Author Topic: Need Some Career/Life Advice  (Read 3943 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Need Some Career/Life Advice
« on: February 24, 2016, 02:35:16 PM »
Apologies for the lengthy-ness of this post, but appreciative to those that read and advise.

I am about to turn 32. I currently work for a small commercial general contractor as a project manager/estimator. I am probably more what would be considered the general manager though as I actually run all of the day-to-day operations, manage our crew, do all the estimating/bids, meetings, project management, etc. as well as have my hand in portions of AR, AP, sales, and so on. The owners are husband and wife and I generally have 5 employees working under me depending on how busy we are. I have worked here for about 8 years now and started out working part time in the field as a laborer and part time in the office as a "project manager's assistant". Over the years I have worked my way up to my current position. The owners are not easy to deal with to put it nicely and there have been many times I thought about leaving over the years. However, they know they have to do very little by having me run things so they do pay me well as I now make a base salary of $78,000 (up from $62k in '13 and '14) with profit sharing bonuses, 3 weeks paid vacation, SIMPLE IRA, etc. My profit sharing has been as low as $10,000 and as high as $30,000 over the past 5 years. For 2015 I made about $93,500.

I have a few concerns with my future whether at this company or moving on in the same career field. First, I only obtained an Associate's Degree in Construction Management back in 2009. I did not pursue the Bachelor's Degree at the time because I already had a job in the industry and getting the Associate's Degree awarded me a salary increase and I thought that was great at the time.

Second, this company I work for does not do ground up construction. We specialize in remodel, tenant finish, industrial warehouse work, etc. This was my first job outside of some misc odd jobs and working for my dad's company framing houses for several years while taking college classes in various degree fields, before landing the entry level position here at age 24. So with this in mind, I feel that I have cornered myself into a specific market and don't have the degree nor experience to apply for the jobs at larger construction firms that require experience in large ground up jobs plus a Bachelor's Degree.

Lastly, my boss, the owner of the company, is very unmotivated. His main purpose in coming in to work every day is supposed to be chasing work, finding new clients, and marketing. He does basically none of this. Occasionally he micromanages me and causes jobs to go sideways because he is completely aloof and clueless. He also regularly manages to piss off our current client portfolio that I maintain because of his arrogant "little man syndrome". Our total revenue has gone down each year over the past 4 years or so and while it's still been good enough previously to maintain a healthy profit margin, it concerns me that I'm on a sinking ship. He just waits for me to bring in work from the clients I've maintained for years instead of going out looking for more work and these clients only have so many properties and work to be done each year...I've brought this up to him a few times and it's always been met with him telling me that they're looking at some things and he's going to really get serious about finding new clients, we're going to sell more work, blah blah blah and never does a bit of it.

So now to where I'm at...he sat me down at the end of last month and told me that I need to be prepared to not get any profit sharing bonuses this year and just be able to get by on my base salary. My profit sharing bonuses generally make up about 20% of my income so this is a big hit! This is also after he just purchased a $70k SUV at the last week of 2015 and follows that conversation up with telling me he's going to be gone the next couple days as he and the wife are going down to their lake house for a few days. I'm also particularly frustrated with this because we did just slightly less in revenue for 2015 as we did for 2014. My overall income was about the same both years (although in '14 my salary was $62k + $30k profit sharing vs this year I was supposed to get a big raise to $78k salary yet only got about $15k profit sharing, so essentially same money even w/ the big raise??)...I know we made money in 2015 because I keep track of the bids, AP, AR, and profit on each job.

In looking at entry level type positions I could apply for at other companies, where I don't have the experience to apply for a similar job title, I would have to take a MAJOR pay cut. I would probably drop down to about $45k-$50k. While we don't live way beyond our means, we do not live quite as mustachian as many of you, so that would hurt us significantly. I've also considered starting my own company as I do feel confident I have the basic knowledge, contacts, and motivation to do so, but I do not have the lump sum of cash sitting around to take on starting a company as a commercial general contractor doing similar work to my current employer.

So what would be your advice? Should I ride it out on this ship while I have a decent paycheck as long as possible and maybe try to work towards a Bachelor's Degree in this field? Should I try to figure out how to take the drastic pay cut and jump ship now? Should I look at an entirely different career path at this point (thought about accounting as I do enjoy numbers and the estimating side of my job)...Or should I look into investors and/or options to try to start my own company? I've always wanted to start my own company, but I can't help but feel like the construction industry is a little questionable here in Oklahoma due to the oil and gas issues and overall market so I'm not sure if it's the greatest time or not.

