Posts tagged ‘civil engineering career development’
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!
View Carol’s profile & connect with her on LinkedIn
For nearly 30 years I’ve been connecting employers and job seekers in the civil engineering industry. Sometimes I have someone who is a great fit for a position but the company does not want to interview the person. Why? Because the individual did not have a particular professional registration/license that the company felt would be valuable to the position – PE, AICP, LEED AP, PMP, etc.
Now before you fire off hate mail about the importance of professional knowledge and experience, I agree that both are important. That being said, a four-year degree and working for the same company for many years don’t mean you earned the right for job security or future promotions. Registrations are an unbiased barometer of your skills. They also illustrate your value, provide marketability and help you to stay current with industry knowledge and trends.
Show your Value
By showing your skills are up-to-date, you might be in line for the next promotional progression in your current or future role. You’re also showing your employer that you are a valuable member of the team and willing to learn new things.
You may not think you need to be marketable because you’re not planning on leaving your current employer – especially in the current job market. With the many employer market driven changes and changing client loyalty, you should want to show you’re at the top of your game.
The days of employees working their entire career with one company are going the way of the Dodo bird. Employees often leave for new opportunities. (Sometimes too soon but I’ll address that topic in a future blog.)
And don’t forget about mergers, buy-outs or downsizing. As companies try to achieve greater success with reduced overhead (polite corporate speak for fewer people), they will want individuals who are among the best in their field. Registrations are another way employers’ view that you go above and beyond what is asked by putting in the time and effort.
Sure you have your undergraduate degree and possibly a masters or Ph.D. You also have on-the-job training and years of experience that you couldn’t pick up from the classroom. You also supplement workplace information with seminars and journals. Registrations or new accreditations are third-party recognition that you’re keeping your expertise current. It also shows that you passed an industry’s measurement of knowledge. It’s not a joy to complete, but you’ll thank yourself weeks, months or years down the road.
Now I’m not saying that licenses are the Holy Grail for a successful career. You still need to know your stuff and prove your worth. But as the job market expands and companies search for the best and the brightest to achieve greater success, professional registrations could give you an edge over another person for a promotion or a future job search.
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
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.
Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., CPC, LEED AP
Associate Civil Engineer and Certified Professional Career Development Coach
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Ernest Hemingway one said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” I believe this quote to be so very true. Until I attended coaching school and learned how to listen, I was often guilty of selective hearing. I believe this was in large part due to my engineering background. Engineers as well as other technical professionals are always geared towards problem solving. Therefore when we listen, we listen for “answers” needed to solve problems. Once we have these “answers” we tend to tune out the rest of the conversation as we are already solving the problem in our heads or we start looking for the next problem to solve!
Why don’t people listen? People like to hear themselves talk. Admit it, we all do! We have a lot of thoughts and experiences on our mind and we want to share them. Sharing your thoughts is great but engaging and listening to those we are speaking with is important to your relationships both personally and professionally. Do you find yourself cutting people off before they finish their sentences? We are all anxious to keep moving forward, so much so, that we sometimes don’t hear important messages that people are trying to tell us including managers, co-workers, clients, friends, spouses, children, etc.
There is a very valuable skill called Acknowledging. Acknowledging is when you repeat back to someone the words they just told you. For example, a client may say to you, “This is our largest project and it means a lot to us.” You would acknowledge the client by saying, “Bob, we understand that this is your largest project and that it means the world to you and that is why we have our best civil engineers working on the project non-stop!” This shows the client that you are listening to them and as trivial as acknowledging may sound, it can be extremely powerful in building relationships.
How many times have you heard someone attribute a problem in the workplace to “mis-communication?” Do they mean “mis-communication” or do they mean someone wasn’t listening and missed out on what they were supposed to do? I believe many times it is the latter. Communication is a two way street, it has to be! If someone tells you something and you don’t listen, what’s the point?
Over the next few weeks, make it a point to listen. Even during the holidays with your family, try acknowledging them, you’ll be surprised at the response you get. Companies lose money, projects and employees when people repeatedly don’t listen. By improving your listening skills you will set yourself apart from other professionals and your professional and personal life will be much more rewarding!
Remember the key to success starts with listening not answering!