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  • John Macedo

SUCCESS AS A CONSTRUCTION WORKER IN AUSTRALIA - ULTIMATE GUIDE

Updated: Jul 27

The intention of this article is to offer a complete guideline for workers around the world to help them succeed in their careers. Even though I've created it based on the Australian construction industry, I believe it is still relevant to all blue collars, members of the global building industry.


I will cover here the most important things that you should know to become a respectful and valuable worker, and share with you the most useful tips I've collected along the way.

WHY HEAR ME OUT?


We live in a world that is always on the rush. Therefore, reading articles is probably not on your essential things to do, especially if you are working in construction.


Not because you are not interested but because you are used to working with practical and tangible things. My bet is that even now, you think that these guidelines are written by people who have no experience in the field and are just guessing.



But before you put a label on me, the person behind the keyboard, I want to give you a quote from Mike Tyson. Yes, you are right. I am talking about the boxer

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”



The reason I brought it in the discussion is to let you understand that I know how hard it is to be an exceptional construction worker when we’re knee-deep in the mud, after skipping lunch to save a concrete pour


Yes, I know the feeling. I can’t say I miss it, but I sure don’t regret it and the reason for that is simple. From these moments I acquired the experience and the knowledge I needed in order to succeed as a blue-collar. And I mean how to REALLY succeed.


So, did I get your attention?

Great. If so, let’s move to some in-depth explanation.



WHAT DOES IT MEAN?


The most important rule is this: success is personal.


Maybe you want to get a more pleasant job and make more money, you know, move up in the ranks. Or maybe, you don’t care about any of that and success for you is having more time with your family and more work-life balance.


Every person has their own idea regarding it. This being said, if you’re here, you most probably came for one reason: you want success and you want it in your own terms.


Truth be told, for me, success meant getting promoted to a position in which I could earn more and hard work got me to the place I wanted. I managed to double my pay raise and got to be the one in charge of running the teams in (roughly) one year's time. Of course, that meant more responsibility but I was prepared to learn whatever I needed in order to achieve that.



This being said, I want to tell you everything I learned from being a construction labourer and the road I took in becoming the director of Spades.


And let you know that I am 100% sure you can do it too.


You might think that some of these ideas may sound cliché and obvious while others do not. But what it really matters here is the work and I am the living proof of that.


Don’t imagine that I didn’t make mistakes along the way. I didn’t follow them all perfectly. Furthermore, everybody who has worked with me and knows me is well aware that I am far from perfect. But, I can assure that if you follow these instructions the best as you can, you will succeed in the construction industry.


This being said, in this article I will be able to read my personal guidance to success which you can use and adapt to your case and life.


So, let’s begin!



GETTING HIRED


As you imagine, nothing that I am about to tell you has no meaning if you are jobless. Because of that, I want to take the time and give you some hints about getting hired.


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HAVE A PROPER CV


As already mentioned, the construction industry is a practical one and nobody really has time for fluffy reading.


If you're looking for work and need some help with the CV part, take your time to read our construction CV guide and template. Link Ccmming soon


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TALK LIKE A PRO


You might think that labour working doesn’t need too much talking, but I want to assure you this is not the case. Only after I switched sides and became a recruiter, I truly understood how much of a difference good communication makes.


I will be honest with you. Lots of the rejections we give are not because of the skills of the potential workers have, but because of the communication part.


Talking like a pro does not imply you will lie about your experience.


It means that you should avoid slang talking and also it means expressing yourself clearly as much as possible. Nothing can sink your boat quicker than asking “what's-up?” and calling the recruiter your “bro”.


Your intentions may be befriending the recruiter to improve your hiring chances, and that’s understandable, but don’t do it. It will only show that you’re not serious about your job. This is valid for any sort of rank, role, length of employment.

Your goal is to BE TRUSTED, not make friends.

As I told you earlier, my first CV was a mess. It was too long and not straight to the point. However, I did get the job I was looking for and I am sure that what helped me out was my talking.


Even though back in the days, my English was far from being perfect. I recently moved to Australia, so you can only imagine that I was not the best person to talk to. However, I tried as much as I could to use the proper wording and express how much I was interested in the role and how respectful I was. Moreover, I let the recruiter know how much I was committed to doing a good job.


So, years later, I know for a fact that was what got me through the doors.


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PRESENT YOURSELF RESPECTFULLY


Remember that the way you talk is not the only “card” you have.

You need to take into consideration other aspects such as the clothes you wear.


I don’t imply you dress formally, but I do recommend you dress up clean.


Another very important aspect you have to take care of is your body language and your manners.


