Builders Hear Advice on Making Job Changes in Tough Market
Home building professionals who are waiting out the currently tough conditions in many of Florida’s housing markets heard from a panel of experts at the Southeast Building Conference (SEBC) in Orlando earlier this month on what they can do to remain gainfully employed and position themselves to reenter the business when better times return.
Speakers emphasized the importance of networking during these hard times and using the resources available to members of local home builders associations. Where appropriate construction-related jobs are scarce, they suggested, housing professionals should take stock of their skills, which can be applied to jobs in other fields.
“We have been hearing more scary stories than a week-long Stephen King film festival,” said William Nolan, president of the Affordable Housing Institute in Orlando and task force vice president of The New American Home, but even under adverse circumstances displaced workers can make a successful transition and find employers who will hire them.
“Never lose sight of the fact that you are a product to be marketed and sold,” Nolan said. “You need contacts, and look for knowledge and expertise outside of the industry that can be applied” to a job search, he advised, including volunteer work, membership in various organizations and educational courses.
“It helps to have all the experience in the world,” he said, “but you also need the contacts. Get to know the people at the local and state home builders association, and make certain they remember you.”
“If you want knowledgeable people to help you get a job, you have to have a contact to give you an edge over the competition,” Nolan advised. “You have to have many dimensions. You have to be known and respected by the movers and shakers in your community.”
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
With a background in data communications and 10 years of experience in residential construction management, Alan Anderson told the SEBC audience that the housing slowdown has forced him to move out of the housing industry and into a position as a career administrator for the Manatee County School Board.
He is still working with area home builders, he said, talking to employers in the industry who are still hiring and helping prepare students for residential construction careers. As a volunteer as a technical advisor for construction, the former local HBA president and current Florida Home Builders Association director was able to use contacts he had made with the school board.
“Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been downsized,” Anderson said. “You have to do a good evaluation of your skills and how they can be used to find opportunities that are out there. And you need a diversion; maybe go volunteer to do something else and meet new people. Work those contacts.” Attending conferences such as SEBC is “a good way to run into people,” he said.
“Keep your license up if you aren’t working on a steady basis” in home building, he added.
“With businesses cutting back to stay solvent, you have to be ready to do other things, and networking will help you stay in the industry or stay connected to the industry until things come back,” Anderson said. “Talk to people in home builders associations all the time; they all reach out for you.”
Moving to Texas
Mary McDermott, of SCORE in Orlando, said that housing professionals who are going through a career change need to gather information and put a plan in place.
For example, hot job lists for central Florida for the 2007 to 2015 period suggest construction opportunities for hospitals and nursing homes and healthy demand for repair and maintenance.
Among Web site resources recommended by McDermott: acinet.org; bls.gov.oco/; bls.gov/LAU/; and online.onetcenter.org.
The Web site for her own organization — score.org — provides resources geared to starting and running small businesses.
By looking at geographical job data, builders who are discouraged by conditions in Florida may be able to find opportunities in other markets. In Florida, “there were 500 construction jobs in the last two weeks,” she said, “but that many in Houston alone,” and more than that many in Austin and Dallas combined.
Or workers can consider the jobs that are growing in the construction field, McDermott said, such as surveyors and inspectors. “You might have to get a different skills set,” she said, but training resources are available through organizations such as associations and state career centers.
Going into another industry is another alternative, she said, where builders can find demand for their abilities and experience in such areas as problem solving and cost management. “Get to know a person doing that job,” she suggested, “and ask them what it’s like.”
The Perfect Job Candidate
“Look at a job search as a full-time job,” said Anthony Martin, of Opus South in Orlando. “You should treat it just like you were employed. Set a plan for the day, execute it and review it at the end of the day.”
Martin provided information on writing a resume that will be the one out of 200 that makes the cut and on making a favorable impression during a job interview. Resources are available from the Rockport Institute and Career Services at the University of Wisconsin at River Falls.
“Put yourself in the employer’s shoes,” Martin advised. “What would make the perfect candidate? The best, most qualified person probably does not get the job. It goes to the person who markets themselves the best.”