To be a Traveling Superintendent

Aug 13, 2015

…Or Not to Be a Traveling Superintendent

That is the question.

Everyone knows about the jobs of doctors, therapists, teachers, nurses, construction workers, and the local grocer. Very few people are familiar with the job of a traveling superintendent. To describe the role in two words, it is a widespread and all-encompassing job. Traveling superintendents are required to travel more than 70% of the time. As the individual has an immense responsibility and accountability of successfully planning, directing and completing projects at different national and international locations, he has to be flexible in his approach and working style.

I recently met up with an old friend of mine, Richard, who had been a traveling superintendent for more than a decade. In catching up with each other, I learned a lot about his diverse, intricate and multifaceted profession.

On Becoming a Traveling Superintendent

The first question you’re probably wondering is “Who is a traveling superintendent and what does the job entail?” A traveling superintendent is a professional required to travel so he can oversee projects from the very beginning until its completion. It is the task of superintendents to hire the team, set goals, and ensure the timely completion of these goals within a given budget, in a secure and law-abiding manner. Most opportunities and vacancies for traveling superintendents can be found within the construction business, however they can also be found in other professions such as education or golf course management.

Most countries and states require a traveling superintendent to be licensed and certified, in accordance to their laws. Despite education being one primary indicator of eligibility for any profession, the secret ingredient to becoming a successful and efficient traveling superintendent are experience and the willingness to travel as required. Several years of experience as a superintendent, along with expert skills in team management and leadership, are very basic requirements in the profession. Potential candidates are required to have a history of being dependable and of meeting pre-set deadlines.

Like all professions, being a traveling superintendent has its own features and characteristics. If you wish to engage in this field of work, you should learn about the following requirements and skills:

  1. Globetrotting: As indicated by its very name the key features of this profession is traveling. Superintendents are required to travel far and wide to ensure the effective completion of projects. Individuals in this field get to discover various localities and immerse themselves in diversified cultures and experiences. Not only is a project encapsulating in itself, the location adds a whole different charm to the job. Just imagine spending your winters in Dubai!

  2. Being Flexible: As the job requires an individual to work at various locations, the potential candidate should be at least somewhat knowledgeable about the laws, culture and customs of the assigned region. They should have excellent communication skills that help them connect with people who belong to the host country. Even though relationship building is not directly related to the job, the lack of rapport with people working around you can have severe consequences.

    Richard was once sent to a Middle Eastern country for a construction project. He shared with me the difficulties he had to face in an Arab country. He worked very hard to become familiar with Arab customs, such as their manner of greeting, eating and corresponding to one another, so that he could perform well and hire effectively for the project.

  3. Being Accountable: As a traveling superintendent is liable for planning, executing and completing a project, individuals aiming for this profession should have a high sense of responsibility, along with a proven track record. Professionals in this field must be proactive and willing to take responsibility of all procedures and processes involved in making the project a success.

  4. Planning: Another key feature of this job is planning. The superintendent is responsible for planning and outlining the phases and procedures of the project. Given the imperfect nature of people and situations, experts must expect and plan for any glitches that could occur during the process. For people who are goal-oriented and driven by challenges, the job of a traveling superintendent would be a dream job.

  5. Maintaining a Budget: Once a budget has been assigned to a project and its processes outlined, the traveling superintendent has to ensure the maintenance of the budget. Just as you plan a household budget and try fit groceries and bills in with your expenses, the superintendent must make sure that all costs incurred during the development of the project fit into the pre-assigned budget. So those of you who are reckless spenders definitely need to think twice before venturing on the path to become a traveling superintendent.

  6. Interpersonal skills: The job description of a traveling superintendent requires individuals to fly into places you might not have ever heard about, work there for a given amount of time and then move on to the next city. Having exceptional interpersonal skills can help you perform efficiently outside your homeland. To achieve your goals and objectives successfully, you need to work together with your team. Being the leader of the project will be your responsibility as a traveling superintendent. You’ll need to be able to bring people together and work as one united front.

Thoughts to Ponder

Before you take a leap of faith and enter the job arena of the traveling superintendent, consider a few more factors. Adapting to different cultures and coming in contact with different political scenarios are easier said than done. Different countries have different legislative rules and vary in their degree of political involvement. In most developing countries in Asia, political corruption is at its peak. There are many regulations to follow. You might have to deal with under-the-table issues. Due to the excessive amount of travel demanded by the job, your personal relationships could suffer greatly. You might miss a lot of family function and social gatherings. If that doesn’t bother you, then becoming a traveling superintendent may be the perfect job for you!

Your Destiny

By now you are familiar with the profession and what it entails. Despite a few potential downsides, which are present in every job, becoming a traveling superintendent has its own charm and pull for adventure-seeking and goal-oriented individuals. Whether you decide to become a traveling superintendent or choose to follow a different path, the only thing you need to remember is that you are the captain of your destiny and it falls on your own shoulders to steer the ship of your life toward a better and fulfilling tomorrow. Bon Voyage!

If you could be a traveling superintendent, where would you want your first project to be? Spain? Alaska? New Zealand? Share in the comments below!

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie began his career at Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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