Hired! Building for Success

Blueprint for job-search success in construction

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“The challenge is to find your niche,” said David Rosenof, chief operating officer and VP of Hunter Construction in Pompano Beach, Fla. “Three years ago, if you could fog a mirror, you could get a construction contract. Now it’s a little bit harder.”

Despite the odds, Hunter is rising to the challenge under Rosenof’s leadership as a successful construction firm in a cooling economic climate. Only a year ago, though, Rosenof’s future seemed less assured. Florida contractors started falling by the wayside as the national economy softened and many of the larger, more dynamic construction companies began the process of ‘rightsizing’ to cut staff.

The economic downturn was not lost on Rosenof as he began to weigh his options in December 2007. His position as the owner’s representative on a project overseeing the construction of two 26-story towers of luxury condominiums had a non-renewable end date. Rosenof decided he needed to ensure he would not join other construction industry veterans faced with limited job options in the wake of ever-increasing layoffs.

Rosenof said his job search required him to understand what was slowing his industry’s market and not to let fear distract him. “The thing that worked for me was patience,” he said. “There is a rule of thumb that for every $10,000 that you make, it takes a month to get a job. And that was about right for me. … And so having that thought in my mind, I didn’t panic. I just made sure I had plenty of time to find what I have found.”

A random online search led Rosenof to Ladders.com, where he joined UpLadder. “I think I just took a chance,” he recalled. “That is the best way to put it. I was debating between all those free [job-search] sites … and I figured I would just give it a shot.”

Rosenof admitted he was initially resistant to implementing some of the advice in his resume critique. “It went against everything I thought a resume was supposed to be, but I trusted [my critiquer] and did it. At least half of the recruiters I talked to said it was one of the better resumes that they had seen. So whatever she did worked.”

Opportunity in new niches
Rosenof said farewell to project-based work and stepped into the senior management role of COO for Hunter Construction, a comparatively small firm that (despite his added responsibilities) allowed him some new freedoms. Rosenof was now able to relish “the little $3 million or $5 million project: Get it done, get it in, get it out. And to be able to delegate a lot more tasks than I had before.”

The market for construction was still there to be tapped but – perhaps more successfully – on a smaller scale. In these budget-strapped times, inexpensive fast-food enterprises are booming while splashy, exclusive restaurants are feeling the pinch. By the same token, new construction on larger expansive projects was drying up, while niche areas in the industry continued to thrive. “I think that is part of the angst [in Florida]: there aren’t the $50 million to $100 million jobs lined up, one after another. Hunter Construction is a very small company and very adaptable to a lot of things, and there are still people doing $1 million additions, or half-a-million-dollar additions. If you do them right and you do them quickly, and do a good job, you can be pretty profitable.”

While many frustrated job seekers are jumping ship to other fields, the New Jersey-born exec knows that he has found his calling. “My first job in college was as a carpenter in Ohio,” Rosenof recalled. “My father was a truck driver in New York City. He was a blue-collar guy, [but] he made sure that all my brothers and sisters and I received an education.” Construction proved to be a field where Rosenof said “I could successfully combine the blue-collar background and work ethic while at the same time using my brain. Now I run construction instead of working it.”

A degree in construction management helped set him on the right path early. But when he was swinging a hammer at the age of 18, could he have predicted he’d be a COO someday? “I can’t tell you that I knew that,” he laughed. But now, having had to transform his skill set within an ever-changing industry pummeled by recent economic storms, David Rosenof is sure he has found his niche.