The Best Career Advice for Construction Workers Looking to Grow
Getting started in the contracting industry can be a daunting task for anyone. Whether you're working a summer landscaping job, are in an apprenticeship program, are a daily laborer, or looking to rise up the ranks in your career to become a project manager, there are some great tips out there to ensure you have success.
Taking the time to read forums on Reddit and interview people on our own podcast, The Building Builders Podcast, we've combed the internet for the best construction career advice for contractors to contribute to any construction project.
Here's what experienced and employed construction managers, colleagues, contractors, laborers, construction workers, and leaders had to say about how to start a career in construction.
Relationships in construction will make or break how well you do in your career. If you have the soft skills needed to build great relationships and develop a strong network, you will be untouchable.
Whether you're a laborer, contractor, or looking to grow a small business or manage construction projects, how you treat the people around you is the most crucial ingredient of a successful career. Almost all the other tips on this list feed into relationship building in one form or another.
In the construction industry, one of the fastest ways to earn respect is to be accountable. Everyone knows that mistakes happen, but passing blame to someone else will not win you any points.
Contractors are proud of the work they do and for good reason. Many of them are experts at their craft and love to build things with their hands. If someone messes with that, it can hurt. Both financially and their reputation.
Rookie mistakes happen but owning them, learning from them, and moving on will make you a better laborer, apprentice, project leader, and leader in the long run. This accountability, while hurting in the short term, will help build your confidence in your career in the long term.
Find Your Craft
While some contractors have gone to college for a degree, some tradesmen happened into an industry and fell in love. There is no one-size-fits-all story on how to get started, but one of the most important things someone in contracting can do is make sure to find the right profession.
There are many types of contracting professions including electric, plumbing, carpentry, landscaping, drywalling, and more. And unfortunately, the days get longer when you don't enjoy your job. That's why finding the right fit, especially early in your career, should be your biggest career objective.
Don't worry about finding the highest-paying job at the beginning of your career either. The money will come. Contractors are almost always going to be in high demand whether you're a residential or commercial contractor. It all depends on how dirty you want to get your hands and what you enjoy doing.
Be Teachable and Take Initiative
People that like to learn are necessary at any company. Most of the people we talk to agree. In fact, on one of our episodes of the Building Builders podcast, having a growth mindset was discussed as the biggest characteristic of future success.
Asking questions about the job, career, why you're doing a specific task, and how it benefits the company are great ways to stand out from the rest, especially if you're serious about having a construction management career.
If you're ever unsure what the next task is, be proactive and ask what the next step of the job is and go do it. This will really open up the eyes of any leader on site and earn their respect quickly.
This goes for people further in their careers too. You will never know everything. It's impossible. Be proud of the work you do, but continue to expand your knowledge, and hire people to fill the gaps.
Resourcefulness and building things are two traits that most contractors have and developing those skills continually will set you up for success in the long term.
A tip that should go without saying is being on time. As the common expression goes "5 minutes early is 10 minutes late." You never know what to expect before a shift. Whether it's a longer commute than usual, needing to get food on the way, getting dressed on the job site, or any other things that might come up, being late is unacceptable.
Being punctual is part of relationship building, being accountable, and showing you have good time management. Tardiness will not score you any points in your site supervisor's or owner's good books, especially if you miss the morning meetings.
Have a High School Diploma
Earning your degree in high school is important from a financial perspective as it almost always guarantees to increase your annual salary. Almost everyone who has finished high school earns more than those who don't.
If you are looking for a career in construction management, you might need to have a bachelor's degree in construction science or civil engineering, but it's not always necessary.
As we talked about above, it's important to keep learning. Find some time on the side to learn management skills, risk management, and management best practices. While you often don't need a formal education to work in the construction industry, it can certainly help in your career and expedite you up the employment growth chain more quickly.
It all depends on what you want your construction career path to look like.
Stay Off Your Phone
This was the most common construction best practice across every forum we saw. It is so easy to go on your phone at any moment when there is a break.
After all, you've been lifting things around and on your feet all day! You've earned it, right? Wrong.
Going on your phone will not make you look good to leadership. Especially if there are other tasks that need to be done. Laborers and leaders are attracted to people that look eager to listen and learn and unfortunately, being on your phone will take you away from a lot of those opportunities.
Especially for newcomers, you want to be useful to everyone around you. Other team members already have working relationships. They don't need to be impressive. They need to be impressed.
Some of this may require doing things like taking out the garbage when it's full and making use of every trip to the truck. Think about the next task and what you'll need to make it happen. You should never be making any trips empty-handed.
There's always something to do on a job site whether it's keeping the area clean, taking out the trash, or more. Stay busy.
As we've already mentioned, you won't know everything on your first construction site. However, in situations like this, some people feel the need to constantly prove themselves and do rush jobs. This typically ends up with low-quality work and a lot of mistakes. Many people brought up this idea in online forums.
While being passionate and wanting to prove yourself are filled with good intent, it can lead to bad outcomes. It's better to do one job well and slowly than redo it because it was done fast and poorly. Be productive and efficient, and do things the right way.
Be a Problem Solver
One of the quickest things you'll learn in any profession is that things will go wrong. However, it's also your job to come to the table with solutions.
Whether it's managing client expectations, figuring out how to share that you're short on materials or that equipment might have broken down when you needed it, or any other unlimited number of things, not everything goes to plan. And letting your anger or frustrations out on people around you certainly won't help.
But people will respect you if you quickly find solutions to the problem. That's because when you first start out, you will get paid for what you do. As you advance in your career, you will get paid for what you know. Running into problems early in your career and learning how to solve them will set you up amazingly for future success.
What To Do Next
Whether you're trying to figure out if engineering or construction is a good career path or if you should work in construction, you can use these tips to get started. By utilizing this sage advice from those with experience, you will get settled into a construction job much more quickly than if you ignored them.
If you're interested in learning more about growing your career in construction, make sure to subscribe to our Building Builders podcast. We have industry professionals every other week to talk about the challenges they go through in the industry and what they're doing to grow their businesses.