In the civil engineering industry, where one’s legacy is not only about reputation but about physical structures in service to society, professionalism and commitment is key. However, the industry is facing challenges across the private and public sectors. To aid in overcoming these challenges, the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) recently hosted a webinar with the aim of helping engineers kickstart their careers and set them on the right trajectory.
Zeenat Ghoor, Chair of the SAICE Johannesburg Branch opened the event by defining the mission of civil engineers: “We aim to think outside the box and inspire others to do the same. We aim to serve, and to build.” This becomes difficult in the context of local challenges in the industry. To unpack these concerns, Vishaal Lutchman, SAICE CEO presented on career attitudes towards nation building.
Lutchman addressed key challenges facing both the private and public sectors, highlighting professionalism and corruption as prominent issues impacting business and institutions across the board. “We cannot sit back and watch this happen. In your career, I encourage you to be proactive, and accountable. While we work for clients, we must remember that society is the ultimate beneficiary of what we do.” He encouraged attendees to participate actively whenever possible, at public participation events, by commenting on legislation etc. “We cannot be despondent,” he said. He also highlighted the important role that SAICE and its members play in fostering an accountable and sustainable civil engineering community.
Providing practical career advice to attendees, Mike Lacey Smith, CEO of Free to Live presented on ‘career pointers learnt from the rise of Shaka Zulu’. This insightful presentation compared Shaka’s approach to battle with an approach to your career, in seven steps:
- Reaching for the throne: Working on your personal and professional brand, and setting goals.
- Sharpening the spear: Preparing yourself for success through planning and innovation.
- Re-inventing the battle: Being agile and adaptive to your scenario.
- Dressing to kill: Looking the part and earning respect.
- Busting the terror: Mentally preparing for challenges to come.
- Embracing the enemy: Leaving politics behind and rising above it – treating everyone well.
- Sharing the spoils: Share your victory with others, be encouraging and uplifting.
“You will be remembered for the projects you work on, but you should aim to be recognised for your unique contributions, your commitment, and your integrity. These are what will set you apart in your career, and is what you get when you are truly connected with your purpose,” said Lacey Smith.
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Grabbing opportunities with both hands
Discussing career opportunities for civil engineers was Tom McKune, SAICE’s head of training. He said that the first step to growing you career is to ensure you are well equipped with the in-demand skills. “And if you don’t have these skills, you need to work on acquiring them,” said McKune. He emphasised that this applies to both hard and soft skills. “Technical knowledge, software competence and subject matter experience are vital in your career. However, so too are skills like time management, public speaking, negotiation, risk assessment and conflict resolution to name a few.”
He addressed SAICE’s views on the current industry environment, which is concerning given the high unemployment rate of recently graduated engineers, technicians and technologists. “We are trying to improve this by undertaking entrepreneurship training of these young graduates and assisting them to start their own businesses.” He called on industry stakeholders to assist with funding for these graduates to attend the training, which will ultimately help stimulate the sector with new business development.
Finally, SAICE past president Johan de Koker presented advice for positioning your CV for the best outcome. He advised attendees to write the CV for the job, and not expect to use the same CV for every application. “You need to appeal to the position you are applying for. This means you can keep your CV concise and to the point, saving time for the recruiter and providing the information they need to make an easy decision. They don’t need to know your life story. They need to know the kinds of jobs you are capable of and how you fit the job requirements.”
The webinar concluded with a Q&A where attendees were given the chance to enquire about specific issues they had experienced in the career.