Posted on 12/02/2019 by Will Tilley
A little over 12 months ago I wrote an article about the Victorian Infrastructure boom and what it means for you. Following on from my recent State of Play article, I thought it would be a good idea to provide a more in-depth look at some of the opportunities, challenges, and traps you may come across in a booming market, and how to make the most of the opportunities and avoid the traps. Part II, coming soon, will take a look at things from an employer perspective.
Whilst this is written with a slant towards my primary market, the Victorian Infrastructure sector, much of the information and advice will hold true across other regions (especially NSW) and other industries experiencing strong market conditions.
For those of you who have been working in the Victorian Infrastructure industry over the last three or four years, I am sure you will have noticed an increase in the number of phone calls, emails, and LinkedIn messages you are receiving each week with potential career opportunities. For many of you, they are now likely a daily occurrence. From the internal recruiter looking to resource their project, the agency recruiters conducting a search for a client, to former colleagues and managers keen to work with you again (or maybe get the referral bonus). Some of these opportunities are bound to bring you closer to your goals, others may offer a step sideways, and there will be a few that have the potential to delay you reaching your goals.
So how should you handle this? Do you ignore all the messages and phone calls? Do you hear everyone out? Even answering everyone may become time-consuming if you think about doing this each week over the coming years. So what’s the answer? As with many things in life, it's not black and white. You can, however, take some actions to help you filter the opportunities and to help you move towards YOUR goals.
Set clear goals for your career and your life. It certainly helps you filter which opportunities are worth exploring if you have set clear goals for your career and your life. With a plan in place, you can much more quickly filter out those opportunities which clearly won't bring you closer to your goals. Look at your career and life goals holistically - do they align?
Keep in touch with former colleagues and managers. This industry, like many, is built on relationships. You never know what you might learn about the market, or what opportunities may arise from a quick phone call or a Friday evening drink.
Working with Recruiters:
Be careful who you send your CV to. In the wrong hands, your CV could end up floated to any number of companies within less than an hour; companies you have signalled no interest in, nor given permission for your details to be sent to. I've seen this happen with Site Engineers to Supervisors to Project Directors - the only way you're immune to this is by working only with recruiters who you trust.
"Interview" a recruiter before sending your CV. The number of recruiters in the infrastructure market has grown significantly in the last couple of years, following the growth in the industry. Like most occupations, not all are created equal. Before you begin to work with a recruiter, it may be a good idea to ask some questions of your own. Who do they work with? How well do they know the market? Can they give you an idea of salary benchmarking for your role around the industry? Do they want to know about your background and also your goals? Or do they just want you to send your CV? If you're not comfortable with the answers, they may not be the best recruiter for you.
Build a relationship with a recruiter with experience in your market, who you believe has your best interests in mind. A good recruiter will have strong networks and relationships within the industry and will be someone who has your best interests in mind, rather than just the immediate roles to fill. They will ask you about your goals, they will be able to provide you with insight into the market and companies within it, they will communicate with you, and there's a very high chance that they're going to ask to meet with you face to face before they consider putting you forward for any opportunities.
Be honest with recruiters. You might be thinking, "but they're not honest with me." and if that’s true, then you're talking to the wrong recruiter/s (see above for ideas on how to find the right ones). If you've dealt with other recruiters in the past 6 months or are currently dealing with other recruiters, say so. If you've been put forward for an opportunity, say so. If someone else has your CV, say so. This information allows recruiters to put a plan in place that will maximise your chances of success, whilst also protecting yours and their own image.
You might think that you're outsmarting the recruiter or that you're giving yourself a better chance by dealing with two or three (or more) recruiters, but unless you're honest about your activity you're more likely to damage your personal brand and how employers and recruiters view you. If a potential employer sees your CV from two or three different agencies, your chances of being offered that position go down, not up.
Working with one or two experienced and well-regarded recruiters within your space is likely to give you significant market coverage, without the risk of having your CV sent anywhere you didn't specifically want it to be sent. You will likely also find that if the recruiter/s that you have chosen to work with trust you, they will work harder to help you achieve your goals.
Much like it is a great idea to ask questions of a recruiter before deciding to work with them, you should also be prepared to interview your potential new employer. What does their pipeline look like? What traits do the people who are successful in their business have in common? What does the career path look like, and what steps would you need to take to achieve this? Besides your salary, are there any other benefits that may help you make a decision (parental leave, RDO's, bonuses etc).
Looking past the skills required on the job description and the project type and value is critical in finding a company that can truly help you move toward your goals (unless your goal, of course, is to work on a specific project). If you are going through this process with a recruiter, they may be able to help you answer some of these questions, but it is always a good idea to ask some of these questions directly as well. If your potential new employer avoids or is unable to answer these questions, I would recommend digging a little deeper and potentially letting the opportunity pass.
Don't "ghost" anyone. The practice of ghosting has become much more common in recent years, with people starting the interview process, only to disappear off the face of the earth. Sure, it might not be the best conversation you've ever had telling a recruiter or hiring manager that you have had a better offer come along and you've accepted it; but a quick phone call (or email if you must) is far better than burning your bridges for future opportunities.
Not showing up for an interview you are booked in for is a quick way to be blacklisted by an organisation or manager, and is a decision that may one day turn out to be a much harder pill to swallow than making an uncomfortable call. Remember that hiring managers move organisations too.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The age-old saying still stands true. A caveat to this is that the industry is changing for the better. Companies are improving at looking after their people, and with that, some of the benefits and conditions offered in 2019 are fantastic and perhaps only a couple of years ago we might've said they are too good to be true.
That being said, in a booming market as we have now, claims and promises will be made that are designed to get you on the hook and in the door. Then the goal posts move. Do your due diligence, if it sounds too good to be true, ask around and see what you can learn. If the claims can't be substantiated, you may be best to weigh up an opportunity on its other merits. This is where interviewing your new potential employer can be handy in assessing opportunities.
Last but definitely not least:
Be willing to put in the work. There is no substitute. There will most certainly be opportunities in this busy market for you to advance your career more quickly, but those opportunities will not come without the effort. If you're prepared to put in the work and put your best foot forward, these market conditions will reward you greatly over the coming decade. If you expect it will all just happen for you, you'll be sorely mistaken.
If you would like to discuss your career plan or have any further questions about how to make the most of your opportunities, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via phone or email.