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How to Get Started in Construction Management After Graduating

Congratulations! You’ve successfully completed your degree in Construction Management and are ready to head out into the real world of managing projects for construction companies. Before you trade in your books for a hard hat, though, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Our team at the American Institute of Constructors (AIC) would like to share helpful tips that should ease the transition from the classroom to the construction industry. Take a look at this guide for how to get started in construction management after graduating from a degree program.

Applying Your Knowledge in the Real World

During your time in college, you accumulated a wealth of knowledge and information that will prove invaluable to you on your construction management career path. The key is to be able to translate those classroom concepts and manager skills into real projects.

By staying focused on the big picture, you’ll be able to navigate the fast-paced world of construction ethically, safely, and efficiently to support the needs of your employer and project owner.

Core Ideas to Keep in Mind

As a construction manager, there are many moving pieces that you need to be aware of. Working with a team to complete projects can be extremely rewarding if you keep a few key points in mind.

1. Safety is Critical

It doesn’t matter if you’ve practiced managing a construction site a million times in the classroom; it’s easy to lose sight of safety once you step onto a job site. Construction safety precautions should always be taken for every job, every time.

As a manager, your goal is not only to keep an eye out for mistakes and violations but also to instill this sense of caution in those you work with. Bringing attention to proper procedures through clear explanations and good communication will keep everyone safe and increase morale.

Keep in mind this mantra that machines are replaceable and more materials can be bought, but the most valuable assets in the industry are the individual constructors themselves.

2. Ethics Matter in Management

AIC takes ethics seriously – and so should you. The entire construction profession relies upon a system of fairness, trust, and responsibility to operate effectively.

As you’re starting out in the industry, make sure you don’t cut corners and that you always perform above-board. It’s the right thing to do, plus you can ensure career longevity and success by always acting in an ethical manner.

We stress through the AIC Code of Ethics that constructors should not engage in any deceptive practices, give out confidential information, or intentionally harm a person or their reputation directly or indirectly. Taking part in these actions will lead to harmful outcomes for you, your employer, and other stakeholders.

Remember that as a manager, people are looking to you as an example. Your commitment to ethical practices will not only make it easier for your employees to trust you, but it will also inspire them to do the same, benefitting the entire industry!

3. Communication is Key

As a construction manager, you’ll be required to communicate in a variety of ways. Barking orders and expecting results isn’t effective and rarely goes according to plan.

Instead, you’ll need to be able to speak clearly, organize presentations, and respond to telephone calls and correspondence in a timely fashion. Above all, effective construction communication requires listening!

Creating a direct line of communication between yourself and your employees, colleagues, and superiors will help to build the community and allow for a more well-oiled operation. Allowing others to express concerns or talk through ideas can help to boost morale and often leads to a better finished product.

In our technological age, it is also crucial to be familiar with proper email, text, and social media etiquette so that you come across as a professional constructor at all times. Taking the time to proofread a text for accidental autocorrects can save everyone time and alleviate any confusion. 

For example, being polite and tactful in an email about the bidding process might win over a new client or establish rapport with an existing one. Being clear in your communication and listening to others will take you far in your career.

4. Projects Need to Align

In the classroom, hypothetical scenarios help teach you about what can and will happen on a job site. However, these practice scenarios exist only within the confines of a course and do not come with negative consequences.

In the real world, every action has an effect on the end result, so each decision needs to be carefully thought through and handled appropriately. Taking the time to make sure each element aligns with the larger framework will guarantee top-tier results time and again.

Organization and proper planning make all the difference, especially when striving to deliver on the three core project elements of cost, time, and quality. For example:

  • Keep an eye on your budget. Unnecessary spending, re-work, project delays, and going over budget will cause deficits that could cost you and the client money.
  • Work within the time frame. Deadlines mean more than the difference between letter grades in the real world. Finishing on time helps everyone get paid, establishes your sterling reputation, and allows post-construction work to begin on schedule.
  • Strive for quality. Quality requirements are put in place for a reason. The client’s needs are specific for a reason, and the bid your company accepted should match. Making sure each element is completed to agreed-upon standards helps the process move more efficiently and may result in repeat business.

Daily Actions to Support Construction Project Management

The world of construction is full of decisions that must be made, workers to be protected, clients to support, and materials that are waiting to be transformed into a new building, site, or structure. As a recent graduate, it can seem overwhelming to be hit with so many decisions to make all at once. 

While safety, ethics, communication, and organization are the most important overarching ideas to keep in mind, there are a few actionable items you can take each day to make sure you’re staying on top of things and doing your job the best that you can.

Effective Meetings

Meetings, especially safety meetings, are an essential part of the construction process. This is the time when everyone involved can have a face-to-face interaction before dispersing to the job site, office, or elsewhere. In a meeting, you can make important decisions quickly without the hassle of waiting for correspondence.

Complete Reports

How do you know if the project is going according to plan? Read the reports. Staying informed about the progress of a project can help you avoid mistakes, judge the effectiveness of workers or methods, and help you plan your next move.

For example, was the project delayed because of the weather? Or were the wrong materials delivered to the job site? Check the report, then take action to correct the project course.

How to Get Started in Construction Management: Join AIC

As you get ready to embark on your new career, consider joining AIC to access our network of construction managers who have been in your shoes before.

We make it easy to stay up-to-date on construction news and offer a variety of networking and learning opportunities that can get you started as your journey progresses.

As a recent graduate, you can tap into the experience, knowledge, and advice of other AIC members who have gone through the process of becoming a Construction Manager. It’s the easiest decision you can make as you learn more about how to get started in construction management.

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