By Randall Curtis, EVP & COO
When I was 17 years old and a senior in high school, I talked to a military recruiter. I knew I wanted to go to college and that it would be my responsibility to pay for it, but I also had always been interested in joining the military. That talk happened on a Tuesday and that night I told my parents I’d be signing up the next day. They informed me that, no, I would not be doing that and urged me to give my enlistment more thought. Two months later, I was still confident in my decision. I graduated from high school the first week in June and the second week in June, I was in basic training.
I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. The skills, training, and structure the military instilled in me at a young age have continued to serve me throughout my career. Talking with other veterans in our company and watching them thrive in their roles, I can see that military experience is an asset to people working in our industry. I think our industry would greatly benefit from actively recruiting from the veteran community. And for those recently separated from the military, serving in the National Guard or as a reservist, or looking for the next step in their career, I’d urge you to consider construction. Even though your resume may not have any construction experience, here’s 5 traits you learned in the military that would help you thrive in a construction role.
The structure of the military is made up of teams. Whether it’s your division, brigade, battalion, company, platoon, squad — you spent your military career working with and supporting others. You most likely have learned and experienced that you can’t complete a mission on your own. The same is true in construction. We have project management, field teams, trade partners, and design partners all working together towards a common goal. If you can’t be a true partner on the job site or on a project team, you and the project won’t be successful. With teamwork, comes comradery. If you miss the community and tight knight working relationships of the military, you can find it in the civilian world on a project team.
In that same line of thinking, many military veterans have experience leading a team. No matter the size of the group you lead, if you have known what it means to be responsible for others and their actions, then you have the kind of leadership experience we need in this industry. When you hear leader, some may think of a drill sergeant (or a superintendent) barking orders for others to follow. But I believe a leader understands they are committing to serve the people under their command. You have to be able to gain trust, train everyone up to the same level, and ensure everyone is successful. If you’re entire team isn’t successful, then everyone fails.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Inspections. How many inspections does one veteran go through during their military career? From your bunk to your uniform or your weapon — your ability to get things “just right” is inspected thoroughly and often. That high level of attention to detail bleeds into your work, assignments, and missions. The construction industry relies on thorough inspections and attention to detail as well. Whether it’s quality checks or safety processes, we need people who are able to adhere to strict guidelines and consistently verify everything has been done right. The overall safety of the onsite workers and the success of the project depend on it.
I was a high school athlete. A good student. I thought I was disciplined when I joined the military. I quickly learned I didn’t know discipline when I met my drill sergeant. The military, no matter which branch you join, is demanding. From the schedule you must adapt to, to the physical demands of training, you are constantly put through exercises to sharpen your discipline and strengthen your resilience. The construction industry is strict in different ways. You won’t have to run any obstacle courses, but we are an industry of processes and schedules. You must have the discipline to learn and execute detailed processes and the ability to meet every deadline. People who possess that kind of discipline, are better able to adapt to unexpected challenges, rethink their strategy, and quickly find a solution.
Planning is absolutely critical to military missions. In the Army, it’s called backwards planning. You start with the end goal in mind and then work backwards to determine what actions are required to achieve it. In construction, we call it pull planning. It’s the same principle with the same intent — to thoroughly plan every necessary action required to complete the work on time, and in the process, work through any potential issues or threats that could derail progress. If you’re skilled at planning and collaborating with your team members to plan a project down to the smallest detail, you can be very successful in construction.
Construction is a technical field. It requires a lot of training on safety, quality, building methods, certification requirements, etc. But all of those skills can be taught. What can’t be taught is self-discipline, core values, a drive to succeed, and the ability to lead a team. Don’t underestimate the value of your military background. If you’ve never worked a day of construction in your life, don’t be afraid to apply for a position in our industry. You would be coming to the table day one with traits and experiences that will serve the project team and our clients very well. Here’s a link to all of our available positions. Also, here’s a link to Helmets to Hardhats, a non-profit organization that connects military veterans, service members, National Guard and reservists to careers in the construction industry.