As more and more facilities work has been outsourced to third-party service providers and building management firms, several career opportunities have followed. Once thought of as a threat, outsourcing actually presents a throng of possibilities.
Many graduates of the 30 IFMA-accredited facilities management programs at 27
colleges and universities worldwide are taking entry-level jobs at third parties such as
Aramark, Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), and Sodexo. But seasoned professionals are also
migrating to these firms to explore managerial and consultative roles.
Find out how a position at an outside firm can fit into your facilities career.
Recruiting Reels in Talent
There are many ways a facilities professional can wind up at a building management firm. The ever-increasing way is by interning at one before hitting the real world job market.
“We target specific colleges that offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in facilities management. We give formal internships and visit campuses to recruit students directly,” explains Scott Sherman, director of talent acquisition at Sodexo. “The programs haven’t been around long, but we already have alumni from schools like Brigham Young and Georgia Tech who are now senior management.”
Through third-party firms, students attend events like IFMA World Workplace and BOMA Every Building Conference and Expo. “Last year, we hosted a group of 15 or 20 students at IFMA and I’ve stayed in touch with many of them,” explains Roger Peterson, senior vice president of business and industry facilities services at Aramark. “Young talent brings in the book knowledge and some hands-on experience. They also have fresh ideas and are well-versed in areas like sustainability
because of work at their campuses.”
Another avenue that provides some technical background with leadership skills is the military, adds Peterson.
“Think about an aircraft carrier. If its engine stops working, someone has to be able to fix that, and that’s the type of person I want repairing systems at my mission critical data center,” he explains. “If you put a person who commanded up to 100 people in charge of a 10-person facilities team, you can have confidence in their ability.”
Online platforms also enable firms to identify new and seasoned facilities professionals. Job boards on the IFMA and BOMA websites are helpful, as are job sites like Monster and CareerBuilder, Peterson says.
“Social media is an important mechanism for going after millennials,” adds Chris Browne, international director and chief operating officer of integrated facilities management at JLL. “LinkedIn is the biggest one, but we even use Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, to some extent. We want to go to the places where young talent is living and operating.”
But young professionals aren’t the only ones being headhunted. Mid- and top-tier FMs can network with firms at industry expos and online. And perhaps the most surprising source of new and seasoned talent is from the client outsourcing its facilities tasks, adds Browne.
“One of the most prime areas for acquiring talent is from the client. The staff already knows the portfolio and business,” he says. “The benefit is keeping a continuity of knowledge.”
So if you feel threatened by the possibility of outsourcing, don’t be.
“Existing personnel can transition to the outsourced firm,” says Stormy Friday, president of FM consulting firm The Friday Group. “It provides a tremendous opportunity for a change or challenge. It’s the chance to explore a new path and work with multiple clients rather than just one organization.”
Career Paths Are Vast
If you’re at a self-operated facility on a team of just a handful of individuals, you may feel stuck or restless in your current role.
“Career paths can be a bit limiting in the corporate world, but that depends upon your skill set and willingness to try new horizons. If you’re seen solely as the ‘facilities guy,’ that may be true,” explains a corporate facility manager. “If you’re seen as a smart, innovative person who is willing to learn, that can be a different story.”
A third-party organization may provide a more clearly defined ladder to climb.
At the entry level, you might be given one part of the building to look after, perhaps just the HVAC system or a certain part of the campus, Sherman says. As you climb, the responsibilities could expand to monitoring lighting and energy use.
“The steps you take revolve around different levels of responsibility and technical expertise,” says Sherman. “You can dive into the technical side and become a subject matter expert or an engineering director, or you can climb the leadership side and begin managing more sites or people.”
Successful development requires putting the two together.
“As you move up, you need to develop more core competencies,” Peterson explains. “Have a technical knowledge foundation and know how the facility and systems run. Then you grow and build the leadership and strategic component. You support the client’s greater goals by supporting the facility. It retains talent, creates a productive environment, and contributes to the bottom line.”
From the position of directing an entire facility, the scope widens to managing multiple sites.
“Directors can eventually manage an entire portfolio,” Browne says. “Facilities professionals that prove adept at the business side of things can even go beyond FM and move into account management. That’s really taking the next step.”
Skills and Strategies for Advancement
Reaching the pinnacle requires aligning your goals with the client’s.
“If I look at my facilities responsibilities only as keeping the place clean and making sure the heating works, then I become a cost center,” Peterson says. “But if I take a strategic perspective and add value to the operation, that’s a different and critical skill.”
An executive-level facilities professional knows the client’s master plan and has discussions about capital planning and what long-term projects to implement. “It’s all about how the built environment impacts what the client is trying to achieve and how can we enhance that,” explains Sherman.
Training and certification can help you reach the top, says Michael Feldman, second vice chair of the IFMA board of directors and former deputy executive director of facilities management at L.A. World Airports.
“The facility management professional (FMP) is the core credential, and the certified facility manager (CFM) is the flagship,” he explains. “That’s where the business strategy comes in. What are the expectations and what are your resources for meeting those? It sounds easy but it’s very difficult to establish.”
At the executive level, everybody knows what is expected and they’re working toward the same outcome, Browne says. You should be thinking big picture. When you have an event, you’ll have confidence it will be resolved in a timely manner, whether by an internal or external resource.
“The end user won’t know the difference,” Feldman says. “That’s your enlightenment state. It says that you’ve got everything dialed in correctly.”
Chris Curtland is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.