Ugh...sorry again for the book, but I'm just feeling a little nervous as my wife and I also found out we were FINALLY chosen by a birth mother so our adoption plans are finally moving forward after over 2 years of waiting...and I have such insecurities about my job/career and want to feel confident about a path with this little guy coming very soon!

« Last Edit: February 24, 2016, 02:42:27 PM by GCinOKC »


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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2016, 07:26:14 PM »
There is always a balancing act when faced with big questions like the ones you're asking. I didn't get the sense you absolutely love your current job, but the money is good. Kind of a "Golden Handcuffs" dilemma there. Personally, I would do three things; 1) Get my personal finances in the absolute best shape possible. Pay off everything you can possible payoff. Get your monthly expenditures down as low as possible. That's a lot easier to do with the bigger salary. 2) At the same time, I'd be looking at side gigs. Starting your own construction firm may require too much time while you're working the high salary job, but you said you started as a general laborer, so maybe you start doing handyman gigs on the weekends. This would give you extra cash to either save and NOT freak out your current boss. Tell him it's because you're saving up for the adoption...which of course would be true. 3) I'd figure out an exit strategy from the current company. From what you are describing, it sounds like it's time to plan your next move. However, my suggestion is to do it cleanly and on your terms. Don't discount your experience. You may "only" have an Associates Degree, but real world experience is golden. Start interviewing with other construction companies, but be clear you're experience puts you on a higher level than an entry level, $40k a year job. The side gig could easily turn into your own company OR you might find yourself with a competitive offer from another firm.
School is great (I was an educator for a long time) but I would only go back if you could afford to do it without student loans and still support your family (plus new baby! Congratulations on the adoption by the way!). One final super communicative with your wife.My hallucination is she wants you happy....whether that's doing your own gig or new career, but at the same times she's not going to be thrilled with major disruptions with a new baby on the way. The good news is you're young and you're asking all the right questions. You've already got great experience. You'll make the right choices, I'm sure.


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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2016, 07:54:54 PM »
There are a lot of project construction managers that do not have degrees.   I think that many companies only suggest the bachelors, and they are trying to weed out the applications with neither experience nor degree. 

I suggest that you start applying to other firms to see where the market is at.   You need to apply for jobs posted at your experience level, (in years) and ignore the "Bachelors' Degree".   Write a great cover of your fabulous experience highlighting business savvy.

If you get no bites, then your second option is to enroll in a night school course (just one for now), and reapply for jobs, saying that you have your associate degree, and are completing your bachelors at xx University at night.

« Last Edit: February 24, 2016, 09:42:51 PM by goldielocks »


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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2016, 08:11:09 PM »
I think you are selling yourself short.  Sounds like you have a lot of experience that would apply in another job and I would start looking based on what you described.  You can see you're on a sinking ship.... 

I wouldn't worry about getting a Bachelor's degree unless every job you apply for requires it and you get turn downs because of the lack.  (We do have positions at our company that require a degree which someone would not be eligible for regardless of how much exp they had.  But we also often hire to a slightly lower position and then have a nice education program where we would pay for your degree.  So you might need to take a bit of a pay cut to get your foot in the door but you shouldn't be looking at entry-level either.)

So don't get pompous but I think a bit more confidence in what you have to offer is in order.  And if you want me to, I would be happy to look at a resume for you and make some suggestions.

Oh and congrats on the baby.  :)


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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2016, 08:15:44 PM »
Agree with the previous two posters that not having a bachelors shouldn't be a deal breaker. Apply for project manager positions. If they say bachelors degree preferred, apply anyway. If they say (specific niche) experience required, apply anyway. Talk up the experience you have in your cover letter. You have eight years (!) in the field, and you've managed jobs from sales to completion (!). That's some pretty awesome experience, OP. Don't sell yourself short. Start networking and applying now. I suspect you'll have an offer for another (comparably paying) job sooner than you might think.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2016, 09:21:57 PM »
As I am reading this, I am thinking. Why not go open a business yourself in this industry?  Understandably there would be a huge learning curve in starting up, a drop in initial pay, but I am reading this and it seems you know the business.  You essentially run the business.  Aside from financing and the usual difficulties in starting a business, it would seem you could possibly make it big....?  Hell if you started, I would be happy to work under your business since it seems you already know it?


