Congratulations, you have successfully completed your construction related degree. Now what? You’re standing in your graduation gown, a degree in hand and no longer a student. It’s time to leave the parties, beer pong and two-minute noodles behind and put your degree to use in the real world.
One thing you need to remember is many young grads like you are graduating at the same time with similar education and experience, all vying for the same jobs as you. This can make getting a job in construction fresh out of uni tricky. But all it takes is some resilience, a great attitude and a clear understanding of what you want.
Here is a how-to guide to scoring your first real job in the building industry. You will find out what employers are looking for and what you can do to stand out from the crowd.
#1: Know what you are looking for in your career
Often when I interview graduates, I ask, “What are you looking for and why” to which I get a blank stare. The reality is most graduates don't know what they are looking for. You do your degree, get a job and get paid lots of money, easy. Guess what, it’s never that easy. I like to understand one's passion and reasons for wanting to get into construction. What sort of role are you looking for? And what type of position will match your personality, which subjects did you enjoy? Not everyone has to be a Project Manager, there are many pathways in construction. So remember;
- Dig deep on your passions and why;
- Decide on what is important;
- Be open minded.
Remember: Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.
Research. Research. Research. Know your industry and market. How? Start by looking at position types. What does a Contract Administrator do, and what is expected of a junior in that position? What does a Project Manager do? A simple Google search will provide some of this information. Jump on Seek and do a keyword search. Understand the role and responsibilities. What are the duties? What is the objective of the role? And what about this position that appeals to you? Who are the companies in the industry, what size and types of projects do they specialize in and which of these appeals to you and why? Speak to people you trust or admire in the industry and maybe get yourself a coach/mentor .
- Take the time to learn about the different positions;
- Seek to understand the industry;
- Speak to as many people in industry as you can.
Remember: Chance favours the prepared mind.
#3: Start Preparing
Once you have completed some research, it’s time to put some work into your CV so it's up-to-date and well formatted so you can stand out from the crowd. Your CV should be no more than two pages and there are plenty of great templates to use. Your academic credentials are your main asset but any experience you have is a bonus. If you haven’t been able to gain any experience in the field, don’t stress. Any work experience, volunteer work, achievements and extracurricular activities will help to show your drive, initiative, potential and adaptability.
Cover letters allow you the opportunity to sell, and to highlight. Be specific; don’t expect to get the job with a generic cover letter. Address the letter to the appropriate person and wow employers by showing them you have done your research. For example, ‘[Company name] has grown to be a market leader in [the specific industry] over the past year and I would love to be a part of the team’.
Make sure you individually address each of the criteria listed in the job posting, relating each one back to the previous experience you have had, if applicable.
Lastly, review your social footprint. What you post on social media could have serious repercussions on your career prospects. Despite what most people might think, most employers aren't scouring the internet looking for reasons not to hire them. Most employers are looking for reasons to hire someone, and especially in the absence of previous work history, it can be one of their only sources of information. If you do not have a LinkedIn account, you need to create one. In the construction & engineering space, this is essential.
- Prepare a CV & Cover Letter;
- Make sure they are tailored to the role and are personalised to the employer;
- Review your social footprint;
- Create a LinkedIn profile.
Remember: Our understanding is correlative to our perception.
#4: Getting job interviews
Take action, don't rely on others to do the work. Pick up the phone, make enquiries, find out who the best person is to talk to about opportunities within the business. This shows the employer you have initiative and drive. Hit the pavement and knock on doors - you just don’t know who you may run into. Go to as many industry functions, career expo’s or lectures as possible, it's a great opportunity to network.
- Look to engage with potential decision makers via their channels;
- Talk to a specialist recruiter for advice;
- Getting a job is a job.
Remember: You miss 100 percent of the swings you don’t take.
#5: What employers look for
There is a global consensus on this. The ability to solve problems is one highly valuable skill. Being able to demonstrate this in any context will go a long way to securing the role. You can demonstrate this by giving an example of how you have provided a practical solution to a problem that was encountered at work, or in a volunteering position. Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say, and to most employers, this is another crucial skill to have in any workplace. This is closely related to interpersonal skills and demonstrates your ability to work well with other people. Adaptability encompasses being able to work in many different situations and taking action in a timely manner. Interpersonal skills refer to how we relate to others, by communicating and interacting, both individually and in groups. This is very important in the construction industry which is highly people-orientated.
To summarise, when discussing your skills relate them to situations where you have used these as opposed to just stating that you possess them.
- Problem Solvers;
- Team Work;
- Interpersonal skills.
Remember: The purpose of education is to make good human beings with skill and expertise.
#6: Leaving a good impression
You locked in a job interview! Congratulations, you are one step closer to landing your first gig in the construction industry. Even though you’ve probably spent the last four years wearing trackies and thongs to lectures, in the real world, shoes are not an option but a necessity. First impressions are essential so make sure you dress professionally.
Be prepared mentally for the interview. Arrive early and bring your CV in hard copy as well as your degree and academic transcripts. If you have referees, bring them too. Best to have it with you to show them you are ready and prepared. Most employers will expect you to have some understanding of the industry and current trends, as well as the basic skills required for the job. Know the business and the role you’re applying for inside and out.
One last thing. Be humble, be down to earth and leave salary expectations at the door. You need to reassure your prospective employer that you want to learn, work hard and earn your way.
- Dress professionally and arrive on time;
- Prepare for the interview - bring your CV and related documents;
- Have a positive mindset and don't be cocky.
Remember: ’20s is for learning, ’30s is for earning!
#7: Hang tough
No matter how many ‘no’ answers, knockbacks and ghostings you are getting, remain resilient. Don’t let rejection deflate your confidence. Be proactive, positive and enthusiastic. Continue to hang tough. Looking for a job is a job. It’s full time, its persistence. You must embody grit, which is one of our core values at Talentscope. Grit = Passion, Perseverance and Discipline. You will require all of this during your search and after if you wish to advance your career.
You may not get your dream job a month out of university so don’t be hard on yourself. You may have to settle for something unexpected, but don’t give up. You never know what might be around the corner.
- Be proactive, positive and enthusiastic;
- Find your grit;
- Don’t be too hard on yourself.