pop up on the face of everyone’s smart phone and allows for a quick response during busy days, but can keep things moving forward.
  3. Listen, Listen, Listen.  So many times hiring managers discuss all the great benefits of working for their company, but they fail to listen and understand the motivations of the candidate.  So ask a lot of questions of the candidates first, listen, and then respond accordingly.  What you think may be the most important attributes of your firm may not be the most important characteristics to the candidate.  Ask, listen, and then respond.  If you make your case before listening and understanding the candidate’s motivation they very well may be walking out the door for the last time.
  4. Be a Project Manager of the interview process.  If you are in a position of authority where you are responsible for hiring, you have likely mastered the art of project management.  When you are assigned the management of a multi-million dollar infrastructure project you wouldn’t wing it, would you?  Don’t wing the interview process either.  Take the time to absorb the candidate’s resume, find out what you can about them online. Develop a plan/process with those who will be involved in the interview process with decision time lines, technical skills to look for, personality traits to look for, specific questions to ask, and make sure everyone involved in the process knows specifically the role that the candidate is being interviewed so that a meaningful conversation can be had.
  5. Meet in a social setting.  Obviously it is important to invite the candidate into the office so they can experience the office environment and witness the hustle and bustle and observe the setting of what potentially could become their second home.  But beyond that office interview, meet them outside the office.  A breakfast or lunch meeting is okay, but chances are they may be a little preoccupied with the work that is waiting for them when the arrive back to the office, or they may fear their boss may become suspicious of them should they arrive late for work or take an extended lunch.  I would suggest grabbing a couple of co-workers and inviting them out for happy-hour after the work day.  This way they are not as preoccupied and they can let their guard down, and the same can be said for you.  This opportunity will allow for you to get to know the person, not just the engineer. You will also begin to witness  if a natural camaraderie is easily developed.
  6. Send a thank you email.  Wait…what?  That’s right.  We all know it is standard operating procedure for a candidate to send a thank you letter or email to the hiring manager following an interview.  But try sending a thank you letter to the candidate.  I recently had a client send an email to a candidate in the 48 hours following his interview letting him know of the value that they saw in him and that he could bring to the organization, while at same time reiterating some of the important details of their previous conversation.  This simple gesture, an email that may have taken 10 minutes at the most to type, made a very positive impact on the candidate and ultimately “sealed the deal” as he was weighing a couple of different offers.
  7. Ditch the canned offer letter.  We are excited to offer you the role of Vice President, here is your salary…please read the employee manual…we need proof of your citizenship…you are required to take a drug test…Oh, and by the way, our state is an “at-will” state so we can fire you at any time.  Sound familiar? “Woopty Frickin’ Doo,” right? It doesn’t make you feel that special, does it? For many companies, this type of terminology in an offer letter is pretty standard.  Not that these elements should not be included in the offer letter, but jazz it up, man!  Recap the reasons WHY you are excited to have them join your firm and the impact that they will make on your company.  Recap your interview conversations and let them know why joining your firm will further enhance their career.  Drop in a couple of exciting pieces of company news that may appeal to them.  And reflect on a statement or conversation that occurred over the course of the interview that stood out.  By adding some strategic personal elements to the offer letter shows that you took the time to really understand their motives and ambitions.  A simple gesture like this may be the deciding factor between two or three equally exciting offers that they are considering.

The competition for great civil engineering candidates is at an all time high.  By adopting these simple strategies into your hiring process you will make great strides in improving your offer-to-acceptance rates.

 

 

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

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March 21, 2016 at 10:04 am Leave a comment

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