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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2016, 09:32:25 PM »
Sorry you are going through all this!  Just wanted to chime in and wish you luck on the adoption and also say that you seem competent and hard working, so you will probably be fine in any choice you make.  Good luck again.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2016, 10:23:00 AM »
Wow, thank you for all of the encouraging and useful advice everyone. I really appreciate it. I would definitely prefer to start my own company doing commercial remodel work, but I'm still navigating my up front costs to do so. The insurance (liability, umbrella, etc) I would have to carry to do work on the properties we typically deal with is going to run me at least $10k on the low end and as I do more work that would increase quickly. The other start-up basics like another cell phone (mine is currently provided by my employer), setting up the LLC or S-Corp, cash flow to start a few jobs, etc. really add up. Mostly the cash-flow, but if I could land a couple jobs that would pay quickly or let me pull draws quickly I'd probably be okay. I just deal with some clients that don't pay until the project is complete and sometimes we don't see a check for 60 days.

My father-in-law is also a zoning attorney and has a lot of contacts with developers, building owners, other contractors, etc. so I could probably tap him for some contacts and lunch meetings. He owns some commercial properties of his own as well, so maybe he'd let me do a few odds and ins for him to get started. These are things I'm thinking through right now.

In the mean time I'm also keeping an eye on job openings that I could apply to that are at least close to my experience level. Again, thank you for the responses!!

Oh, and thank you for the kind words about the adoption, everything is looking good so far! We're crossing our fingers this one works out. Almost 2-1/2 years of waiting will be so worth it though for this little guy!
« Last Edit: February 25, 2016, 10:24:38 AM by GCinOKC »

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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2016, 12:07:42 PM »
I'm with sleepystaff: you have the experience, contacts and staff to basically take the whole business away from its current owners, and they have only themselves to blame.  (I'm assuming that you haven't signed a non-compete?)   Set yourself up with the basic paperwork and systems you need, recruit your current team to move with you, divert new work you win to your new business, and when you are ready give minimum notice to your current employer.  I suppose at that stage you could consider any revised offer they made you (equal partner?) but frankly it sounds to me as though you are better off without them.


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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2016, 12:31:50 PM »
You are extremely valuable to that arrogant PoS who owns the company. Let him know you are thinking of leaving because of the lack of profit sharing and bonus money. Let him know you are not some peon to pushed around(in a professional manner). Go out and look to see what other offers exist. You have valuable skills.

Most importantly, get your expenses down and build up your 'stache just so you can tell this asswipe to fuck off if things ever get really bad.

Good luck! We have all been there at one time or another. We can sympathize. If you need help crafting a budget, how to look for a job, how to build your resume/linkedin, etc... I'm sure people would be happy to help.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2016, 02:18:25 PM »
I would second what a lot of other people said. Start looking around and stop discounting your substantial experience in the field. You could check out for your position and location.

I think it's very easy to forget our income worth once we've been at a company for a long time. You become anchored on what you started at or what you made a few years ago, and you forget to look around to see what the market is paying for comparable roles. This is why generally it's been easier to get a pay raise by moving to another company.

Finally, unlike what another poster said, I DON'T think you should tell your boss that you're thinking of leaving the company until you have another offer in hand. I've personally been in a case where my manager blew up at me for leaving (taking it personally that I was leaving her company) and I've seen it happen to other people, so don't put yourself at risk of being fired by telling them that you're looking around.


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Re: Need Some Career/Life Advice
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2016, 05:00:05 PM »
Or should I look into investors and/or options to try to start my own company? I've always wanted to start my own company, but I can't help but feel like the construction industry is a little questionable here in Oklahoma due to the oil and gas issues and overall market so I'm not sure if it's the greatest time or not.
I would do this one. I don't think there really is a perfect time to start a business. Whats important is having enough cash to get through the bad times. And that you have regular clients. I would wait a year after you leave then steal your old clients. And you don't have to take any clients that don't pay timely. You can spend the next couple years building your business up on the side. Sounds like your manager is clueless about how you spend your time. You should take advantage of that. He doesn't have to know anything.
I recommend reading the 4 hour workweek. There's a free pdf out there.