A Note to Graduates in the Industry

What you studied in school might not be what you practice at work. This is common not only in construction, but in many other fields across the board. This has lead to sort of a culture shock for many recent graduates, no matter how much they are warned. My advice – being of this demographic – would be not to shun it, but to embrace it.

Having studied civil engineering, a common feeder into the industry, there was a large emphasis on designing for safety, efficiency and ingenuity. Typically, these goals were obtained through multiple iterations of design. Countless, thankless hours of work. In a design studio. With no windows. Sometimes until the small hours of the morning. But, by the end of this process, you get the product that you designed for. And that’s final. Then your professor grades your project and docks points for calculation errors and give bonus points for creativity.

Fast forward through graduation and job interviews to find yourself in an entry level position at a construction management firm. Your hours are longer, and you can’t wear sweats outside of your apartment anymore, but one of the most important differences are your goals. Yes, you still value safety, efficiency and ingenuity, but now you have to consider managing your company’s time, the architect’s design, the owner’s budget. You find out that your ingenious idea costs more than the budget can handle. You no longer get to assume perfect conditions for your calculations because the building you’re building is for real, living people in a real, living world. Timelines and submission dates can be accelerated and your countless hours in the studio may turn into a couple days at best.

Now, this isn’t a piece about how academia is so much purer than the industry and once you make the transition, you better chuck your values to the wayside. This is a piece where I urge you graduates to challenge yourselves to work under stricter design constraints to produce the same results. Use the creative ideas to fit the architect’s design to the owner’s funds. Maintain your efficiency when you’re working on company time. Keep safety in mind, because what was your class project is now a family’s home. At Tocci, we’re urged to manage the “whirlwind” of everyday work, but always keep focused on your wildly important goals. If you can bring this mindset to work every day, you’ll do just fine as a grad.

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