Coming Out Smarter, Stronger, and More Valuable After the Surveying Slowdown is Over
Unprecedented times have the world economy racing toward a potential recession and possibly taking the land surveying profession with it. In many parts of the United States surveying is at a near standstill with the shutdown of non-essential businesses due to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. While exemptions for surveyors vary by state and locality, the overall impacts to the profession are being felt.
What that means for land surveyors, both technicians and licensed professionals, is potential layoffs, furloughs, and time not working.
This is not the first time land surveying has suffered a quick downturn and it will certainly not be the last. So in this downtime, we need to look to the future and prepare for the time when we have more work than we can complete, have bigger surveying problems that we currently know how to solve, and our backlogged work is plump.
Preparing for the coming boom of surveying work is difficult to wrap your mind around right now since you are probably focused on your immediate needs. But if you do not prepare yourself for the certain upturn in the economy, you will be left behind as the well-prepared land surveyors reap the benefits.
How do you get smarter, stronger, and more valuable as an employee while you have the time? I have some fantastic suggestions.
Read a Chapter of a Book – or the Whole Thing
Someone once said, “you will be the same person 10 years from now except for the people you meet and the books you read.” If you are trapped inside your house, and not meeting people over the next few weeks, then you better get reading!
My first thoughts for great reads are Clark on Surveying, Brown’s Boundary, or Evidence & Procedure. These texts deal with higher-level concepts that you will likely encounter in the field. But other titles such as Elementary Surveying, Adjustment Computations, and Elements of Photogrammetry are also fantastic choices since they bring us out of our element and into topics that are useful but not commonly encountered.
Don’t forget that the majority of complaints against land surveyors are not about the survey itself, but are concerned with land surveying business practices and failure to communicate with clients. Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership, Good to Great by Jim Collins, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Deep Work by Cal Newport, and the Infinite Game by Simon Sinek are books that have helped me move my business forward by leaps and bounds.
Catch Up on The Trade Journals Sitting Around
Being a man of varied interests, I subscribe to many trade journals and print magazines like xyHt, American Surveyor, and Point of Beginning. Surveying is evolving, and interfacing more with other professions and industries; reading about the rise of digital construction and other technologies; GPS World, Geospatial World, Informed Infrastructure, GoGeomatics, Arc News… these are just a few to consider. They are all fantastic land surveying trade journals with nuggets of very useful information in their pages. Read them while you have time.
Additionally, staying current with your non-work-related interests will keep you just as entertained and give your mind a break from the usual hustle-and-bustle of 9-to-5 land surveying related work. For me, fly tying, fly-fishing, general aviation airplanes, and many other magazine topics litter my coffee table. Taking time to enjoy your hobbies is no crime – the world will still be there when you get back from a half-day fishing trip or a fly-in to the airport in the next county.
Complete an Online Surveyor Continuing Education Course
If you are a professional land surveyor, it is likely probable that you owe the state board between 12 and 30 CEUs this year. If you are a land surveying technician, then you should absolutely still be attending classes because we all “learn more to earn more.” No matter your licensing status, there are a plethora of online resources to keep you current. Some of my favorite are:
- Red Vector, McKissock, or Geo-Learn: Get Your CEUs for the Year. Each of these services offers a different type of CEU topic, different authors, and different learning formats. RedVector has a lot of big-name authors like Dave Gibson and Don Wilson, but many of the years are years or a decade old. McKissock is the bargain of the bunch with interesting courses and a beautiful website. Geo-Learn in my opinion is the best because the courses are newer, the authors are current surveying celebrities like Gary Kent and Dave Doyle, and the exams are quite difficult.
- Drone Launch Academy or Drone Pilot Ground School: Drones and UAS are the future of land surveying. Pipeline inspections, aerial photos to overlay on boundary surveys, hyperspectral and LiDAR imaging can all be done with drones on small project sites. Even if your company or agency is not currently using UAS technology, is there really any downside to becoming FAA certificated to fly? It only takes a flight review every 24 months to keep the license current. Maybe you can even become the “drone guy” or “drone girl” in your office and become that much more valuable.
- Skill Share or Udemy: Life skills like personal finance, small business management, goal setting, and anything else self-improvement related are hosted on these two websites. Buy an annual subscription for almost nothing and learn a dozen new skills before the surveying projects start again. Want it for free? Check out the YouTube #withme series to learn cooking, mediation, and everything else in between.
Get Licensed – or Get Licensed in Another State
There is no denying that land surveyors who are licensed make more money and have more job security than their para-professional (technician) brethren. A surveying technician will normally get an average pay level ranging from $24,000 to $36,000, depending on their level of education (Salary.com), while a mid-career professional land surveyor with five to nine years of experience earns an average total compensation of $67,303 (payscale.com). Get licensed. You won’t regret it.
Even if you are currently licensed, why don’t you get licensed in surrounding states? For example, many Oklahoma and Louisiana surveyors have come to me for help becoming licensed in Texas. Once they realize that Texas surveyors make so much more money, they sometimes move to the Lone Star state.
No matter where you practice, having additional licenses cannot hurt your career. If you have time to do all the paperwork, start today, take your exam when the quarantine is over, and give yourself a talking point for the next annual review to argue for a salary increase.
If you are considering getting your first license, or your 10th—and pardon plugging my own services 😉—schedule a free phone call with me to create a custom study plan.
And help others become better surveyors!
Do some virtual mentoring of new colleagues, or contact a surveying program and see if any of their students would like some mentoring.
Although the country is in some ways coming to a temporary halt, you should not. Our country, and land surveyors, remain resilient. Look at this time at home, or sheltered in the office, as a time of personal and professional growth. Keep your mind busy and continue to work on professional skills so you come out of the surveying business shutdown smarter, stronger, and more valuable.
Images via Creative Commons license: Joerge Royon and Herzi Pinki