What’s the difference between a job and a career?
Jobs are important: they help workers live comfortably, provide for their families, fill their time, and contribute to society. However, more than ever before, employees – including those entering the workforce for the first time and those considering career changes – are looking for more than “just a job.” They want a career – a long-term path filled with meaningful work, challenging tasks, and fulfilling professional experiences. They want employment that aligns with their values and keeps them motivated and engaged throughout all the inevitable challenges and achievements.
For many in the construction industry, those desires for meaning, fulfillment, and engagement led them to a career in construction. What makes a career in construction more than just a job? Our industry experts reveal five examples:
#1: Meaningful Work
The construction industry provides unique opportunities to make a tangible difference in workers’ communities. Construction workers physically impact their towns and cities, whether they’re constructing commercial skyscrapers that add to a big city’s skyline, developing affordable housing projects to support communities in need, or repairing roadways and bridges that keep commuters safe.
In addition, construction companies actively respond to significant local and national challenges, from the need for increased sustainability in construction design and processes, housing shortages, infrastructure development, and disaster restoration following natural disasters. All of these examples allow construction workers to improve the lives of real people and real communities, making a difference they can see every day and feel proud of.
#2: Flexible Entry Points
There is no “correct” way to start a career in construction. For some workers, pursuing a four-year degree is appealing, and for others, jumping straight into field work feels like a better fit. Market Leader Jay Dubac spoke with a candidate who offered advice to those considering a career in construction: “You should start off by focusing on your education, whether it be by trade school or through college. Know that both paths can provide a very fulfilling and successful career. College is not for everyone, so don't be afraid to be hands-on and work in the field. You will gain a lot of real world experience and knowledge this way that cannot be taught anywhere else.”
Echoing this view that both entry paths have their benefits, Executive Vice President Jim Coddington, who specializes in Division 13 construction in the Northeast market, explained how his clients approach hiring new candidates: “Most construction organizations desire a 4-year construction-related degree in their future leaders. But even more valued than the degree is having knowledge of different approaches and concepts within the construction industry. Diversification of experience in one’s early career is the fastest way to gain this type of practical knowledge and exposure to the many critical components of construction.”
#3: Diverse Opportunities
Just as there’s no “correct” way to start a career in construction, there’s also no “correct” way to develop a long-term career path. Another candidate told Jay, “The biggest thing that surprised me about my construction career is the trajectory of my career path. Where I am today wasn’t even on my radar when I started my career in construction.” He wants others who are considering a career in construction to know, “Where you start isn’t where you’ll be your entire career. I started as a laborer, literally digging ditches. I hated it from day one, but I had a vision, and if I wanted to lead people I had better know how to do the jobs I’d be directing people to do. So I stuck it out for four years and kept an open mind to learning, asking questions, and working with people. Those are the things that have made me successful in my career.”
Jay’s candidate agreed with that perspective, adding that there’s “significant variation in company culture and values. Each construction company I have worked for had its unique set of values, work environment, and management style, which greatly influenced my experience and professional growth. Some companies value you and your time more than others. It is crucial to your own growth and success to find a company that puts you and your goals first.”
So, whether a prospective construction worker has a passion for sustainability, cutting-edge technology, traveling, or carrying on a family tradition of construction work, there’s space in the industry to engage and celebrate those specific values and passions.
#4: Room for Growth
Developing a broad experience base is clearly a great strategy for increasing an employee’s access to a wide range of industry opportunities. However, when it comes to upward momentum, Jim explains, “Developing a vertical market niche is also a wise approach to maximizing value and senior-level opportunities.” But this approach is best used by employees with some experience in the market already. According to Jim, “Your vertical market niche needs to be considered carefully, and within the first couple of company experiences, the vertical market should not be as great a priority as gaining experience with strong, respected companies in the sector(s) you feel fit your future the best.”
Once a construction worker has identified a vertical market that feels like a strong fit, the opportunities for growth are significant. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of construction-related positions are predicted to show at least some growth in the next decade, with electrical (7%) and solar (22%) positions likely to show the strongest growth rates.
#5: Constant Industry Evolution
Growth, diversity, and flexibility aren’t just hallmarks of individual construction careers – they’re trends within the industry as a whole. As technology and society evolve, the construction industry changes with them, developing new trends, strategies, and roles to meet the changing needs of the marketplace. Construction has not always been known as a high-tech industry, but in recent years, technological advancements have made construction work simpler, safer, and more efficient. Jim says that for his clients, “Familiarity with and hands-on knowledge of technology of any applicable style is a common trend for all roles and positions.”
The types of projects that construction companies complete and the types of skills needed to thrive in the industry are constantly evolving, so a career in construction has the unique combination of strong stability (in that there is consistently high demand for skilled workers and predicted industry growth) and changeability (in that there will always be a chance to learn something new, take on new challenges, and develop new skills).
When asked what he most wanted those considering a career in construction to know, Jay’s candidate kept it simple: “If you are planning to pursue a career in construction, know that it can be rewarding and fulfilling if approached with the right mindset and preparation.” By planning ahead, keeping an open mind, pursuing a broad range of experiences, and focusing on meaningful work, employees can find so much more than a job in construction – they can truly build a lifelong career.