All of this will tell the recruiter how serious you actually are and therefore it will make his decision regarding you to be easier to make.


I must confess that at first, I didn’t understand the importance of this situation. So as you can imagine, when I was labouring I used to wear very worn-out clothes. If I had the worst possible T-shirt, I would wear it.

Of course, I had an excuse for that. I always said it was no use to wear better ones because I would end up destroying them anyway.


It was only after a new worker came along and joined the team that I understood the importance of clothing. He was always careful with what he was wearing and people would look up at him even though he didn’t have the best experience.


That opened my eyes and made me realize that if you want to be perceived as a professional you need to look like one.



GETTING STARTED


Congratulations! You passed your interview. You talk the talk, now it’s time to walk the walk.


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BE A PRO


But what does that actually mean?

It means that you have to live up to the expectations your employer has.


And you know what is the most important thing your employer will want to see? Will want to be sure that you take full responsibility for the quality of your work, you are a professional and have work ethic.


You need to understand that when you look at your work, you look in the mirror. If your work is poor, you will be seen as a poor worker.



Be sure that first of all, you like what you see because, in the end, you are working for your future and not for the future of the company.

If you realize that, you will be able to see what you really are - a service provider.


Don’t believe me? Let me explain it so you will. When you’re working for a company they are paying you for doing a job for them. That means that you are selling your service to them in the same way they are selling their services to their clients. See where I am going with this?


The only difference between you and the company paying you is the kind of service you are providing.


So, I suggest you provide the service of quality just as good as you expect to receive if you were the one paying for it.


This being said, be as professional as possible. Yes, this includes talking and behaving respectfully. You can learn more about the tips and tricks about being a professional labourer with this article here.


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THE LEARNING STAGE


So, you have just started this new job.

Is that all? Nope.


There are still many things to be learned. Even if you already have the skills to do the job, you will still have to learn about how your new company wants the job to be done, things like procedures to follow and people to listen.


Make sure you’re open to learning. If you already know stuff, good for you, but be humble about it. The time to make suggestions may come later. However, you need to become a trustworthy member of the team and as much as it hurts you, that is not right at the beginning of your employment.


You might wonder how long is the learning stage.


Well, it is my true belief that we never stop learning. However, you can consider you "ready" when you know enough to execute your task perfectly without ever feeling lost or having to ask any questions.


Of course, this cannot be done overnight. It may take a few months to a year, depending on how complex is the job you’re executing.


Let me give you an example from my personal experience. Some time ago, I used to work for a bulk excavation company as an excavator operator. I only was with the company for one month as a subcontractor.



The job was easy to understand, so my bet is that I could have turned into a professional bulk excavator if I were to do it for 3-4 months.


On the other hand, I also provided my services for a screw piling company. In this case, the process I had to learn was way harder because it involved many variables that could only be fully understood by having experience. Truth be told, I needed about a year to start being comfortable with the aspects regarding it.


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ENTER THE EXCEEDING STAGE


Let me give you a small tip here. After working longer for a company, you start to know all about it. You learn their demands but also what they are lacking and therefore you will understand what you can do to improve their lacking.


And that’s where the exceeding stage starts.


Remember this: all of your employer’s problems are your own opportunities to grow. So, I suggest you start to carefully observe the processes of your company.


Understand what they want and desperately need. Learn how to offer them a better solution for their problems and show yourself available to be part of it.


Trust me, that’s the best way to start planning your future is within the company you’re working for.


You are probably tired by my own examples, but as I promised I will only tell you the truth and will speak from experience, So, when I got to Australia, I was working for labour-hire companies. I remember asking one of my allocators what ticket I should get in order to be employed every day. The answer was simple. I was advised to go with VOC for Excavator.


I didn’t take action on the spot and now if I look back I can tell that he was right. Only 2 years later I became a full-time excavator operator and realised that following his advice was the best thing to do (for me).


I am not saying you should become and operator, but you should definitely keep learning and striving in any way you can, regardless if that means acquiring a special licence, doing TAFE, online learning, etc.

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WHEN THE EMPLOYER DOESN'T SEE YOU


More often than not, if you’re a field worker in the construction industry the person who hired you does not see you at work.


Sometimes that person is the project manager, working from the office, other times it is the allocator, like in a labour-hire company.



You cannot overlook this fact and you should act on it. So, what is the best approach?


Talk to your boss. Ask him what he expects and learn what he wants. Tell him that you want to know would be, in his opinion, a job well done. However, you don’t just have to look interested. You have to be interested.


