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Thursday, January 10, 2008

The things we enjoy

Many states and provinces, supported by industry groups and associations, have mounted campaigns to encourage young people to consider construction careers. This image is from The Building Industry Workforce Development Initiative in California. While I agree it is good to encourage young people to consider construction careers, I hope the current downturn won't turn into another example of why many people choose alternatives -- of course, 'hard times' are not really a problem for the people who really want to do the work -- and are really good at it.

In 1988, at age 35, I became a publisher -- combining my passion for journalism with business. It proved to be the right career choice. Through ups and downs, good times and bad, lucrative and struggling years, I've always enjoyed this work enough to carry on, to continue, to take the hits and surprises, and painful moments and risks.

So, when I go out and interview successful construction company owners, what do I find?

Me. . .

Well, not exactly -- you wouldn't want me running a construction project! But I see the same passion and enjoyment in the work; the same inner joy in the career choice.

The reason is that if you are as fortunate as I am -- and you are if you are among the construction business owners who have built successful enterprises through their enjoyment of their work, and skill in their trades and business -- you get to wake up most mornings looking forward to your day at work.

Those of us running businesses know that the creativity required for successful business is just as great (if not greater) than the artist, novel writer, or musician. We need to juggle many different elements -- connecting ideas, individuals, and insights in a constantly changing environment.

If you aren't happy in your work, if you are doing it "for the money" or because "I'm expected to do it" or "I don't know anything else but it is where I am", stop, think, deliberate, and then when you are ready, take the jump and make the change. (I am not advocating doing this blindly or without respect for your family or other obligations; you may also need to spend some time learning the skills before making the change, but you should still do it.)


Sonny Lykos said...

Mark, up until I was about 50, and a contractor, I periodically said to myself: "What do you want to do when you grow up." I say that because I went to college to become a criminologist. Glad I dropped out because I just could not imagine spending the rest of my life studying the misfits of society.

After realizing I loved people, love our industry, was good as a sales person, and enjoyed both the opportunity to innovate, and the feelings of a job done well. Our industry offers a variety of choices for everyone.

But....... unfortunately, none of us are considered by the public to be "real" professionals, such as doctors, attorneys, CPAs, etc. In my 35 years in the industry, I've learned the far too many people look down at tradesmen. I mean, how many parents do you think exist what would put their arm around their son (or daughter) and say: "We'd be proud if you became a tile setter." or carpenter, or painter? I'll give you 50 to 1 odds very few.

So there is another reason for the fact that with each year, in incur shortages of professional labor. It's the societal stigma. And unfortunately, also far to often, many of my peers through their manner of speaking, appearance, or otherwise, prove why that stigma still exists. We do have a lot of buffoons, both in general contractors and tradesmen.

Add to the above the fact that today so many other opportunities exist for our youth so they don't have to freeze in the winters, sweat like crazy in the summer, add annually to their number of scars, or otherwise beat up their bodies. For what? - To be thought of as a low life to boot?

On the positive side, economics supply and demand has steadily increased the wages paid to tradesmen. Good carpenters here are receiving $25/hr plus benefits and a company truck. And I think that will continue to increase every year for all exceptional people and in every trade.

Construction Marketing Ideas said...

I think the most lucrative opportunities in life occur when you enjoy something that the 'mass' doesn't -- which lacks status in the conventional sense. For example, there are certainly thousands of starving writers, artists and journalists, but when it comes to something like sewer repairs and maintainance, you can do very well in business (or for that matter, the skiled trades).
But there are still questions and problems about the social engineering and career selection process -- are we right to say that only the fortunate few can/should really enjoy and thrive in their careers; or are there ways we can make this kind of success available to everyone?

Sonny Lykos said...

Mark, in my case, I love what I do. I meet really great - and appreciative people - and get paid for what I love to do. And that feeling, and the above people, make life worth while, and trump the rest.

That said, it's nice to stick it to the others once in a while. I had a great photographer once tell me: "I work with my brain, and you work with your hands." I replied: "You're exactly right. I'm more like the surgeon who also works with his hands, so neither he nor I need a brain."

I wanted to preface my reply with "Moron!" but I exercised self-control.