As I prepare to graduate college this spring and begin a career in construction management, I’m at a good point to look forward to my career pathway and to also reflect back on my education. I’ve been told that employers seek new hires that are quick to learn, good communicators, have good time and project management skills, are good with people, and are self-starters who don’t need to be micromanaged in order to be productive.
I was always a decent student, but I believe what made me stand out was my ability to communicate and to carry out work. These are soft skills that directly relate to everyday life. I was taught these skills from a young age. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my parents were teaching me to respect others, be mindful of people, communicate, and be disciplined and have a good work ethic amongst other things. I was homeschooled by my mom, and my dad was my high-school carpentry instructor. This situation is probably a little unusual, but I was regularly challenged in both my education and hands-on technical skills through the application of lessons that complimented each other.
It is very difficult to fake soft skills. For college students and new hires, these skills need to become ingrained in us whether at school, on the job or in everyday life. The only way to gain and master these skills is practice over time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a quality skilled tradesperson.
When I look back to where soft skills were instrumental in my life, I see the importance of self-growth. In school and at work, I was often given a lesson or a task that came with little guidance. It was important for me to learn to take those activities and be able to move forward with them. Finding motivation was sometimes hard, but this led me to build self-discipline and develop critical thinking. I learned to be resourceful and how to ask for help, more information or guidance. I studied how others completed a task before me, and learned from that. And, I tried to find the lesson or gem of truth in those difficult moments so I could grow. Learning and practicing these lessons again and again allowed me to build a strong foundation of personal skills that will assist in fostering my future growth on the job.
I have found that my ability to be persistent is a game changer in developing opportunities for my future. I established good daily habits, discipline and a work ethic for my schooling and on the job, even when it wasn’t fun and I couldn’t see immediate personal gain. One example of discipline and persistent work ethic paying off is when I was in SkillsUSA during high school and was fortunate enough to compete in Carpentry at the 2013 SkillsUSA Championships. Winning a national gold medal was an honor, but networking with the industry experts on site was even more valuable — and that experience eventually led to an internship and then a full-time job offer.
When thinking about soft-skills and college, I remember calling my mom my freshmen year at The Ohio State University. I was uncomfortable, it was hard to see the benefit of college, and I wished I were back home, building houses and earning money. I remember telling her that college is expensive, it was a lot of work and I wasn’t sure it was the right path for me.
Like any great mom, she reminded me of my work ethic and the importance of these uncomfortable situations in my growth as a young man. Needless to say, she was right. Four years later, working hard and being engaged with my classes has paid off. I have wonderful peer and teacher relationships, I have mentors, and I have grown in tremendous ways. Being disciplined allowed me to do well academically. I received an award a few weeks ago for being in the top five academically out of the fourth-year students in the College of Foods, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at OSU. When I started college, being at the top of my class wasn’t my goal. Through several years of studying and effort, here I am, and it is a proud moment.
I believe better communication is the key soft skill needed in the construction industry. Good communication, when speaking to others or in writing, means that things get done correctly and that everyone is on the same page. Being a student and a college intern, sometimes my elders on job sites might have assumed the worst. But as we worked together, they saw that I could communicate, I knew what needed to be done, I could take direction and I worked hard. We quickly gained mutual respect.
Simple things have set me apart, such as looking other people in the eye, extending a firm handshake and being confident in what I do know without being arrogant. I feel these basic skills can really change another person’s perspective on the next generation. Once my supervisors find out how much I respect them, they reciprocate without hesitation. They even have my back. Sometimes it feels like I have a bunch of dads in the field, and I really like that and appreciate it.
Looking forward, my goal is to continue to grow and learn. This will allow for success and, hopefully, other opportunities. I will continue to work on my communication and teamwork and I hope someday to even help grow the next generation of leaders in the construction industry. I am grateful for people like Boyd Worsham of The Haskell Co. who saw potential in me and who have taken the time to help me shape a great start to my career. I’d love to follow in their footsteps and pay it forward one day.


This month, our blog series “Soft Skills: The Other Side of Construction,” explored the importance of basic foundation skills including communication, teamwork and leadership. Check back next week for a new theme and fresh industry insight!

5 comments

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  1. Michael W. Brown | May 02, 2017

    Great article Garrett; and a great testimony to what good parenting, rigorous schooling, and sound mentors can have on young hard-working and persistent students.  It was a pleasure teaching you structures and having you as a student, and I hope that you continue to grow and succeed throughout your life!  Congratulations on your graduation from Ohio State.

    Michael W. Brown, PE,  Construction Systems Management Instructor, The Ohio State University

  2. Anastasia Britt, Professional Development Instructor, Ohio State University | May 02, 2017
    Garrett,  I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know you during your coursework at Ohio State. I look forward to seeing the positive impact you will make during your career. Congratulations and best wishes! 
  3. W. Mac Ware | May 02, 2017

    Garrett, you were a pleasure to have in the class room, I have no doubt that you will succeed in life.

    W. Mac Ware, Construction Management Instructor, The Ohio State University.

  4. Shelly Coates | Apr 27, 2017

    Garrett, thanks for sharing your experience -keep it up, Shelly Coates, SkillsUSA

  5. Tim Lawrence | Apr 27, 2017

    Very proud of you Garrett!

    Tim Lawrence, Executive Director, SkillsUSA

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    About NCCER

    NCCER develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula and assessments with portable credentials. These credentials are tracked through NCCER’s National Registry which allows organizations and companies to track the qualifications of their craft professionals and/or check the qualifications of possible new hires. The National Registry also assists craft professionals by maintaining their records in a secure database.