Posts tagged ‘down market’

Questions Of The Month – Final Tallies Revealed

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of

Each month at we have a Question of the Month.  This question is posted on our home page and is included in each issue of  “The LinkedIngineer” as well as our monthly e-newsletter which is sent out to nearly 10,000 members of the civil engineering community (If you would like to sign up for our monthly e-newsletter please click HERE…sorry, couldn’t pass up that free plug).   It’s been a while since we have posted the results, so in light of that (plus the fact that I have struggled to come up with anything else),  check out the results below.   If you see any surprising results in there or feel the urge to comment about any of the topics please feel free to do so.

MAY 2009


83.1%     No
16.9%     Yes

Just yesterday I was speaking with  a colleague of mine who commented on a report he had just watched on MSNBC. They were discussing the question “where did all the stimulus go?”   Most of it of course is going to construction; all those projects that we have come to love and know as…shovel ready. What seemed like a lot of money initially, when spread out over the entire United States, seems to be spread pretty thin.

APRIL 2009


67.6%     Yes
32.4%     No

It’s expensive out there folks.  Our health insurance has gone up 50% over the past four or five years…everyone is feeling the pinch here.

MARCH 2009


42.9%     Networking
25.0%     Not Knowing Where To Start
17.9%     Updating My Resume
14.3%     Nailing The Interview

The way I see it, assuming you are a talented engineer, if you are able to effectively network throughout the course of your career, that, in-and-of-itself, takes care of the the remaining three obstacles.  You see, if you are a great networker, you easily know where to start, and because you have networked so well and know so many people very well, there is no need to update your resume because they have seen you in action and your stellar reputation precedes you.  Your noticeable performance within your industry over the course of your career has coincidentally been an ongoing interview.  All that being said, a hand shake over a cocktail, beer, sparkling water or other beverage of your choice should be all that is needed to nail down your next job.  A little tongue in cheek maybe, but there is some validity to my theory.



50.0%     8 or more times per year
23.1%      Not at all
15.4%     1-3 times per year
11.5%     4-7 times per year

One half of our respondents give back to the community 8 or more time per year…that is AWESOME!



77.8%     No
22.2%     Yes

One should always be truthful on their resume, that goes without saying.  But sometimes resumes can be misleading as different titles mean different things to different companies and different people.



40.0%     Nuclear Energy
23.3%     Wind Energy
20.0%     Solar Energy
13.3%     Bio-Fuels
3.3%       U.S. Oil Digging
0.0%      Coal

I think our economy will need to stabilize and re-establish itself for a while before we begin to see any of these technologies really begin to flourish.



65.5%     No
34.5%     Yes

I think the civil engineering industry,  prior to “The Great Recession,”  had actually come accustomed to the 6/60 work week – that is Monday-Saturday/60 hours week!



49.4%     Barack O’Bama
42.9%     John McCain
6.0%       Undecided
1.2%        Other
0.6%       Ralph Nader

Not bad, not bad.  The final results in total votes for the Presidential election in November was Obama 53% / McCain 46%. Our participants were nearly dead on here…sorry I can’t say the same for the Question of the Month which we ran in August 2008; see below!



73.5%     No
26.5%     Yes

This poll was posted at the time when gas prices were averaging $3.74/gallon.  We have come a long way over the years in mass transit, but you know what?  People love their cars and it would take a lot more  than higher gas prices for them to drop their keys and take to mass transit.



30.6%     2nd Quarter of 2009
26.5%     2010 or Beyond
14.3%     3rd Quarter 2009
12.2%     4th Quarter 2008
10.2%     4th Quarter 2009
6.1%        1st Quarter 2009

As of today, just about 50% of our survey responders are wrong and there are another 26.5% who will likely end up on the wrong side of the fence as well by the end of this year.  Seems to be an ol’ case of “if I only knew then what I know now.”

I would like to thank you all for answering our Questions of the Month and look forward to your continued participation.

Got Comments? Got Questions? Got Insight? Got Speculation?  Got Inside Information?  Let us know, we would love to hear from you on any of the subjects of our recent polls.

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


June 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm 1 comment

Lessons Learned From An Economy Turned

By Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc.
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of

So one of the headlines from on Wednesday read “Economists: Recession To End In 2009.”  Reading this article got me to thinking that, now that we are beginning to see a little light at the end of the tunnel, what are some of the lessons that the civil engineering community has learned at the hands of this recession?  

If you jump on the band wagon, be sure you pack a lot of padding for when the wheels fall off.

