I have done a lot of jobs in my time. From working in a betting shop to sorting mail at a post depot, I have done many boring and varied jobs.
One of the more interesting and demanding was working in construction.
My Father is a builder, I have spent my life around tools and building sites. I would often go and work with my Dad on school holidays.
It taught me a lot about working and provided me with useful skills I still use to this day.
But, there is a difference between working with your Dad and working for a construction company.
It’s a lot more demanding, there isn’t someone willing to go easy on you. It can be a brutal and unforgiving environment.
I worked in construction while I lived in New Zealand, it was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.
Although it was a struggle at times, I got a lot of the process. I took myself out of my comfort zone and pushed myself physically and mentally.
Construction may be viewed by some as a lowly job, but I would argue I learnt more from it, then I did during 3 years at university.
Here are a few of the things working in construction taught me.
1. Communication is key
Working around heavy machinery, there is one thing you need to be good at above all else.
It can be the difference between a well-executed job and a nasty accident. When you’re manoeuvring pipes and machinery around constantly, everyone needs to talking to each other to ensure we are all on the same page.
If we fail to communicate for even a second, the potential for an accident increases.
This is true in anything you do. We are social creatures, we need to talk to each other.
Simply expressing your emotions, how you feel about something, can make the world of difference to you and someone else.
Communication is one of our unique traits as a species. We are able to do it on a level unlike any other animal on the planet. It’s the reason humans are the dominant species on the planet.
In this world of instant messaging, we need face-to-face communication more than ever.
2. Technique is everything
There are a lot of different machines and tools you can use in construction.
From the digger to the concrete saw, they are all dangerous and difficult to master.
You may be able to use them, but you may not have mastered them.
My father is a case in point.
He has been building for over 40 years. He is a master of his craft. I may be younger, stronger, and fitter than him, but I cannot match him for skill.
Give my father and me a shovel, and he will beat me hands down every day of the week. He is an absolute monster on the shovel. He is so good, he doesn’t need a digger, he can dig up ground nearly as fast with his own two hands.
I could put hours and hours of work in on the shovel, and I would still not be at his level.
He has perfected his technique over the years, to the point where he has mastered it. I may be fitter and able to go longer than he can, but he can do the work in half the time due to his technique.
Technique is everything in all walks of life.
It’s not always the fastest, most powerful, or the fittest that win, sometimes it’s the guy who has spent hours mastering his technique.
3. You need to lead by example
We have all had bosses we hated at work.
They are an easy figure to hate, as they are the ones giving out the orders. Sometimes this is justified, most of the time it’s not.
However, if you have had a bad boss, there are a number of characteristics that stick out. The first one that sticks out is blaming others, our boss when we were laying pipe was keen on this.
Whenever something went wrong, there was always someone who was responsible. Yet, it was never him. There had to be a scapegoat. He couldn’t accept that sometimes things just go wrong.
This blame culture didn’t exactly endear him to us. It got to the point where we were dreading something going wrong, as it would be a case of who’s going to get it now.
He fostered a toxic environment where people didn’t want to work for him. In fact, we couldn’t wait to get away from him. If we could be down the other end of the site doing something, we would be.
Leading is not an easy job, it doesn’t come easy to most of us. We are happier being led, than being the one doing the leading.
Yet, it’s not as hard as we might think. You have to put yourselves in the shoes of your workers.
People respond to motivation and encouragement. The best managers realise this and treat their workers as people, instead of pieces on a chessboard they can manoeuvre around.
Treat your workers as people, and they have will work their sock off for you.
4. There is no substitute for hard work
If there’s one thing that’s true about construction, it’s that you’re going to be working hard.
You have to. There is no way around it. To build houses, roads and lay pipes you have to break your back.
This isn’t easy. There were times when I wanted nothing more than to stop and take a break. But, we had to carry on and do as much as we could today to make tomorrow easier.
If any of us started slacking, all of us would be affected. We would fall further behind, and we end up doing the job for longer than any of us wanted.
It may have been tough, but by working hard, we were ensuring we made progress on a daily basis.
Hard work is hard, but it’s also rewarding. If you want to accomplish anything, from building a house to building a business, you have to work hard.
There is no way around it.
Your dreams and ambitions are not simply going to happen, you have push yourself to make them happen.
Talent alone will take you part of the way, but hard work will take you all of the way.
5. Laughter is the best medicine
We have all been there. Jobs we detest with a passion.
Maybe it’s due to your boss being a dick. Maybe you don’t get along with your co-workers. Or, maybe the job is bland and uninspiring.
Construction is no different.
The long hours, the difficult jobs, working in all weathers, it was tough. Getting up in the morning tended to be a struggle.
However, there was one thing that I really enjoyed, and made even the worst days bearable.
