It’s a rare opportunity to upgrade what you offer.

I believe we are now into our second year of the recession, depending on who you listen to. Had I realized this turndown in the building industry would last this long (and unfortunately, it’s going to last longer), I would have written this column sooner. Through my years of experience, and my penchant for changing jobs whether I need to or not, I realized that I’ve basically created a recession-proof job.


I make this statement based on my transition from HVAC design engineer to design-build engineer to mechanical contractor estimator to construction manager to facility support consultant to commissioning engineer to my current job as integrated project delivery facilitator.

Over the past 45 years, I’ve seen construction boom and then bust as energy conservation began to boom and then bust as new construction returned. I was a participant when the first energy crisis hit the industry in the 1970s, and it’s back again affecting us this time, with the worldwide economic crisis and of course the environmental crisis.

Along the way, I became relatively proficient in troubleshooting, based on my being in the right place at the right time to learn quality control procedures. Lean construction embraces these procedures today, adding to a recession-proof business. When infrastructure breaks down or systems don’t meet owner’s expectation, it does so without concern for the economic or environmental climate.

Unfortunately, many people I know have not had the good fortune to diversify their job skills and so, as this recession continues, many of them are out of work with little hope of getting back to work in the next six months, while others may face a similar fate in the next six months.


For those striving to beat the recession, my suggestion to them is use the time wisely and supplement your job search time with professional development time. Even for those who may be secure in their job, always look at where you will be in three to five years. Don’t let that time arrive and find you not prepared for unexpected change.

Here are some recession-beating activities to pursue, beginning with getting certified. I’m not a big fan of this concept, but it is a moneymaker for organizations that use their influence on building owners who will include special certification requirements when soliciting consulting services. Also, companies tout the number of employees who have been certified for this or for that when submitting company credentials for potential work.

A second activity is to learn another skill associated with your current job skills. Take an estimating course or project management course. You may even find these courses free online through a Google search. HVAC design engineers should be knowledgeable about O&M and energy engineering, and I know you can find free information on the Internet by simply doing a search. Diversity always provides you options in a downturn economy.

Take a communication class. There are a lot of very smart people who you wouldn’t want representing you to your client. Communication opens up doors to other opportunities and advancement. If you have taken presentation skill courses in the past, a refresher course will sharpen those skills. If you can’t communicate well, your job growth and security can be limited.

Sharpen your time management skills. One of the truly essential skills to job security to being able to maximize your time while delegating tasks to others. I always say to be the best you can be in your business you need to also be a moneymaking person too. If you can’t be profitable, it doesn’t matter how smart you are.

Begin to create checklists that you can use when you get back on the job. Checklists are a proven quality control tool, time management tool, and a great communication tool. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a 1,000 words” and a checklist does this. At job interviews, it wouldn’t hurt to show the interviewer how you will do your job as you pull out an organized binder with the tools of your trade, developed by you. Refer to my website at for sample checklists or again, simply Google “checklists” and begin building your business library.

Listen to free podcasts on the Internet. The Engineered Systems website at has several you can download, or do another Internet search for self-help audios and/or selectively go online and purchase pertinent business-related topics like public speaking, closing a sale, or time management, to mention three that I’ve invested in.

Next month, I’ll have some more recession-fighting tips, but while you have the time away from the day-to-day work schedule, take some extra time to enjoy your family and friends. It won’t be long before you’ll be busy working again.ES

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