Careers: Construction Vs (Management) Consulting

Hi OZB

Seeking advice for my career. I have been offered a grad position at a Tier 1 Construction company for this year after completing an internship last year. I didn't love my time there but I enjoyed the work/environment that was given and can see myself working there for a few (2-5) years. I definitely enjoy construction/project engineering more than design/consulting.

My end goal is hopefully a field in Management Consulting (Ops or Infrastructure) however I am still keen to to grab some construction experience. I was wondering if it is possible to bank my experience when applying for experienced hire positions for consulting or would I have to basically start again as an associate?

Alternatively I could apply for grad MC positions this year and hopefully receive an offer for next year.

  • Graduated Comm/Eng

Any advice is appreciated

Comments

  • +2 votes

    Sounds like you know the answer.

    1. Take the Construction grad position.
    2. Work hard to get good references and apply for MC grad positions for next year (being cognizant that those positions are like hens teeth to get).
    3. If they fall through, work year 2 at the construction firm and either start taking up further education in the areas the MC companies felt you were short in, or start applying for associate positions utilizing your <2 years experience at the construction company. Keep the good networks with the people you will be doing interviews with, and constantly try to make new acquaintances with people that work in the MC field and get a thorough sense of what you need to get through the door (this is the most important part of step 3).
    4. By year 3 you'll know what you need to do next, either get different experience, do a Masters, or keep knocking on the door of MC companies. Then it is just a simple task of following through with what you need to do (which probably won't be easy!)

    So your other point, can you bank your experience? Absolutely. But you'll need to really rise the ranks of the construction company/field to go in at a higher level. Your experience needs to count for something (ie. extremely specialist skills or great contacts in the field). Most likely you'd have to do a 5 year stint minimum in the field and do really well at it to go in as a senior associate. But to be honest, MC's pay OK, but you'll probably work a lot harder there than at the construction company. If you are up for that, great. But you might realize that if you were to apply yourself at that level in the construction field, you might end up doing really well for yourself anyway. Then down the track (10-15 years) you might be able to move into a MC firm at a very high level (if you of course, kept those networks up!)

    Good luck.

    •  

      Thanks for writing such a detailed response! The likelihood of me getting an MC grad role is quite unlikely (given my own exp/WAM). I am still planning to apply for a most positions and to re-evaluate my plan once (if any) offers come through.

  • +1 vote

    I think you need to work out what you want to do because you're saying a few things which are contradictory, so I think it's worth sitting down and thinking deeply about why you feel the way you do towards the different jobs.

    For example, you say that you didn't love your time at your internship, but that you enjoyed the work/environment there. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me - how are you both liking and not liking it at the same time? Are there any specific things that you liked or any specific things that you dislike. Are those factors related to the workplace, your field of work or is it something that is common across most fields? These are the sorts of questions that you need to answer to try and figure out what you want to do next.

    You also say that you definitely enjoy construction engineering more than consulting, but in the next sentence, you say your end goal is in management consulting. Which is it that you want? If you enjoy engineering more than consulting, then why are you thinking of going into management consulting rather than continuing down your engineering path?

    Ultimately, these questions don't have to be answered immediately and you're not really in much of a rush. You've only just graduated from uni, it sounds like you have a job lined up that you seem to enjoy, even if that's not where you want to end up. Trust me, you're already very much ahead of the field. My advice would just be to take a grad job at a place where you feel like you'd learn a lot and enjoy yourself and meet good colleagues. Any experience is valuable experience and will always help with moving to different fields later on. I think you'll find that many of your skills will be transferable.

    Remember that many people switch jobs and careers and industries plenty of times during their life. Personally, I was an economist and now I'm a teacher. I loved the journey I took because of all the personal life lessons I've learned and all of the people I've had a chance to meet and the different things I've been able to try.

    Since you asked for advice, I'd say that the worst thing you can be is stagnant. As long as you're doing something, chasing your dreams, running around, taking a detour, it's all valuable in the end. I don't mean that in sort of a philosophical, spiritual "self help guru" kind of way, I mean that very literally.

    •  

      Thanks for you in-depth reply, I'm just going to clarify a few things first.

      For example, you say that you didn't love your time at your internship, but that you enjoyed the work/environment there.

      Apologies as I may have been unclear, what I meant was although I didn't absolutely love the time spent at my internship completely, I could appreciate the work/environment for what it was worth. Ultimately my feelings toward the work/environment are neutral.

      There were a few things that I didn't enjoy such as

      1. The workforce was mostly older middle aged i.e. no drinks on a Friday as most would go back to their families.
      2. Industry/Work culture itself is old fashioned
      3. Some work can be ultra-mundane
      4. Long hours, usually Monday to Friday + Alternating Saturday 7am - 5pm (although as an intern these hours weren't expected, they will be once I start as a grad)

      Ultimately 3,4 are common tenets in professional service and MC, I feel as they are much worse in construction.

      You also say that you definitely enjoy construction engineering more than consulting, but in the next sentence, you say your end goal is in management consulting. Which is it that you want? If you enjoy engineering more than consulting, then why are you thinking of going into management consulting rather than continuing down your engineering path?

      In this case design/consulting actually means Engineering Consulting (Aurecon, GHD, Jacobs) as opposed to Management Consulting (PwC, KPMG, Accenture etc)

      I appreciate your advice and it has definitely made me reflect more closely on what points are better or worse.

      Personally, I was an economist and now I'm a teacher.

      I've always wanted to be a teacher, would you be comfortable with sharing your motivations and how this came about? We can talk via PM if you are uncomfortable

      Cheers.

      •  

        Apologies as I may have been unclear, what I meant was although I didn't absolutely love the time spent at my internship completely, I could appreciate the work/environment for what it was worth. Ultimately my feelings toward the work/environment are neutral.

        That's the case for most workplaces. There will be things that you like and dislike, a neutral feeling is much better than a negative feeling. I'd say that the most important things to look for in a workplace is that you find the work interesting and that you have good senior colleagues who can be references for you later on.

        Ultimately 3,4 are common tenets in professional service and MC, I feel as they are much worse in construction.

        Don't know a lot about construction, do know a bit about MC, I feel that all four would be quite common. You might find that MC has a younger workforce, but that's because much of the workforce tends to leave and move onto senior executive positions elsewhere. I think that says a lot about the culture of MC (i.e. they work very, very hard). My experience tends to be that workplaces with more older people is not necessarily a negative. If people are willing to stay on at a workplace until they are old, that says a lot about how that workplace treats them.

        In this case design/consulting actually means Engineering Consulting (Aurecon, GHD, Jacobs) as opposed to Management Consulting (PwC, KPMG, Accenture etc)

        I would say that PwC, KPMG, Accenture…etc. aren't really management consulting, though they do some management consulting work. You'd want to be looking at guys like McKinsey, Bain, Boston, AT Kearney…etc. That's where the top graduates go in my experience.

        I've always wanted to be a teacher, would you be comfortable with sharing your motivations and how this came about? We can talk via PM if you are uncomfortable

        If you're after some deep and complex motivation, there really is none. I've always liked teaching since I was quite young so I became a teacher.

  •  

    Look for a company that does both. I started with an engineering consulting company that had a few large EPCM contracts at the time, so did a small amount office based, then went to site for a mix of commissioning, handover, and construction roles. Was able to also do roles across studies, detailed design, and execution. It's kept it interesting, kept me out of pigeon holes early in my career, and helped me work out what I wanted to do.

    I was open to doing any role and had a good mentor to help guide me.

    Research what work the company has in hand and it's end date too - a good mix of different project phases is what you'll want for more options.

  • Top