Ask a Recruiter: "I’ve worked in OSH posts in the service sector for 10 years but would like to shift to construction in the next two or three years. What can I do to make myself a credible candidate?”
I find many of the most successful and happiest candidates I work with are those who have practised health and safety in different industries. So the first comment I would make is – go for it.
However, moving sectors is not easy, particularly into construction where a quick read of most role adverts would stipulate “experience in construction or similar industry”. This is understandable, everyone is busy and most, but not all clients would prefer a candidate who comes from a similar business and can hit the ground running. But this move is not impossible, a further read of the same role adverts will also stipulate personality fit, energy and drive as critical.
Currently holding you back from moving into construction is lack of industry experience and (likely) industry specific qualifications. If you can close the gap as much as possible with these two and score 10/10 for energy, drive and personality fit you are most of the way there.
Specifically, I would suggest the following:
Unsurprisingly I would recommend you undertake the NEBOSH Construction Certificate. (I personally feel you will get more out of this if you were able to study it while working in construction but it is chicken and egg – you might not get into construction without it so you’ll need to take the plunge.)
Echoing the thoughts of Caroline Binns at Hays who answered a similar question for a candidate recently, I would recommend also looking internally and seeing what exposure to construction you can gain. No matter what it is try and get involved.
Try looking for a mentor in construction who has made the jump and drop them a line. In my experience health and safety professionals are generally good people and happy to lend a hand, particularly if you offer to pay for the coffee!
Finally, I would also immerse yourself in the unique aspects of health and safety in construction. If you can convey the information you learn at interview it will be proof of your interest. Study the top people in the industry, get to know the current key topics. For example, Heather Bryant (Balfour Beatty), Andy Brown & Martin Coyd (Mace), John Green (Laing O’Rourke), Clive Johnson (Land Securities), and Lawrence Waterman (Battersea Power Station development). The IOSH Construction group also holds regular events.
Above all I would suggest approaching the move with a positive attitude, you will have knock backs but I tend to find in life once you set a goal and work hard to make it happen the world conspires to assist and your big break might come when least expected.
James Irwin is a Director at Irwin & Stone, which recruits health, safety and sustainability professionals for permanent and temporary roles across the UK.
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