What Kind Of Structural Engineering Consultancy Do You Want To Work For?
One of the challenges we have as structural engineering recruitment consultants is understanding exactly what kind of environment a candidate wants to work in. Often candidates are focused on the job title – i.e. “I want to progress to senior structural engineer” – and the salary, but ignore factors such as the size of the consultancy, company culture, and the type of projects the firm is involved in.
While I understand why a candidate might want to keep their options open and explore different opportunities with different types of employers, I’m not sure that this is the best approach. A lot of time and effort can be saved if candidates identify the type of consultancy that offers them the right working environment, culture and rewards early in the recruitment process.
Do You Want To Work For The Big Boys?
Working for a prestigious structural engineering consultancy is very attractive. Generally, larger structural engineering firms are able to attract larger, high profile projects and that provides their employees with very interesting and complex projects to be involved in.
The benefits and rewards can also be good. As well as paying a competitive salary you might also get financial support with training and professional development, as well as a decent benefits package.
Larger companies might also offer you the opportunity to travel, if that’s what you want, working on international projects as well as those in the UK. It may also be possible to relocate to another office either here or overseas.
In theory it should also be easier to progress up the career ladder with more opportunities for promotion. However, in some large firms there is a danger of being pigeonholed into one specific role (perhaps working only on certain projects), and it can be difficult to break out and get exposure to other work and new opportunities. Promotion will also follow official processes and therefore take longer than in more agile and responsive smaller firms.
Of course, these are generalisations. Each company varies with some offering great career progression and exposure to different areas of the business, while in others you may feel more like a number. Some of the biggest global engineering firms employ upwards of 50,000 people!
Candidates should ask themselves whether this working environment is right for them; whether the benefits outweigh any drawbacks; and whether having a big name on their CV is important to their career and personal goals.
Working For Smaller, Boutique Structural Engineering Firms
On the other end of the scale are the small companies that employ up to around 50 people. Some may actually be ‘micro businesses’ with less than 10 employees.
These companies can offer candidates fantastic opportunities, allowing them to be involved in every aspect of a project such as fieldwork, design and office work, client relationships and project management.
For many structural engineers this is really appealing, giving you more responsibilities and hands on experience. Projects may not be as high profile as those that the larger firms pick up, but they can be just as rewarding and varied.
The downsides might include fewer benefits, and support with training and professional development might not be available. Opportunities for promotion will depend on the structure of the company. If large enough to support a small team of structural engineers, people may need to leave to allow others to progress up the career ladder. In other firms promotion comes with experience; so if you’re getting exposure to lots of different projects and aspects of each project, promotion can be quite rapid. Again, it all depends on the individual firm and how it’s structured.
Somewhere in the middle
Medium sized firms can offer the best of both worlds. There’s often a crossover between the types of projects these companies attract, picking up some of the work a large structural engineering firm is after as well as smaller projects too.
You may still find you can get good exposure to different areas of a project, although roles may be more defined. On the plus side you may enjoy being part of a larger team and not having the pressure of doing multiple jobs.
Career progression can take longer than in smaller firms, although there can more opportunities for promotion because of the larger number of employees in the company. Benefit packages may also be more generous and there are likely to be monies allocated for training and CPD.
As stated before, this is a generalisation and you may find a large company offers many of the benefits of a smaller firm or vice versa. However, by identifying the key factors that differ between different types of companies, your technical recruitment consultant gets a better understanding of what company is a good fit for you.
Consider the following key factors:
- Salary and benefit package – are you motivated most by the compensation package offered?
- Training and promotion – do you want to advance your career rapidly by gaining qualifications and promotion?
- Size and type of projects – do you want to work on large, complex projects? Is it important to you to be involved in high profile projects?
- Work experience – are you happy to work within a clearly defined role, or would you like more exposure to different aspects of each project?
- Teamwork and autonomy – do you want to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small cog in an exciting and prestigious machine?
- Travel and relocation – is relocating to another country or area of the country on your bucket list? Does working on international projects appeal to you?
Finally, consider what your career goals are and how you anticipate getting there. It may be that in the early stages of your career a small structural engineering consultancy will give you a great insight into the industry and role as a whole. Whereas at another point in your career it could be beneficial to work for a big name and have a high profile project or two on your CV.
If in doubt, speak to your recruitment consultant! We have long term relationships with a wide range of different structural engineering companies, we know the way they work, their structures and culture, and what opportunities are available for career progression. We can help you identify what’s important to you, and therefore have a much better idea of what firms are a good fit.
Contact me directly if you want a chat or upload your CV here.