A Surveyor Looks at 40

This entry is part 2 of 13 in the series July 2018

Ask questions, seek advice, be a mentor, and set a great example as a leader in our profession.

After 20 or so years in the land surveying industry, I find myself smack dab in the middle of my lifelong career as a surveyor. I’m no longer floundering at the beginning, searching for my way, and I’m still a good ways (I hope) from the end.  

Have some people treated me poorly along the way? Yes. Have some people treated me incredibly well? Yes. Do I know for certain whether they were motivated by the fact that I was a woman for the poor treatment? No.  

The simple truth as I see it is everyone will be treated poorly at one time or another in their career, whether you’re a man or woman. My focus has been to perform my best and to not think about what number I am as far as man vs. woman in the room.  I strive to show up as my best self and leave other people’s behavior and motives to them.  

A bearing tree on a boundary retracement survey bordering the Gila National Forest near Apache Creek, New Mexico in 2008.

My sisters and I were encouraged to always represent ourselves in such a manner that our family would be proud. If I could not or would not be proud of my behavior, that was totally on me and my conscience. Others also have to bear the weight of their treatment of their fellow man, and it has never been my goal to understand their motives. 

The land surveying industry as a whole has been very good to me, though. I say to those younger folks starting their career to have your goals always in mind.  Know your worth.  Ask for what you know you can get paid, stick to your guns, show up early, have a fantastic attitude, and be willing to clean out work trucks, stock the surveying supply shelves, answer phones, and fill in and help out wherever and whenever you can.  Make yourself a valuable asset to the team. This will all pay off in the long run, and your reputation will precede you wherever you go.  

There will be bad bosses who seem to have it out for you personally. Never take the criticism personally. You can choose to see these as learning opportunities for self-improvement, and if the attack seems personal, brush it off and carry on.  

You are in demand. You can steer your future in the direction that you want to head, and there are wonderful people out there who will value your unique skills and talents because great surveying technicians are hard to come by.  You are a valuable asset, and your listening skills, willingness to learn, and determination to complete difficult tasks will pay dividends.   

The most important thing I learned from my time as a land surveyor in training, post-college, was to be accountable for my mistakes. Always admit to yourself, your peers, and your bosses when you make a mistake and be willing to fix it. People can live and work with righting mistakes or poor choices; however, hiding or covering up errors, mistakes, blunders, and/or poor workmanship will always haunt you in the land surveying industry. It will be noticed and found out. The quicker you own up to those oversights and begin the work of fixing them, the better it is for everyone.  

Find someone to mentor. This is key to continuing to be a vital professional. You will learn more from your role as a mentor than they will learn from you. The young people will keep you fresh and on the cutting edge of technology.  They will teach you new tricks and faster ways to accomplish tasks and will energize your work environment.  

Performing mining claim retracement surveys near a Cobre open pit mine in New Mexico in 2011.

The most important thing I learned from my first intern was to find and focus on the solution. Always. Anyone can complain and make a fantastic list of all the reasons a project or job isn’t working, but the good employees—the valuable ones—make an even better list of the possible solutions. Solutions are key to solving difficult problems, gaining people’s confidence and trust, and motivating people.  

Also, volunteer your time to your profession. This doesn’t mean that you have to be the president of every group and the loudest voice in the room. This means always show up as a surveyor, though. Even if it is through a church group or a volunteer organization, your skills are needed and valuable.

Tell people who you are and what you do. Take the time to correct them and explain what and who a true “professional land surveyor” is. 

Finally, go for walks away from your computer, your office, and your immediate co-workers. Find peers in other groups whom you can call. Seek other professionals whom you respect and can confide in, who can offer you sound advice.  

This is the gratifying part where the true work is done and where we will leave our mark on the world.  

Don’t waste this time or your energy by floundering.  Ask questions, seek advice, be a mentor, and set a great example as a leader in our profession. 

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