Isn’t the Civil Engineering Stream a good career choice anymore?

Today, when India is celebrating Engineers’ Day, we as Civil Engineers have something additional to be proud of; that Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya was a Civil Engineer by profession. However, this fact apart, are we living in the right era to feel satisfied & worthy of being a Civil Engineer? Moreover, for the youngsters who are on the verge of choosing their career path, is it worthwhile to opt for the Civil Engineering Stream when what they see all around them is the Computer Science Graduates getting Campus Placements with hefty packages while the Civil Engineering Blocks of the Colleges/ Universities eagerly wait for Companies to visit for a Campus Drive?

As a CADD Centre Franchisee, I have been associated with Digital Skill Development within the Engineering Domain for the last nine years. During this period, we have been dealing with Engineers from the Civil, Mechanical & Electrical domains and also observing the Job scenario in the related sectors. However, as the subject matter of this article is Civil Engineering, let us stick to that for now. During these years I have seen young Civil Engineering Graduates either being without a job for years at a stretch or working on & off with various small organizations/ contractors for short periods & that too with meager remuneration (of course barring the pass-outs from the institutions like IITs, some NITs & the top rung Private Institutes). It’s quite common to find that a lot of young Civil Engineering professionals have totally switched careers and moved on to Class 3 or Class 2 non-technical Government jobs, Banking or Sales & Marketing unrelated to Civil Engineering like Byju’s, etc. But even they are quite small in numbers as everyone can’t qualify in the selection procedure for these jobs. The remaining have either started small-time retail businesses or switched on to careers related to low-level Deskwork (GIS/ CAD Drafting/ Call Centres/ Customer Service etc.) which do not offer long-term growth or a stable career path and also have a lot of competition. Sadly, the majority are plain simple unemployed and at a loss to understand what to do. Now the question is, what should the youngsters who have recently graduated do and whether the fresh inductees to Engineering education should even opt for the Civil Trade or simply stick to safer & proven branches like CS, IT or ECE, etc. Before we ponder over that, let us first have a look below at the brighter side and consider how & why Civil Engineering can still be a fulfilling & satisfying career option even in these seemingly uncertain circumstances.

1.           The size of the Pay Packet should not be the only deciding criterion for choosing a career path. One’s profession should be chosen while maintaining a balance between the individual’s passion, temperament, aptitude & remuneration. The Japanese concept of Ikigai may be the best tool to use while making this choice. Choose something which falls within the intersection of what you love or what fires you up, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. Imagine a person who loves being outdoors & feels suffocated in doing Deskwork being stuck with a CS Job sitting at his or her desk coding nonstop for hours. Would that person be happy & content even if he gets paid in bagfuls of Dollars? Would he be able to continue with that kind of work environment for years at a stretch? Wouldn’t his body become a host to diseases related to never-ending stress & frustration?

However, if you really love coding and working indoors or in a restricted environment, Software & CS domain might be the best suited for you and you will be earning a fortune at the same time as having fun.

2.           While most of the time you will find Civil Engineers complaining about having to spend a lot of their time at the Project Sites, ask them at the time of their retirement or the end of their career, they will be full of fond memories & anecdotes related to the Project locations they would have spent their time at. Their most close friendships & lifelong bonds would have developed over there and rather than missing the moments spent at the Head/ Corporate Office, a Civil Engineer will be nostalgic about his Project stints. Can you put a price tag on that? The only problem is that human beings, instead of living in the present and enjoying the moment, fret and fume about their current situation only to realize that the moments spent in challenging environments were the moments when they had truly lived

3.           Can anyone beat the feeling of satisfaction & fulfillment which a Civil Engineer achieves when the object of his efforts and labor comes to fruition?  The footfall of the first Customer in a newly constructed Hotel, the lighting of the first bulb when the turbine starts its trial run, the passing of the first vehicle over a newly constructed bridge, or a simple gleam in the customer’s eyes when you hand over the house keys to him; can these be substituted by anything else?

4.           While agreeing that  the entry-level salary of a Civil Engineer looks quite discouraging in comparison to what a Software Engineer commands, the gap can be bridged with time if one adopts the right strategies & makes the right choices along the career timeline

Now, coming to what should the youngsters do at the point they are right now?

If you are a fresher seeking entry into the Engineering domain:

A.           First of all, consider all the points mentioned hereabove before arriving at a decision

B.           If you don’t find yourself attracted to what Civil Engineering has to offer, do not, I repeat DO NOT opt for the same even if your father or someone else wants you to, maybe only for the reason that the said person was also a Civil Engineer (although he hated it all his life)

C.           Similarly, if you start feeling nauseated just at the thought of sitting within an enclosed cubicle coding, never go for the CS/ IT branches or something similar until you have a clear vision of slogging for a few years, earning enough to arrive at a feeling of security and then taking the plunge into something you love. But remember, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur

If you are someone who has already taken a plunge and are neck-deep into Civil Engineering:

A.           Brush up your skills: What you consider as Civil Engineering, is being practiced by every Tom, Dick & Harry; at least in India. Every second guy is a Civil Engineer, no matter if he uses the word “Lainter” for a Roof Slab. And the fact of the matter is, and that’s funny, that the majority would consider him/ her as more accurate in comparison to you, because, for ages, they have also come to understand that a Roof is not a Roof Slab but a “Lainter”. So, the only way out is beating them by learning the new-age skills, upgrading yourselves, adopting high-end technologies, and making them completely redundant

B.           Create a cult: Do you think coding is rocket Science? No; but it has acquired that status. If it was, Companies would not be hiring from across domains like Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Electrical Engineering & Instrumentation Engineering whenever they felt there was a dearth of talent available in the CS/ IT domain. You can do the same with Civil Engineering; focus on the latest innovations like BIM, Reverse Engineering & the like and very soon you will find that the “Lainter” crowd has been left behind. But for that to happen, you’ll have to make the benefits of these new-age innovations comprehensible to the common folk and the real end-users who have a stake in the process

C.           Love or Leave:  If you are there practicing Civil Engineering for the love of it, welcome, your success is guaranteed. However, if you still hate it and are there just because of other compulsions, peer pressure, or a lack of clarity, please take note; it would be better if you find what the domain of your passion is and try to synchronize it with your Civil Engineering Knowledge so that you may have the best of both worlds. Now that you are already into the Civil Engineering profession, it would be of no use if you abandon it altogether; better, club it with your passion and create a synergy. For example, if you love Sales, start selling within the Construction domain. You may start with Construction Equipment, Stone Crusher Plants, Building Material & related Software Applications. Similarly, if you feel more passionate about Digital Marketing, start high-end content marketing related to Construction Portals & related Industry segments. The only thing that could limit you would be your imagination.

D.           Create a powerful & impressive Portfolio: When employers look for experience, they are not only looking for a Certificate of Experience from a past employer. What they would logically prefer would be to see you have proof of the relevant skills. Nothing can be more convincing than a hands-on Portfolio, even more than an Experience Certificate

E.           Form a Professional Network: Okay, you have created a decent Portfolio of your works; but where are you going to showcase it? Here comes LinkedIn or any of the other similar Professional Networking Platforms. Those are the perfect platforms to display what you are proficient in. In addition, interact; react to posts, share your opinions (after sufficient research & previews) and be active as well as visible. Employers are looking for above-average employees as much as Employees are looking for good companies to work for

We can go on & on, but, the article is already lengthier than usual and I think we have enough to ponder upon. In case you feel there is something else that may be added, I welcome you all to respond in the comments section and I would love to incorporate your valuable thoughts & ideas in a future article. 

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