June 15, 2021 - Fulfilling Career? Think Networking, Transferrable Skills and Education

Want a Fulfilling Career? Think Networking, Transferrable Skills and Education

I once heard Oprah Winfrey say “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” (paraphrased). Considering this article is about having a fulfilling career in the construction industry, you probably wonder why I’m referencing Oprah… Oprah’s statement struck me when I first heard it, a few years ago. And it came back to my mind when thinking about how to build up a fulfilling career. This is because, in my opinion, to have a fulfilling career, you first need to be prepared so that you can get hold of opportunities when they “pass by”, including when you’ve actively put yourself on the path of the opportunity… And this is applicable to all industries, including the construction industry.

Why would you want to be prepared to get hold of opportunities? Well, most of us want to progress and feel fulfilled in our professional career, whether it’s about earning more money, getting up the hierarchy ladder, specializing, widening our field of expertise, experiencing different jobs, moving to other places, adapting to changed circumstances… And many of us worry of getting stuck in a career path once a career is chosen, with the risk of then having a non-fulfilling career if we lose interest in our daily tasks.

Now, how do you prepare yourself to get hold of the many opportunities that the construction industry provides, between the multiple professional experiences and the many different environments available? I believe there are 3 steps to help you be ready for these opportunities: networking, transferrable skills, and education.


Many positions are actually never advertised. Instead, employers fill these positions by looking at who they already know, or by asking people they trust to make some recommendations. This means that, to have a chance of getting one of these positions, you need to know people, and you need to be known… and this is done through networking.

However, so many of us really, really, do not like networking!!! We dread attending events where we don’t know anyone, or we know some people but they’re already busy speaking to others; we worry about finding ourselves on our own in a corner of the room; we have no idea what to say to complete strangers; and the list goes on…

Want to get better at, and feel more confident, when networking? There are many articles, LinkedIn trainings, online videos available on the subject. Doing some research and identifying a few tips that could work for you is a good first step. But, at the end, you need to start practicing…

Here are a few of the steps I took when I arrived in Toronto, knowing no one, and not familiar with the professional associations and events associated with the construction industry in general, and even less with those associated with construction claims:

  • Researched professional associations related to my work;
  • Attended events organized by these associations;
  • Through trials and errors, identified the most interesting associations and attended more of their events;
  • Went to the event shortly after opening time: with just a few people in the room, I found it easier to find someone to speak to;
  • After a while, I started to see a few people again and again, including some with whom I was able to develop a relationship;
  • Always connected back through LinkedIn or via e-mails;
  • Kept on eye on what these people were saying or were recognized for on LinkedIn;
  • Became involved with a not-for-profit organization;
  • Also started to attend events more aligned with my personal interests, as this was a good way to expand my network outside of the construction industry;
  • Attended online events that were set-up for online networking – a little bit odd at the beginning, but actually quite effective; and
  • Practiced, practiced, practiced… and still practicing!

But networking is also about connecting with the people you work with, whether from the same company than you, clients, contractors or suppliers, consultants, etc. Or connecting with people who discuss topics of interests to you on social or professional platforms… Or any other way that works for you.

Transferrable Skills

One of the first thing to do when you consider changing job or career is to look at the skills you already have, whether you’re an expert, knowledgeable enough or are at a beginner stage in those skills – especially if you already have another career in mind!

All skills are transferrable, depending on what new job or career you’re considering, such as:

  • Organization, high level understanding of multiple technical topics and team management are all project management skills that are required on construction site, in a designer’s office or as the end client’s representative;
  • Writing skills, first developed at school and in higher education, and then further developed through correspondence, minutes of meetings, reports, etc. are required whether you’re in project management, an engineer, an expert – even if you need to refine your skills to adapt to your new position;
  • Experience in scheduling or in construction cost management are key skills to become a delay or quantum expert;
  • Specific technical expertise (say, steel structure) can lead to becoming an expert to investigate technical issues in that field (such as a steel structure collapse);

Unfortunately, this is not always an easy task, especially if you’re not in the right mindset to appreciate and value your skills and experiences. In such situation, you could get the help of trusted colleagues or friends, attend workshops, or even take on a coach to assist you in the identification of your transferrable skills.


The next step is to identify the skills you’re missing, or would like to add to your repertoire. This can be an easy step if you already have another career in mind, or if you already know what it is you want to learn. But, as for the identification of transferrable skills, it is not always an easy task. In that case, you should consider getting some help – see suggestions above.

Once you’ve identify the skill(s) you want to learn, you need to decide on the type of education that is most suitable for you, depending on the formats available for your chosen skill(s):

  • College’s and university’s formal qualifications;
  • Professional qualifications;
  • Specialized trainings, from a few hours to several months;
  • In the classroom, online;
  • Reading books, articles, blogs;
  • Staying up-to-date with the latest technologies, practices, case law;
  • Having conversations with colleagues, clients, providers;
  • And anything else that, for you, means “education”: If it allows you to learn something new, or to stay abreast of what is going on in a specific field, then it is “education”.


So, you’re already in the construction industry, or you’re thinking of joining it.

You know that this industry has a lot to offer, both from the professional experiences and the environment perspectives.

But you’re worried that, once on your chosen career path, you could lose interest, not progress as you want, not be able to adapt to changed circumstances – and therefore not enjoy a long-term fulfilling career.

Well, as Oprah once said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” - and I strongly believe that “preparation” for a fulfilling career is about networking, transferrable skills, and education. Furthermore, it is really up to any of us (myself included) to define what networking, transferrable skills, and education mean and represent to us.

Is it easy? Not always. Does it work all the times? Of course, not… so much depends on other circumstances, external ones as well as our own mindset at the time… But is it a good place to start when looking at making changes in our career(s)? In my opinion, yes, yes, and again yes!

Before ending this article, I would like to thanks the other panelists on the AACE Toronto section event on March 18, 2021 “Women in Project Controls – Reflection on Career Development” for giving me the idea for this article.

And finally, I would like to hear from you on how to lead a fulfilling career and be ready for when an opportunity arises…