Posts filed under ‘The Workplace’

Civil Engineering: Taking a Hard Line on Soft Skills

Successful real estate investor Barbara Corcoran once said:

So as we leap into 2017 with both feet, make the development of your soft skills a priority.  Here are a few reasons why your soft skills are so important:

Business Development:  Your track record and resume of successfully completed projects may look stunning on glossy marketing pieces, well-written proposals, or a high-end website.  You may have delivered all of your projects ahead of schedule and under budget while maintaining impeccable quality.  Your current and past clients will even vouch for you.  BUT, in developing new clients, if you are unable to connect with them on a personal level and build a trusting and GENUINE relationship where the client actually LIKES you, the odds of landing a new client are slim.

Career Advancement:  Taking the concept beyond just winning new clients, the development of soft skills and relationship building skills are CRUCIAL to the advancement of your career whether you are an EIT just starting out, or Project Manager fighting to break out of the chains of middle management.   In these cases, let’s look at applying the soft skills to the people you surround yourself with.  Assuming that your engineering skills are stellar, company leaders are more inclined to promote and hire professionals they like (or can envision) working with and enjoy being around.  You may be the most creative, on-point, civil engineering design expert, but if you are unable to communicate, or if you ride around on a high horse because you know you have mad skills, you will find yourself treading water for a long time.

Team Building:  Let’s face it, you are only as good as the team you are leading.  As a leader, you need to build trust with and really get to know your team members…both as professionals and as individuals.  Take the time to learn what motivates them, what drives them, what they enjoy doing outside of work, where they want to take their careers, and then build bridges accordingly.   Sitting behind a closed office door all day may allow YOU to get things done, but that short-term success/instant gratification will ultimately force your team to crumble beneath you.  Yes, it takes work, and time, and you may have to work more hours than you would prefer to get your own stuff done, but the payoff will be ten-fold.

In a 2015 Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives, 92% indicated that soft skills were equally important, if not more important than, technical skills.  Your ability to develop your soft skills and build quality, legitimate relationships will help differentiate you from the pack and will lead to a rewarding and fruitful career in civil engineering.

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

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January 24, 2017 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

Civil Engineering Ethics: Leaving Your Employer & Telling Your Clients

leavingA candidate of mine was given a 60 day notice that he will be laid off from his employer, due to financial conditions of the engineering consulting firm. This engineer is well-respected in his community and known as an expert in the city and county he resides. His employer asked him to not tell the firm’s clients or employees in other offices that he is leaving. He leads a small office of this national consulting firm. Assuming this engineer has no employment agreement, does he have an obligation to his firm? Does he have a professional responsibility to inform his clients?

Whether you are laid off or choose to leave your current employer, how and should you tell your clients?

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Code Of Ethics should be understood and always in the mind of its members. Engineers face situations that often put them in ethical dilemmas with their employers. Let’s look at our situations above while referencing ASCE canons.

*ASCE canon (professional responsibility) #4  states in part that one acknowledges that “clients should have the autonomy to seek professional services from the engineer of their choice. To do so, however, they must have knowledge of circumstances that might affect their selection, and they must be apprised of the options available to them.” If you are the client manager, project manager or technical leader on a project with client interaction, canon #4 suggests that you let the client know you are leaving. If you are the proposed lead of a proposed project and the client is reviewing other firms as well as yours, you are obligated under this canon to inform them.

*But, one must keep in mind canon #3. Canon #3 tells us that engineers must “issue true statements.” In upholding this responsibility, the engineer must keep in mind that he/she “will avoid any act tending to promote their own interests at the expense of the integrity, honor and dignity of the profession.” One must be careful to not speak badly of their current employer to intentionally cause them to be knocked out of contract consideration. The engineer must speak truthfully while not disparaging another engineer unfairly.

*As canon #5 informs “Engineers shall not maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly, injure the professional reputation, prospects, practice or employment of another engineer or indiscriminately criticize another’s work.” An exiting employee/engineer must be honest in their assessment of the firm’s ability to continue the client’s work without him/her.  What does one say if the engineer assigned to take over the project is incapable of the role? Canon #5 could be viewed as walking a fine line.

