Career in The Construction IndustryIf you’re currently attending a construction management program at college or university, there’s a lot you can do to kick-start your career even before you graduate!  Construction management is a hot field right now, and there are jobs out there if you know how to find them.  The more you can do early to build a foundation for your career, the easier it will be for you to succeed after you complete your education.

And with the average pay for a construction management specialist currently over C$87,000, there is a lot of reward waiting for those who keep their focus on career development.

In this article, we wanted to give encouragement to all the future construction managers still in school.  We’ll be looking into what employers are seeking in their construction managers, as well as the things you can do to ensure you’re ready for the role once you’ve graduated!

I. Understanding What Employers Want in A Construction Manager

One positive aspect of moving into construction management is that it’s a field which pulls its prospects from different sources.  People may attend a dedicated construction management program, such as at George Brown College, Humber College, University of Toronto or Ryerson University, but not necessarily.  Other prospects may come from more general engineering schools, general contracting, or even “work their way up” from the site to the back office.

This is all to say: those looking to hire Construction Managers will be willing to consider prospects with a wide variety of backgrounds, and extensive previous hands-on experience is not necessarily a requirement.  If you can demonstrate your competency, you’ll still have a chance to land jobs.

In particular, those employing Construction Managers are generally looking for five key traits.

The Five Most Important Traits of a Construction Manager

1 – Communication Skills

A Construction Manager must be a strong communicator since they serve as the go-between for crews, investors, contractors, and more.  Many might argue this is the single most crucial aspect, particularly for newcomers to the field.   The technical side of construction can potentially be learned on the job, but  poor communication skills will limit your growth potential as Construction Manager.

2 – Project Management Skills

Along with communication skills, a strong understanding of project management is another must for construction professionals.  You should be able to show a history of successfully overseeing projects from start up to close out, scheduling meetings, and keeping all stakeholders on-track.

3 – Contact Management & Document Control Skills

While a Construction Manager will generally have one or more assistants to help with the paperwork, they must still have strong document-handling skills.  In particular, they need to be able to read and understand both technical and legal documents using common language specific to their industry, as well as being able to compose effective reports. Many of these documents and contracts are based on CCDC requirements so exposure to these contracts will provide a strong knowledge base applicable to many situations.

4 – Technical Skills

You will be ahead of the curve if you can demonstrate a strong understanding of technical drawings, CAD software, architectural engineering basics, and associated equipment such as ruggedized computer hardware.  It will also help if you have experience with a particular construction division such as Building Envelope, Mechanical or Electrical systems, Concrete or Drywall etc. These divisions mentioned tend to be areas where many issues arise and this technical knowledge will come in handy.

5 – Flexibility

Can you adjust and adapt in situations you don’t fully control?  No construction project ever goes 100% to plan and requires a Construction Manager who can think creatively when unexpected challenges arise.  If you can cite incidents in your past where you’ve successfully overcome such challenges in previous management situations, you’ll look very impressive to employers. Often, adjusting course early in the schedule will be key in avoiding future conflict so flexibility is key for the Construction Manager and the entire project team.

II. What You Can Do Right Now to Further Your Career

So assuming you’re in a degree program on a career track towards construction management, what can you do to get ahead?  How can you start checking off some of those boxes that employers will be looking for?  Here are our suggestions.

Five Ways to Prepare For Your Career In Construction Management

1 – Network Early and Often

There’s no such thing as too much networking in the construction world.  The more effective you are at putting yourself out there, meeting people, and collecting contact details, the more resources you’ll have at your disposal once you graduate.

In particular, take every opportunity you can to attend job fairs, seminars, and other social events.  Shake plenty of hands!

2 – Volunteer!

School will inevitably offer many opportunities for an up-and-coming manager to start developing their skills.  Whenever there’s a job fair at your school or a visiting speaker, try to be on-hand to help with the setup or tear-down process.   Likewise, make yourself known to your department head – particularly your willingness to volunteer for such projects.  If you prove yourself reliable, you could get solid management experience without even leaving campus.

3 – Join An Industry Association like Young Construction Leaders

Young Construction Leaders (YCL) is part of the Toronto Construction Association specifically aimed at construction professionals under the age of 40.The YCL host membership based events to share information, networking, continuing education and community service opportunities. There are few better sources for making industry contacts, as well as finding opportunities to volunteer for more experience. Some other YCL type organizations are yBild, ULI Connect and CAWIC all provide similar opportunities

4 – Be Proactive About Contacting Prospective Employers

Contact key employers you already have your eye on, and see what resources they have available for pre-graduates.  They may offer informational interviews or seminars, or potentially even have internships you can apply to.  You won’t know unless you ask, and showing initiative will virtually always leave an impression.

This should extend to construction employment agencies as well.  Much of their job involves scouting new talent for future opportunities, so meeting them can tap you into a broader network throughout your career.

5 – Don’t Overlook Smaller Employers

Finally, don’t be totally fixated on the largest employers.  They may have the brand recognition, but it’s the small-to-medium sized employers who can often offer you the best range of work experience.  A large group may pigeonhole you in a particular role, whereas smaller groups may -by necessity- need you to wear several hats.   Time spent in such a situation could greatly increase your hands-on knowledge!

Your Career in Construction Management Is Waiting

Construction is a booming field, and there are nearly endless opportunities available for managers who are skilled, enthusiastic, and willing to continually improve their skillset.  For more advice, or to access one of Canada’s top sources for construction jobs, talk to Harbinger!