What I Learned From Working In The Construction Industry

Tom Stevenson
https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=4ZGX1E_0Yhi6HsO00Photo: Jamar Penny/Unsplash

For a lot of my adult life, I worked in the construction industry — despite studying history at university.

The simple reason for this is that my father is a builder. I have grown up around building work. I was even helping my father work on a roof when I was ten.

Construction is in my blood.

That said, I didn’t expect to go back to it once I graduated from university, but things never turn out how you expect.

During my time working in construction, I worked on roofs, repaired wastewater pipes, built roads, refurbished an IKEA store, and even worked as a landscape gardener. I worked in most of these jobs when I was living in Australia and New Zealand. I could have looked for other jobs, but construction ones were easy to get, and I enjoyed the work.

It’s easy to think that the people who work in construction are the ones that failed in school. The ones that didn’t pay enough attention and slacked when it came to studying.

While this may be true for some people, it’s not true for everyone. I met a lot of clever and thoughtful people in these jobs. Construction is physically demanding, but it’s also mentally tough.

You have to deal with unforeseen issues daily, which you need to problem solve your way out of. You won’t last very long in the construction industry if you can’t think on your feet and improvise.

Even now, I love to do physical work. Sometimes, I miss waking up early and heading to work. Whether it was to refurbish a store or laying pipes, I learned a lot from that hard graft.

Here are a few of those lessons.

There’s no I in team

One of the things you learn early on in the construction industry is that teamwork is crucial — no job can be completed by one person. You have to pull together to get things done.

This became apparent when I was laying pipes. This job is impossible without a team. Nor is it possible to do safely without a small group of people. It’s a job that seems straightforward but is far from it once you see it up close.

We had to rip out out the old pipes, dispose of them, dig down, and lay the new ones. Then, we had to connect them, all the time making sure that we didn’t deviate from the course set to meet the next manhole down the road.

It was an intense operation that took all of us working in sync to make it happen. If one of us thought we knew best and started to try and dictate proceedings, work would have ground to a halt in an instant.

In a job like this, you have to leave your ego at the door. It’s a team effort. There’s no place for people who think they know better than everyone else. Even the Foreman had to give to us on occasion if we had better ideas.

When the digger driver is relying on you to direct them to where the pipe is, and you’re trusting them to not smash you in the face with a twenty-tonne piece of machinery, you soon realize you’ve got to work together.

The benefit of this is once you start working in harmony, it’s a joy to behold. Work glides along, everything feels much easier, and there’s a great atmosphere which makes work seem less tough.

As the saying goes, teamwork is what makes the dream work!

Camaraderie makes work easier

Perhaps my favorite part of working in construction was the camaraderie. All of us knew it was tough. A lot of us knew that this wasn’t a job we particularly wanted to do, but we had to get on with it.

The best way of getting through the day was to have a laugh and not take things too seriously. Maybe it’s due to the nature of people who work in construction, but I’ve always found the atmosphere to be fantastic.

Nowhere was this truer than I worked as a landscape gardener. The group of guys that worked there was fantastic. They were down to earth and always up for a bit of fun.

Yes, we took work seriously, but we knew that having a joke now and again helped us get through the day, which brightened everyone’s mood. A lot of practical jokes were played on each other, but it only served to bring everyone closer and make it a fun place to work.

To this day, I miss working there due to the atmosphere. It was such an easy place to work. I woke up looking forward to the day ahead instead of dreading what might come.

The contrast with when I worked in an office is stark. You need to be able to laugh and joke to get through the day, but that was frowned upon in the office I worked in. We even received emails telling us in no explicit terms to talk less with each other, so we’d get more work done!

I don’t know whether this is true of all construction and office jobs, but there is a big contrast between the two. In the construction industry, it’s understood that you’re not a robot, that you can’t work all day without laughing.

Whereas in offices, I felt as if the management looked at you as a number on a spreadsheet and not a human at a desk. We’re human. We like to laugh and joke and have a good time. Encouraging that atmosphere at work is the best way to make it a great place to work, which encourages people to work better.

If there’s something that I miss the most about the construction industry, it’s that.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that those who work in the construction industry are stupid. Many people that they must be working in that industry because they failed at school and had nothing to fall back on.

Sure, this may ring true for some people. My father didn’t excel at school, but he’s still made a successful career for himself as a self-employed builder. The same was true of some of my colleagues in the various jobs I had.

Far from being a collection of uneducated idiots, they were a diverse and interesting bunch. I had a lot of enlightening conversations with these people about a range of topics.

The fact I was English and they were Aussies, and New Zealanders helped the flow of the conversation as we both learned more about each other’s culture, but there was no way those guys were stupid.

All of them knew how to do their jobs with precision. I learned a lot from all of them, not just about construction but life in general. These guys had what you could call ‘real-life experience.’

They had some pearls of wisdom for a young lad living and working a long way from home. This experience made me realize that you shouldn’t judge people based on their job or circumstance.

Some of us are luckier than others, and some of us just enjoy different types of work. We should celebrate that instead of looking down our noses at them. After all, without construction workers, all the things we take for granted such as sanitation systems and our houses wouldn’t be built.

Hard work is satisfying

Working in construction is hard, really hard. Forget working for 8 hours a day; it’s more like 10 and some days 12. One day we ended up working for 14 hours! I collapsed into my bed after that shift was over!

I used to look forward to the weekends when I could relax and not get up at 6 in the morning. The only problem was that I crashed midway through Saturday when the physical toll of the past week caught up with me.

It was hard work, but strangely, I miss it. Our bodies are, by design, made to move and do physical tasks — not to sit at a desk for hour after hour.

I felt better working in a physically demanding environment than I did in an office. It was much more satisfying too. The thing with office jobs is the work you’re doing isn’t immediately visible. I struggled to find motivation for completing insurance claims when there was a huge backlog still to get through.

With construction, it’s different. The fruits of your labor are visible. You can stop and appreciate what you’ve done at the end of each day. This gives you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that work hasn’t been in vain.

Whenever we finished a run of laying pipes from manhole to manhole, we looked back at how far we had come, literally. All those hours, all that sweat and sour muscles washed away when you saw how much work we had accomplished.

Hard work is hard by its nature, but it’s also satisfying. Even now, when I’m writing, I get a sense of satisfaction from seeing my thoughts laid out in a piece. It’s rewarding. Don’t shy away from hard work, it may be difficult, but the fruits of your labor are worth the struggle.

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