It was the laughter we had working together.
In a mostly male environment, there is a lot of joking and light-hearted banter flying around. While it may seem childish from the outside, but it served a purpose.
Often, we would be working for 10 hours a day, I remember one day where we working for 14 hours!
As you can imagine, we were shattered physically and emotionally after most days. It would have been even worse if we did not have the occasional joke.
It helped us all to destress, make light of the situation, and gave us more energy to keep going.
I’ve always thought that laughing and joking at work has made me work better.
There is nothing worse than going to your workplace and dreading the day ahead. If your colleagues don’t like to joke, or your boss doesn’t like you talking, time spent at work is going to drag.
It may seem counter-productive, but having a laugh at work is the best way to keep morale high on any job.
Happy workers are hard workers.
6. Accidents can, and will, happen
The chance of an accident happening in construction is high.
There are too many machines and powerful tools around for it not be an ever-present danger. One slight miscalculation could have big repercussions.
One incident springs to mind.
We were working on removing earth to expose a pipe. This pie was one we didn’t need to replace, we just needed to expose it to attach a pipe off of it.
The guy working the digger was experienced and good at his job. However, on this day, he forgot one important thing.
The bucket on a digger is the implement that scoops the earth from the ground. To secure it in place, you place a pin in the where the bucket attaches to the boom of the digger.
This prevents the bucket from dropping of accidentally. Think of it as a bolt-on a gate, it’s the same principle on a bigger scale.
For whatever reason, the pin was not attached to the bucket on this particular day. None of us noticed until the bucket suddenly dropped off and crashed straight through the pipe.
The bucket had gone through a water mains and highly pressurised water was spouting out of the massive hole left by the bucket.
It was bedlam. We had to stop work for 3 hours, while we were questioned and drug tested to ascertain what happened.
It was just one of those things. Something we did every day, we had simply forgotten to do and it resulted in an accident.
Unfortunately, as humans, we are susceptible to accidents. We are not perfect, they will happen. Just be prepared for when they do.
7. Life is tough
If construction taught me one thing, it’s that life is tough.
There were times in work we were doing jobs that were hard. Very hard. You would want to take a rest, but you still had to keep going, as everyone else was flat-out.
We would often work from 7 am through to 6 pm most days. Very rarely did we finish any earlier.
When I got home all I wanted to do was flop on the couch and relax, but I would often go to the gym after work, and then I came home and cooked my tea.
By the time that was all done it was normally 10 pm and it was time for bed. This was my routine for a good 5 to 6 months.
It was brutal.
I’m not going to say I had it difficult, because compared to a lot of people on the planet I didn’t.
I was able to come home to a clean house, drink running water, and cook fresh food.
In this regard, I was very lucky.
But, what I was doing on a daily basis was tough mentally and physically.
My body would ache from time to time, and it would be a struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
Working in construction tested me physically and mentally on a daily basis.
If your life isn’t tough in some form, then you aren’t living.
Life is not meant to easy, it’s a constant struggle. Yet, it’s in the struggle where we find ourselves.
8. You are only as strong as your weakest link
Your team is vitally important in construction. If you have a strong team, you can deliver the job at a quicker pace, than you otherwise would be able to.
However, if you have one person on your team who is slacking, it can slow you all down.
You could be waiting around for them to find a too, or they could be too slow using their shovel, and you’re finished well before them.
The same is true of yourself. I had jobs that I could do quickly, and there were others I would struggle at.
Give me a concrete saw, and I would be able to cut the required out in no time. Stick me down a trench and tell me to lay a pipe, and it would take me longer.
There were things that I was good and there were things that I was bad at.
It’s normal, we all have this in life. Recognising them is the first step, it’s what you do after that matters.
You need to work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths. If you’re lacking in one area, it can affect your overall performance. You’re not working to your optimum level.
A weakness is an area you have neglected. Work on them until they are weak no more.
9. Labour is satisfying
There’s no getting away from it, working in construction is tough.
The long days. The heavy lifting. The abuse from superiors. It’s very, very tough.
There were days when I wanted to pack it in and go home. Working in the pouring rain, constantly lifting heavy stuff had taken its toll.
When you are doing the work, you don’t feel like there will be a reward at the end.
In truth, it’s hard to see the end, as you’re so focused on delivering in the moment. It can feel like you will never get there.
In a lot of jobs, it’s hard to see the fruits of labour, with construction, it’s very much apparent.
Even when I was laying pipe, and you couldn’t see the pipes under the road, the sight of relaid tarmac behind us was a satisfying sight.
It was then we realised how much we had accomplished.
We may not like the toil and sweat of hard work at the time, but when we look back at the finished result, it’s satisfying to know our effort has not been wasted.
Appreciate how far you have come, it will spur you on to achieve more.