Use the downturn to become a star homebuilding employee

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Read how you can position yourself to keep your job while everyone else is being laid off.

April 01, 2008
Above and beyond

I received a call today from a young man we placed several years ago with a northeast home builder. I assumed he'd been cut in another round of layoffs and was calling to see if we could help. Instead, I learned that he was still employed and doing his best to keep it that way.

However, the reality of the current market conditions — coupled with his role as a land acquisition manager — left him concerned about his long-term prospects. The purpose of his call was to touch base in the event his situation took a turn for the worse next year.

We discussed what his options might look like if he found himself in the job market. We came to the conclusion he'd have a greater employment opportunities in the a commercial, retail or mixed-use sectors. In the meantime, though, I suggested he focus on enhancing his value with his present company by asking where and how he could help above and beyond his normal range of duties.

Some examples:

  • Volunteer to fill in as a host/greeter once or twice a month in the sales offices. Yes, that might even mean working a weekend here and there, but it would be a great way to gain exposure to other facets of the business and save the company the hostess expense to boot.
  • Make follow-up calls to everyone registered (but not sold to) in the past three years to see if they had purchased a home. If they haven't, update their information and pass it along to the sales manager for redirection to the sales staff. If they have bought, turn it into a market research call to learn where they bought, who they bought from and what drove their final decision. This is valuable information most builders have to pay someone for.
  • Offer to help solicit and analyze new bids from subcontractors and trades.

A more extreme avenue is to do the job of two people for the price of one. I know one person who holds the dual role of governmental affairs manager and director of marketing. He only gets paid for one role right now but sees that as a short-term tradeoff for job security.

The bottom line is, if you find yourself in a tenuous employment situation, try to make yourself as valuable to your employer as possible.

It might not stave off the inevitable but it certainly won't hurt your chances either — especially if it gets down to you and someone else with equal experience.

Besides, if you find yourself back in the job market, it will help to add a few bullet points about your experiences in other parts of the business. Who knows, you might even learn something new.

Author Information
Rodney Hall is a senior partner with The Talon Group, a leading executive search firm specializing in the real-estate development and home building industries.


Above and beyond

Volunteer as a host/greeter in the sales offices

Follow-up via phone to everyone registered but not sold to in the past three years.

Offer to help solicit and analyze new bids from subcontractors and trades.

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