How GREAT was the land development boom in places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and the greater Washington, DC area (just to name a few)?  Engineering firms were actually turning away work from developers (or, working 90 hour work weeks because they couldn’t say “no.”); engineers of all levels were relocating to these “hot spots”; Professional Engineers were starting their own firms because they saw the dollar $ign$ that were there to be made;  every engineer I spoke with was chomping at the bit to work for a home builder or developer, and vying for those positions was like trying to get into Walmart as the doors open on Black Friday.  You don’t have to look very far to see what has happened in the wake of this recession.  Home builders and developers are selling off land (if they can) and running on skeleton crews at best.  As a result, many of the civil engineers who were living the high life during these boom years have since been acquainted with acronym “RIF.”   Knowing where the market was in those regions during the real estate boom, check out some of the headlines from the Las Vegas Review Journal for 2009:  Did you know that average price for a single family home in Phoenix for 2009 is $103,953.00 vs. $283,472.00 in 2008 (Source:  Realty Times – Phoenix, AZ).  To see the effect in the outlying suburbs of Washington, DC , take a look at the Housing Market Outlook For The Washington, DC Region as prepared by Robert Charles Lesser & Company.  My hope is that everyone who reaped the rewards of these robust land development markets was able to tuck away some of those lucrative bonuses and put them to use to help cushion their fall.  

Diversify. Diversify. Diversify.

If you have stuck around long enough to read through the paragraph above, you know where I’m about to go here.  How many firms do you know put all of their eggs in the land development basket?  I guess you can’t blame them, right? That’s where all the business was and it did not take long to be completely bogged down with lucrative land development work.  To come up for air and even consider anything else was nearly impossible.  With all that money floating around, that would have been the best time to hire some key players in water/wastewater, municipal infrastructure, transportation and other areas of specialization in order to begin establishing a presence outside of the land development arena.  All good things come to an end, so when they did, by diversifying you would have had built established relationships and developed a nice track record within the municipal sector that would have helped ease the pain of the real estate bust.  Unfortunately, many firms failed to diversify and by the time they realized they needed to pursue work in other areas, it was too late…in fact, pursuing work with public and governmental agencies these days is like trying to get into Walmart as the doors open on Black Friday (yup, I used that analogy again).  Everyone is lined up looking for a piece of the action, but only a few will be fortunate enough to walk away with that nice plasma television.

Beware of  “Best Firms”.  Are they only the “Best Firms” during the best of times?

Don’t get me wrong, there are many firms out there that deserve all the awards they receive for ethics, management style, benefits, employee training, employee incentive programs, employee retention, state-of-the-art technology, exciting projects, work environment, etc.  In fact, there are many firms that would likely win those types of awards but just choose not to submit themselves for consideration.  The best firms to work for, as I see it, are the ones that have strong business plans with strong leadership and that have had a fully executable game plan in place for when the market turned as it did.  They produced high quality work at a reasonable price with a diverse client base.  They stocked away some cash and had good working relationships with their bankers.  They are coming out of this downturn with minimal damage. They way I see it, the firms that rise out of this downturn and recession with the least amount of collateral damage to its employees, they are the “Best Firms” to work for.  

The best marketing is producing a quality product.  True, but lose the crutch.

It has always been said that the best form of marketing is developing a quality product, which in turn will produce great returns as a result of repeat business.  How true this is, not only for civil engineering, but for many industries. But avoid using this as a crutch.  What happens when your client’s well runs dry?  Be prepared to put on your sales and marketing cap and start pounding the pavement.  To better prepare yourself, make sure you take some classes and seminars on this topic of marketing and business development in the civil engineering industry; or even better, find a mentor within your company.  And then once you learn some of the strategies, don’t let them become dust collectors – make sure you put them to practice.  Keep in mind, just because the repeat business keeps repeating itself does not mean you should not be “out there” in the mean time marketing your services to other prospective clients.  This way, when your backlog runs low you will have a head start on the process, and your cold calls will now be warm calls.

Keep your resume polished up as often as your shoes.

Treat your resume as you would your finest pair of shoes.  Imagine a pair of dress shoes that have not been polished up in a long time.  They look fine when you finally get them done, but if you had kept them shined and polished regularly throughout the years they would remain in top notch condition.  Top notch condition is the way you should also keep your resume.  Every time you get a promotion or receive an award, update your resume.  Everytime you speak at a conference or write a paper, update your resume.  Everytime you complete a project, update your resume.  This way, should you roll into work one day after 20 years of loyal service only to be greeted with a cup of coffee and a pink slip, you will not be scrambling.  

