If you spent most of your construction career working as a residential contractor, you’ll find that signing on with a commercial crew is a whole new ball game. And if you’re just starting out, the thought of making your professional debut on a large commercial jobsite can be a little intimidating – especially if the job includes multiple crews and bosses. Starting any new job can cause some apprehension, but going in with an idea of what to expect can help reduce some of the nervous tension you may feel. And remembering some general jobsite rules can help make this transition easier.
Many residential contracting crews are typically small, friendly and easy-going. This is due, in part, to smaller companies often hiring friends or relatives, especially if it’s a family-owned business. Large commercial projects often include more demanding schedules, more complex work procedures and little to no room for error. Commercial work crews are larger, with various levels of skills and experience. There may also be multiple levels of managers and subcontractors working with you.
Read a few recent trade journals to get a feel for what’s happening in your industry and keep up with them every month. Join a few online industry chat rooms and get to know other people in the business. A lot of experienced contractors are happy to help answer a few questions.
Make the time to read over and take note of all safety procedures that are specific to the jobsite in general and the work you’ll be doing. While general safety procedures rarely vary, many companies and industries develop additional, proprietary safety rules.
Make a Good Impression
First impressions are everything. You know it, your new boss knows it and the guys already on the crew know it. If you start out on the wrong foot that first day, it will take time and effort to change the opinions of your co-workers. Nervous or not, looking like you’ve got it together right up front is half the battle.
• Many larger companies supply tools for their workers aside from the usual tape, hammer or other smaller hand tools. Make sure whatever personal tools you do bring are clearly and covertly marked.
• Show up wearing the right work gear, including boots, gloves, a company uniform and personal safety gear (if required) and any seasonally appropriate clothes.
• Turn your cell phone off and leave it in your lunchbox or vehicle and cut that umbilical cord connecting you to your favorite beverage until breaks or lunch time.
• Listen more than you talk, don’t offer your opinion unless asked, but don’t hesitate to ask questions. These three tips never hurt – no matter how experienced you are. Know-it-alls will be spotted a mile away and other workers will either ignore them or refuse to work with them. On any new jobsite, it’s best to accept the fact that, regardless how many years you’ve worked in construction, for the time being, you’re green.
• Know where the jobsite is and give yourself plenty of time to get there. Never show up late on your first day. Make sure you have any necessary contact information with you just in case you do get unavoidably delayed or you can’t locate your work area on the jobsite.
Moving into commercial construction can be a very profitable career change for a contractor. There’s rarely any downtime, the payoff is usually better and you’ll never have to deal with difficult homeowners.
Already having some level of experience in residential contracting can give you a better grasp of the demands of the new job, which means less risk and a better opportunity for fast advancement and greater profits. Maybe that’s why more and more residential contractors are showing interest in the opportunities available in commercial construction.