Besides that, remember to always share what you’ve done and achieved. It may sound like I am telling you to brag about your achievements but that is definitely not the case.


As an employer, I can tell you that not seeing what is being done out on-site can be frustrating. Sharing what you’re doing makes the person paying your salary to be more confident about your expertise and commitment to delivering a good service.


When you’re working for a labour-hire, you are not working directly for your employer, but in fact, you’re working for your client’s employer. This is why you should always talk with your allocator and ask him what sort of skills are in demand or what types of tickets you can get in order to improve your paycheck. You may get good insight.


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ASK FOR FEEDBACK


As you can imagine, your job will always be seen or at least judged by someone. It is either your direct employer, supervisor or your company’s client. Therefore, you need to make sure you humbly ask for feedback in order to improve your skills.


Never forget that feedback is the best perspective you can get on your own work.

I’ve worked for a few labour-hire companies in my life. As you can imagine, I was sent to multiple job sites and therefore I had to work for different companies. So, naturally, it was difficult for me to show my actual employer (the labour-hire allocator) that I was a good worker.


As a solution, I’ve started asking each day’s supervisors to forward my feedback to my allocator, since that was the only way he was to know that I was working well.


Of course, I had to work hard to get good feedbacks.


Luckily for me, most of the time they’ve agreed and that gave me more job opportunities later on.

GET GOING


What you have read till now was the easy part. Truth is that this is where things usually go sideways.


Never forget that you’re in for the long run. Therefore, if you want to grow, you will need to frequently meditate if you’re actually taking your life in the right direction. It really doesn’t matter what your goals are, as long as you’re working towards them.


Don’t let yourself get too comfortable about your position, nor be afraid of change. That is not a good way to succeed.


A secret to be successful is not to achieve it quickly, but in fact, you have to always work towards your goal at a steady pace (If you don't do anything, your situation will never change).


Unfortunately, you’re not getting any younger and the older you get the harder it will be to learn new skills and prove yourself worthy.


Even though it might sound harsh for me to say it, you must keep your career moving forward. Otherwise, you will slowly fall behind. Besides that, new challenges are always good to keep the blood running.


Ready for another piece of truth? One day, you may have to leave the company you work for. Even if you can’t see it now, things can change and you have to be ready to move on.


Even now, this thought still gives me the chills. I am not sure if it is the side of me that is always scared of looking for new jobs or is the labour-hire-owner part of me that doesn’t want to lose good workers.


However, I am aware of this situation and I know it is necessary sometimes. So, you should be too.


As a worker, I can safely say that your duty is to do what pays-off the most, regardless if we are talking about more money, more free time, joy or whatever you’re seeking for.


As an employer I can say that if the company you’re working for really couldn’t find any way to support your development, nor brings you any joy or sense of belonging, it's only fair for you to leave.


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RESEARCH THE MARKET


Learn what the market needs and be ready to offer just that. For example, start to find out what kind of trades are needed out there.


I remember how, before going to get my excavator ticket, I made online research to see how long it would take to become a good operator and how much I would get paid.


After that, I’ve called a few employers and asked them what would be the requirements to get an operator's job. Only then I was able to conclude that getting the ticket was a good profitable option.


This being said, I suggest you do the same. Research the market to find things that are needed and find out what you could do to satisfy its needs.


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RESEARCH WITHIN

Now that you have some options, look within and ask yourself the question “what would I like to do?”


I chose becoming an excavator operator because the idea of controlling the big machines was exciting for me, but you might not think the same.

So, go through your options and think about what is nice about each one of them. Later choose the one that you like the most.


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HAVE A CAREER PLAN


Don’t be afraid to show that you are supportive. It will be appreciated by the people that you work for.



Along the way, I often hassled my employers, forcing them to tell me what to do to improve my career. I pushed them to share their knowledge and think of ways I could help them and their company. I let them know that I want to assist in delivering the project faster or save more money.


One thing to remember is: You are not getting any younger. If you're not planning for the future yey. start as soon as possible.

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BE PRESENT BUT NOT PUSHY


This may play sideways for me, but is a necessary evil I have to take.


This being said, remember that your career is in YOUR hands and in your hand only. It is not someone else's responsibility to make it true. It's only yours.


As a worker, I know that employers may get caught up in other things and forget about what is your career plan and what are your personal goals.


As an employer, I can definitely support this fact. Unfortunately, it happens even to the best of us and it is not because we don’t care.


I cannot say the “pushiness” came easy for me. Calling my supervisors and asking what I should do next to get promoted or make more money almost always felt like I was interrupting them.


Moreso, asking them to think of something that was not of their interest never felt natural. It was like getting them to negotiate a deal that was already good for them.