Why is it important for your client to know you are leaving your firm? APQC asked executives to “prioritize what they value when hiring a consultant.” Of top and equal importance to these leaders, they place “firm’s experience” and “project team’s experience” with the client’s issue as top reasons to hire a specific consulting firm. Engineers and their employers have a responsibility to their clients to tell them what has happened or will happen with their project and the team. Clients understand business decisions, they make them everyday. They may not agree with the decisions, but they understand them. If they hired the engineering firm for a specific person’s political connection, the engineering firm has now directly impacted their client’s ability to perform.

Informing your clients of your departure is an ethical as well as professional responsibility. Here’s how to make that transition smoother:

  • Work with your supervisor to inform your client. You employer will want to minimize the client’s concerns.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute or your final day of employment to tell clients.
  • Inform client’s in person or by phone if an in person meeting is not possible. Follow up with an email.
  • It is also good practice to introduce your project successor and offer to help with a project transition plan.

Keep in mind that while these are your employer’s clients- as described above, the client may be there because of YOU! Always be professional!

Let us know what you think!

Carol new profile

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

View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn

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

January 3, 2017 at 1:30 pm Leave a comment

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!

Carol new profile

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

August 17, 2016 at 2:18 pm 1 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?

Carol new profile

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

Missed Career Opportunities & Diminishing ROC

Timing the stock market is impossible…no matter what anyone tells you, it just can’t be done on a sustainable basis.  The same can be said when it comes to career opportunities.  Take a look at this chart:

Missed opportunities

There are a number of different directions I could go comparing your career to the stock market, but my message today is that if you try to perfectly time your career moves you will spend the rest of your career with the same organization.  If you miss out on opportunities that are presented to you for no other reason then “the timing is not right,” then you are diminishing your ROC (Return on Career).    Diminishing returns on career – here is what I am talking about:

  • Exposure to salary compression
  • No exposure to new people, new clients, new cultures, or new types of projects
  • No breaking out of your comfort zone
  • Missed growth opportunities passing you by
  • Creative and lucrative retirement savings programs

I’m not suggesting making a move every couple of years, because I still believe the “job hopping” mentality will catch up to you, at least in the civil engineering consulting world.  But if an opportunity presents itself, and I don’t mean one that is just  doing the same thing with a different company for a little bit more money, those are a dime-a-dozen, but something different and challenging that can take your career to new levels; don’t you owe it to yourself to at least explore the opportunity?  It does not have to be on company time, as most executives and hiring managers we work with are willing to meet first thing in the morning for breakfast, out for drinks or dinner after regular business hours, or even on the weekends.

Quite often when I approach candidates with career opportunities with clients that I am extremely passionate about I am told that “the timing is not right.” I get it, on the surface the timing is rarely right because:

  • You are in the middle of a project – but aren’t you always going to be in the middle of some sort of project or task?
  • You would feel guilty leaving your boss with challenging task of having to replace you or pick up your work that you are leaving behind – don’t you think if your boss was presented with a great opportunity he/she would consider it?
  • You feel as though you deliver great value to your employer and you would feel bad about leaving them in a bind – other valuable employees have moved on before you, yet the company managed to survive, and often thrive!
  • You are waiting on a bonus – there is a strong likelihood that that bonus can be equalized with a signing bonus from your new employer.

It is a great time to be a civil engineer as there are tremendous opportunities available with firms that are creating new positions due to growth, expanding into new services lines, and opening up new offices in new geographies, all of which present enormous upside for experienced professional.  Guess what? The folks that take on those new and exciting opportunities are in turn creating some quality opportunities within the firms they left.  So take a step back and reflect upon all you have accomplished, what your current career situation looks like, and what the future holds for you with your current firm.

Take a good, hard, honest look.

If you do not see that defined path for advancement, or if you find that you are too “comfortable” or “content” in your current role and see that that level of contentment is leading to complacency, then shed the “not the right time” excuse and take some time to explore what other opportunities may be out there.

Wayne Gretzky

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

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February 29, 2016 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

THAT SILVER HAIR MAY VERY WELL BE A SILVER LINING!

 

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

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

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