There are certainly many other lessons to be learned as we scratch and claw our way back into multi-year backlogs, and these are just a few.  What other lessons have you learned that you can share with our readers?

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May 27, 2009 at 5:28 pm 10 comments

Finding A Job In A Down Market.

By Carol Metzner, President, The Metzner Group, LLC and Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of

At least once a year I hear the phrase, “follow your passion, do what you love and the money will follow.” I have thought this to be reasonable advice.

But, I am recently stuck as to what to tell the many candidates who have phoned me in the past weeks after they have been laid off.  They followed their passion for engineering, CAD or surveying.  Reminiscent of the 1990’s, they find themselves without a job in a strained marketplace. There are few jobs in their local markets. Now they need to move locations or leave the profession. I hear the stress in a parent’s voice as they tell me they don’t know how to tell their junior in high school that they may need to move to another state.  Another candidate just got engaged and yet another has just found out he has a new baby on the way. Hearing their pleas for help, for advice, for leads….let’s just say I can’t just leave it all at the office. I think I would be sleeping better if I had become an artist!

In 1989 I started my recruiting firm.  The civil and environmental engineers I knew warned me that the market was turning and that I was crazy to start an A/E/P recruiting business that year.  As usual, I followed my instincts and my passion and here I am still recruiting almost 20 years later.  There were some tough years in those early days.  Builders closed their doors and state highways lost their funding in the early 1990s.  Here we go again….deja vu?

How do I help candidates when the jobs in the locations they live are far and few between? Here is what I suggest:

You should get up each morning and treat your job search as a job.  It is tempting to take a week or so to clear your mind.  I have seen a week turn into a month.  Allow yourself to be upset about your job loss BUT get up and focus; make a plan. Then, network, call recruiters, call past colleagues, call past employers, post your resume on a specific niche job board for your marketplace:!  Be creative. You may need to “brand” or reinvent yourself.  Can you market yourself into a related field of work?  You may need to take a step back to get into a new or related field.  No matter who gets in the White House next week, oil and gas, energy and the environmental markets will have to be tended to. Yes, our nation’s infrastructure needs a major overhaul.  The jobs have to be on their way.

As disheartening as it is to hear and, more I am sure, to experience, you must push forward in your search. Many of us made it through 20 years ago and we will make it through again.  Be creative and try to think positively. Hopefully others can offer advice and suggestions for you here… please do comment.

October 29, 2008 at 1:31 pm 2 comments

Increase Employee Morale and Benefits

Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC, home of

With today’s economy, one of the last items on employers’ lists is “How should we increase our company benefits package?”

Now is the time to increase employee moral and what a better way, other than salary and bonus increases, then to offer no or low cost benefits?  It also shows your employees that the company really does care about their well-being!

Arrange for a series of lunchtime speakers:

Financial planning should be of interest to employees.  Why not offer a series of short financial planning seminars that are presented free at the office during lunchtime? Speakers can cover topics such as bill consolidation, financial planning, retirement planning, mortgage payment relief.  Most speakers will be thrilled to present for no cost.  A great way for them to market their services.

How about going back to the tried and true smoking cessation programs or weight loss programs?

Help local businesses while helping your staff:

Has your company arranged with the local Sam’s Club or COSTCO to offer discounted membership cards? How about arranging for discount coupons to movie theaters, dry cleaning stores, local sandwich shops?  Keep in mind that most businesses are looking for ways to draw business to them.  You can help your staff and help a business in the community.  Sure employees can find these discounts on their own through the internet or coupons in the mail, but wouldn’t it be great to have your company get the credit for offering it to them?

Indulge your employees:

Another trend in the market is to offer employee discount travel.  Everyone enjoys traveling but few can really afford it these days.  A company arranges with a specific travel agency to refer staff. In return, the travel agency will give certain discounts to the company employees.

There is nothing like a good massage.  Arrange with a local certified massage therapist to come in at lunch everyday for a week and offer chair massages.  These costs are minimal. Many therapists are looking to market their business and charge $1.00 per massage minute. (I would pay more than that right now!)

How about arranging for discounts at the ice cream shop? at the local spa? at the fitness center?

Speaking with many of you in the civil engineering marketplace daily, I hear stress, apathy, frustration.  Many of “us” feel unappreciated and concerned about the ending of certain projects and the start of new ones. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for our employers to make the effort to take extra care of us!?!

What types of no-cost or low cost benefits would you like to see offered by your company?

September 25, 2008 at 1:47 am 1 comment

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