However, it's a known fact that:

Your success is directly dependent of how many uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have

I’ve asked and asked until ideas of how to grow came out. It was good for me and for the company since they made more money with my growth too.



THINGS TO DO ALONG THE WAY


This should go without saying, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. So never forget to be respectful to your clients, coworkers, and your employer.


Working in construction tends to be hard and it can push one’s buttons. Not everyone can handle bad situations keeping respect and finesse. But you have to remember that a bad attitude will only work against you.


For some reason, some workers think that being grumpy, act annoyed and yell bad names will make people respect them. I don’t know why this happens but it does. The truth is that in fact, it only makes other workers afraid of them (at best) and despise them (at worst).


Now, if I ask you to think of good leaders and coworkers you had in your past, people that you look up to and can be considered an example, can you recall them being gentle or ignorant?


Treating people with respect is the only thing that gives you grounds to demand respect back. And having people on your side is your best chance to improve your career.


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ALWAYS BE SAFE AND HEALTHY


Imagine a very hot afternoon when you are just about to go home. That’s when you get reckless, am I right?


Let me tell you that I have witnessed an event that happened in the exact same scenario, an event that ended with one of my colleagues losing a finger.


So, along the years I learned many things but one always stays with me and that is:

Stupid things happen quickly.

I’ve been around enough to see a bunch of guys losing their fingers, scratching themselves on rusty sharp metal, breaking ribs and all sorts of slips, trips and falls.


Every event has one thing in common every time it happened quickly and it was because of stupid behavior.


“You’re no good if you’re dead”.


These were one of my supervisor’s words that I will never forget. We were discussing whether I should stand near the excavator where he could hear me or far away from where it was safe. That was his answer.


So, this time I don’t suggest to you, but I beg you to BE SAFE. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a hurry or the day is nearly over. Always stay safe.


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FOLLOW THE COMPANY'S PROCEDURES

Every company has its procedures and of course, Spades is one of them. For example, our timesheets are to be signed by the supervisors and sent to us on every weekend.


But we are not an exception. Whatever company you will work for will have procedures similar to ours. Some clients require a pre-start meeting for every job, some require them every day, while others require their workers to write reports and do checklists.


This being said, follow the procedures.

All companies value the workers who obey them. The procedures exist for a reason and you following them causes less stress. To my boys reading: Send your time sheets on time please.


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WORK HARD, BE HUMBLE, HAVE A WORK ETHIC

These three things make a good construction worker.


Like I said at the beginning of this article, there are plenty of bad days and I lived through many of them.


Many days I felt tired due to lack of sleep. Didn’t feel like I was able to make good decisions on site or simply just made what I judged to be stupid mistakes.


Among them I can remember a few such as showing up at the wrong address, bogged trucks and the worst of all, sliding a 7 tons excavator down a creek. Yes, that cost a lot for the company.


These mistakes made me feel bad about myself and the company.

Most of the time I didn’t see myself as a good construction worker due to a simple lack of parameters to judge what is a good one after all.


Today, having a broader view of the industry and being able to be close to client’s and to many construction workers from all sorts of skill levels, I see that things are simpler than what I’ve considered them to be in the beginning.


Truth is that everyone makes mistakes of all sorts and most of the time they are indeed due to lack of experience and not stupidity.


It is and has always been, about working hard, being humble and having a good work ethic.


Everything else comes into place naturally and in time. It can turn out a little fast if you push yourself to learn and have some negotiation skills. So do your best, every day, be smart about it and your success will be a matter of keep going and trying.


LAST THOUGHTS


I know that this article might appear to be longer than your average read, but as you could see and I hope you realised it was up to the point.


More so, I hope that you find it helpful and enlightening. In the end, being a good construction worker or any worker for that matter starts with you being a good human being. You can have all the talent in the world. If you don’t treat yourself and people around you with respect, you will never succeed in what you want to do.

Now that you’ve got to the end, here's a simple home work: Start reflecting on what you see yourself doing in the future - and ask your boss what you should do to get there. It is all about baby steps and never forget about your dream goal. You and only you can make it happen. Hopefully, we've got you inspired and ready to go. Learn the specifics of how to be an exceptional labourer here and learn the specifics about how to climb the ranks and make more money in the construction industry here.



Spades is a Labour Hire company based in Sydney. We are proud of offering skilled, competent workers for fair prices - while making the hiring process as easy as possible. Learn more about our company by clicking here.


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JOHN MACEDO

Founder and Director.
I believe together we can create a "people first"

Australian Construction Industry 

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