Correct me if I am wrong, but here are some existing truths in the world of civil engineering:
- The economy continues to improve
- The civil engineering profession is booming
- Consulting engineering firms seem to be as busy as they have ever been
- The demand from clients is high
- The fight for talent is intense and ongoing
Faith, work, spouse, children, volunteerism, health and fitness, personal development, friends, hobbies, plain ol’ down time. How do YOU prioritize these items? Is it possible to find balance? In this day and age, is it possible to put any of these items ahead of your responsibility of working as a civil engineer knowing the truths listed above?
Many civil engineers I speak with are working 50-60 hour weeks on a regular basis, not to mention their time outside of the office where they are thinking about work! Last month I had a candidate who took a stand and made the conscious decision to re-prioritize his work/life balance, at the minor sacrifice of his paycheck; for the sake of anonymity I will refer to this candidate as “Steve.” As a Sr. Project Manager for a busy highway engineering consulting firm, Steve had a strong passion for his career and his profession. He had a very successful 16 year career, had worked his way up, and was at the point where he had not only mastered many areas of his profession from a technical standpoint, but he had also developed great people and inter-personal / inter-relational skills which allowed him the added opportunity to be actively involved in marketing and business development efforts and a lot of client-facing time. His employer at the time valued those skills, and saw Steve as an integral contributor to the growth of the local office he was working in. Beyond his typical project management duties, Steve was also attending networking events, planning meetings, board meetings, public outreach meetings, and other business related activities around regular business hours, which was pretty typical for someone in his role. As much as he enjoyed what he was doing, he had to put the breaks on.
Steve is a family man, and he made the conscious decision that he needed to spend more time with his family. His children were growing up quickly right before his eyes, but they were still young enough where he could be a major influence in their lives and he did not want to miss out on that opportunity. Steve came to us with his story and asked if we could help. He was not looking to work with any less vigor or passion, but he wanted an opportunity where he could be more focused internally as a “hands on” project manager. Steve wanted a role with a company where they valued his experience and could utilize his talents functioning as a technical expert providing QA/QC on projects, and where he could mentor and develop younger engineers into strong and successful project managers themselves. He would still carry the many stresses that come with being a civil engineering consultant, and he was fine with that, but by uncovering an opportunity that was more internally focused, which diminished many of the after hour business activities, his life would be more balanced and he could dedicate more time to his family. We were excited to present an opportunity to Steve that would allow for the shift in his career. He took about a nine percent cut in base pay, but with bonus he will likely meet or exceed what he was previously making.
With this change, Steve’s life is more in balance and his priorities straight. As a result, Steve is happier, and because he is able to enjoy more time with his family and because he relieved himself of some of his previous duties, he is more productive than ever!
Everyone’s motivation and priorities in life are different, absolutely. But if you were feeling the way Steve was, would you be bold enough to consider making the type of move where you might take a cut in pay, but where the percentage increase in your happiness and well being superseded the percentage loss in pay?