Contract Administrator at Icon, and Founder of The Construction Coach.
Elinor has kindly taken time out of her busy schedule to share her journey to date. More specifically, how she progressed from being a student to Contract Administrator, and why she is giving back to the industry by mentoring today’s students and graduates through The Construction Coach.
Firstly, how did you enter the construction industry?
Unlike my time during my bachelor degree, I was very engaged in the classes and coursework of my Master of Construction Management degree. I applied myself, took it seriously, and spoke up in class. You’ll see why this matters in a moment!
It was first year second semester that I had to partner up with someone else in class for a presentation. It literally happened that we were standing outside in a group and I asked the person next to me if she wanted to work together. She was working for a small builder-developer at the time, who were hiring. I rejected the first offer to go in for an interview as I was going overseas at the end of the year. A few weeks later she told me to just go in for a chat, so I did, and was offered a position. I vividly remember being up in the law library of the University of Melbourne when I got the call that I was being offered a salary-position. It was one of the rare times I had been speechless!
This is why I place so much importance on networking and using your time at university wisely – by being engaged and present, building your personal brand from day one and showing a genuine interest for the industry. People can see that and they are willing to take a chance on you to recommend you for a position.
During my undergraduate degree, I had gone down the conventional route of emailing 1211 companies in ambition of getting one call back, or applying through mass online platforms, which no-one looks at your CV. It just didn’t work. So I knew that I had to do something different the second time round if I ever wanted to get a job, and I’m very glad I did. I’m still very good friends with the person who helped me get my foot through the door.
How would you describe your progression through the construction industry?
Firstly, it’s through being extremely fortunate to have had someone take a vested interest in my learning and development and mentor me from day one. I’m forever grateful to have this person in my life as a mentor and a close friend who has challenged me and helped me to forge my own way forward, through countless hours of conversation, advice and support.
I don’t think I would be where I am today without all the mentors, long or short-term, who have taken the time to guide me. It’s one of the core reasons why I am so passionate about paying it forward to help other students experience the same, because I know the value and difference one great mentor can make. Especially in the formative days of your career, when as students and graduates, you just don’t know what you don’t know.
Secondly, networking has been absolutely formative to progressing my career. When I first entered the industry I realised quickly that I knew no-one, so I had to put myself out there. You know that old adage, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. I found professional associations that aligned with my values, and then worked to build my profile within them and contribute to the industry.
Professionally, I was able to make connections and converse with people I wouldn’t have, via just going to university. Personally, it gave me confidence and fuelled my passion for the industry, which attracted speaking opportunities to convey the same, and advocate for careers in construction. This in turn attracts further opportunity, both professionally and personally.
I’m an avid networker; I love meeting and connecting people. I was curious as to how many events I actually go to in one year, so in 2017 I tracked it – totalled to 29 (ish)!
Lastly, it’s putting in the hard work and effort, either at university or work. Hard work alone doesn’t get noticed if you don’t advocate and promote yourself at the same time, but there is no short cut to success without hard work. It means pulling the demanding industry hours at times, the early starts and late finishes, doing the shi*t jobs to start with, constantly asking questions, trying your best at university. It pays off, but you have to be willing to do it in the first place, and consistently so.
To round off, what advice do you have for people entering the construction industry today?
Gosh, where do I start! The reason I founded The Construction Coach was to share my career intelligence and industry insight, because there are just so many considerations when doing so.
I’ll start with my favourite quote: “The best way to get ahead is to get started.” If you’re looking to build a career, start – start looking for avenues to get your foot in the door, start building your network, start applying. It’s valuable to recognise the type of projects you would like exposure to, and then find a company that can support that and provide structured growth and development.
Don’t follow someone else’s career path, because it looks nice and shiny and they happen to be making lots of money (also, don’t follow the money – follow your passion and the money will come).
And talk to as many people in the industry as you can, as it will help build a picture of what it actually entails, and may open your mind up to avenues and opportunity that may be aligned that previously haven’t been considered.
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