Four ways to boost your career in an industry boom and protect in a slowdown

Having recruited in the industry since 2007, I have seen busy times in the construction recruitment industry and sad to say market crashes. I worked in a recruiter world where at times I struggled to recruit good people for my clients and could place any candidate that came my way; and on the flip side, a world where many good people struggled to find work and companies were retrenching, not recruiting.

At the moment it seems construction recruiters are not placing many active job-seekers (as they are more scarce), but placing “passive job-seekers” that are tempted with a better option. People in the industry are not trawling Seek to find a job; opportunity is finding them.

Now it’s all about networks and direct approaches to fill jobs in the construction recruitment industry.

We work in a project driven industry reliant on people. Where projects are won but missing key personnel, which can endanger the construction project and construction business as a whole.

People I speak with are getting contacted multiple times per week with money thrown at them to tempt them away from their current role.

Boom times are a great opportunity to accelerate your earning power, career and improve your work-life

Hiring someone that’s talented but not proven in an identical role or project type, is often the more calculated risk. Paying someone an extra $10k or $20k per year often a smaller loss than having a project understaffed and doomed to delays.

People are earning great money, often dictating their terms and getting multiple job offers to choose from – happy days to work in the construction industry that’s for y. There is one thing that’s certain though, the law of economic cycles, and as sure as night comes after day; after a boom there will always be a slowdown so here are our tips on how to manage that.

Your Employment Choices Impact Your Future. Capitalise on the boom and future-proof your career.

After living through a few boom and bust times, interviewing thousands of people and hearing their stories, I thought I would share the key learnings on how to use the boom to your advantage and protect yourself when it ends.

1. Use the boom to learn new skills and elevate your construction career

During boom times, there are more opportunities to work for bigger tiered companies, on different types of projects or get more senior roles.

Look at where you want to take your career and what skills you need to get there, what roles could you apply for that will help you gain these skills?

In quiet times, people recruit like for like, in the busier times they have to compromise. The Tier 1 companies recruit people from the Tier 2 etc.

Employers hire people that have never worked on a high-rise construction project if they can’t find good people that have.

Talk to your construction recruitment agent about your career goals for some accurate and pragmatic advice on how to achieve these.

Be strategic in your job-hunting and use the boom to elevate your construction career.

2. Be discerning in your choice of employer

When you make a move ensure you pick a solid employer that’s not going to kick you out as soon as things get tough.

In the last slowdown, there was one notable contractor that was still busy and hiring, they had work sites everywhere, but when they went under it was written that out of around 30 projects, there were only a couple in the black. How fortunate for those employees to be working for such a reputable company.

The construction recruitment market is still extremely competitive in terms of pricing.

This creates added risk, check that your potential employer is winning work with healthy margins and not sailing close to the wind.

Ask how they fared in the slowdown? How many people they laid off? How are they protecting themselves for the slower times?

In Sydney there were competing business that went from hero-to-zero overnight, and those who managed to weather the storm virtually intact.

In a career that’s focused on projects, there is always the risk of retrenchment and we work in a risky sector, but you can calculate that risk by asking the right questions.

Unfortunately moving from “project-to-project” because the business had no more work, is still frowned upon when the job market tightens.

3. Try to avoid working in a construction niche

Some people work in a niche which is great, but when times get quiet, it’s those that can suffer the most.

For example, in the first slowdown, I saw a number of Design Managers dropping up-to $60k a year and hunting around for months to find work because there were no big projects. Design Manager’s were the first non-essential staff member to be cut.

Those Design Managers that had previous experience as a Project Manager found the adjustment and job-search far easier when it came to construction recruitment.

If you have focused on a particular type of construction, look at diversifying your experience.

When I started recruiting in Sydney you struggled to find work, if you had just worked on residential construction of project homes, as the world was focused on commercial construction.

Then it was the resources candidates who made huge amounts of cash in the boom but struggled to make an early change to non-resource construction. The huge windfalls made in the boom, became irrelevant to those out of work a few years later.

Make sure you can be valuable across different types of projects or roles to ensure you have increased opportunities when things are tighter. The resources workers that found it easiest to get work, were those that had experience in traditional civil or building works.

4. Don’t sell to the highest bidder or believe all you hear

One of the benefits in a boom is that salaries rise and let’s face it, we would all love an extra $20k a year. When the markets hot, one of the most common reasons for candidates leaving a job, or rejecting a job-offer, is to chase more money.

Any seasoned recruiter will tell you, the highest payers are not always the best businesses to work for.

Businesses pay over market-rate to attract employees for a reason, just make sure it’s a valid one and not because they are bad operators.

Money is a great bonus but don’t make it your primary driver.

Always do your due-diligence, don’t take what you hear from recruiters and interviewers as gospel and make sure you question things you are told.

People can be very generous with the truth when their backs are against the wall.

If it sounds too good to be true………… then it probably is.

5. Enjoy!

Enjoy the good times, act strategically and us

Enjoy the good times, act strategically and use them to your advantage whilst keeping one eye on the future.

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