Would a career in construction suit me?

Would a career in construction suit me?
There is such a variety of different construction professions that you can almost say there is a role for everyone. Find out whether construction would be right for you.

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Best job? Office or site? Travel opportunities Green career?

Those people who’d enjoy, and be good at, construction careers:

  • are fascinated by buildings and would love to say ‘I helped build that!’
  • are practically minded and pay attention to detail
  • get bored with doing one thing all of the time
  • like solving problems
  • like working with lots of different people
  • are organised and motivated by meeting deadlines
  • can adapt their communication style depending on who they are working with.

Many construction professionals see their job as an opportunity to contribute to society: ‘I have worked on a hospital, an RAF base and schools,’ says Natalie Dempsey, a senior quantity surveyor at Skanska UK. ‘I love that my job gives me a chance to give back to communities.’

Which construction job is best for me?

If you like designing...

If you want to be out and about all day...

If you like getting the best deal...

If you like interpreting rules...

If you like being in charge...

All jobs can lead to management, but if you want to start off as a manager, consider:

If you want to work with your hands...

Life in office or life on site?

Your working lifestyle will be very different according to whether you join a construction consultancy or construction contractor.

If you work for a consultancy, you’ll be working on the design and pre-construction stages. You’ll be based in a traditional office, probably wear a suit and typically work 8.30 am – 5.00 pm. But you might visit construction sites to see how things are going, and could be ‘seconded’ to (sent to work on) site if your employer needs you to.

Consultant jobs are perfect if:

  • you like working on lots of different projects at once
  • you want to influence the overall project design and its technical details
  • you want more or less regular working hours and to stay out of the rain!

If you work for a contractor, you will be based on a construction site, working outdoors or from a temporary office. You’ll probably only wear a suit if you are management and that will be covered with protective clothing when outside. Your working hours are typically longer on site: often 7.30 am until 6.00 pm.

Contractor jobs are perfect if:

  • you want to see something being built
  • you’d hate to be chained to a desk all day
  • you enjoy being hands on.

Travel, relocating and commuting

You may need to commute or relocate to different places. This is more likely if you work for a contractor, as you’ll be expected to go to where the projects are. If you work for a national employer, the project can be anywhere across the country but smaller employers are more likely to work in a particular region.

‘For each project, I’ve relocated during the week and returned home at weekends,’ says quantity surveyor Natalie Dempsey at contractor Skanska UK. ‘I’ve moved from Derby to Cambridge to Bristol.’

Consultants tend to stay in their local area, but may travel to visit sites. If you work for an international employer, you might get to work abroad. Civil engineer James Straw at consultancy Mott MacDonald spent his first year after graduation in London and then moved to Dubai for two years. But building services engineering apprentice Reece Morrison at consultancy Mott MacDonald worked on projects in Kuala Lumpur and Canada, but only from a UK office. Travel opportunities depend on your employer’s needs.

If extensive travel or relocation is involved, your employer will usually contribute to any costs. The employer is unlikely to pay for your normal daily commute, however.

I want a ‘green career’– is construction for me?

Construction work (and the built environment it creates) contributes to our energy use and global emissions. The industry is working towards reducing these levels – and you can get involved in helping to do so, whatever construction role you choose. But construction remains a business that needs to make money, so there is sometimes a compromise between sustainability and cost. Construction is not a career for eco-warriors.

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