Once in a lifetime: An open letter to the class of 2022

Morrissey Goodale reminds the next wave of professionals to not take these remarkable times for granted.

By Morrissey Goodale December 6, 2021
Courtesy: CFE Media & Technology

Dear Future Graduate:

What an amazing time this is for you to be graduating as an engineer, architect, or environmental professional in the United States.

Over the last three decades, A/E industry professionals have felt the public’s pain as infrastructure in the United States has deteriorated. The decline of the nation’s roads, bridges, water systems, and buildings was well documented by the American Society of Civil Engineers in their annual Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. But continued floundering by our political “leaders” over the years on this most important issue saw our nation cede competitive economic advantage to others.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA or the Infrastructure Bill) will provide for $1.2 trillion in infrastructure spending, $550 billion of which will be new federal spending to be allocated over the next five years. The massive investments included in this hard-fought compromise, from clean energy to broadband, will significantly reframe the future of infrastructure in the U.S.

The nation’s infrastructure is its operating system. And it is you, dear graduate, who will design and build our country’s new OS (or iOS, Windows, Android, or whatever you kids are using these days—hopefully not Meta).

You and your peers will get to work on those wonderful new projects that boomer, Gen-X, and millennial professionals have for years anticipated would be funded and built, only to be repeatedly disappointed when they got nixed. You will be the ones overhauling the nation’s transportation, water, and power infrastructure to foster national economic advantage and improve quality of life for generations to come. You will be the ones charged (pun intended) with the electrification and digitization of our future. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Older professionals will be assigned to “manage” you as you embark on your careers. But please realize that none of them have ever seen a time like this. They never graduated when the demand for design and environmental services so closely matched the available funding. They have no frame of reference with which to maximize this opportunity for their firm or for your career. Everyone—designers, managers, and firm leaders—will be learning how to adapt to this Golden Age of Infrastructure. So, work with them and help them be better managers. Your knowledge of how to apply technology likely already exceeds theirs (many of them are still paying for cable television if you can believe that!), so be kind to them as your career leapfrogs theirs.

Make no mistake about it—these are very different times for graduates. You’re being offered signing bonuses left and right straight out of college. (If you’re not, you’re talking with the wrong potential employer.) After less than one year in your first job, you’ll receive offers from competing A/E and environmental firms for 20% more than you’re making. At graduation and over the next five years, you’ll be recruited heavily by tech, life sciences, and fintech firms. These are heady times indeed.

Mind you, it hasn’t always been like this. It was not too long ago that unpaid internships for undergraduates were the norm. Now interns are making $30 per hour. Please realize that when you are negotiating your signing bonus that you are likely sitting across the table from a hiring manager (sorry, you’re likely on a Teams meeting with a hiring manager) who’s aghast that she is even offering a signing bonus to you! They were unheard of five years ago when she graduated.

Be aware of, and grateful for, the years of hard work and lobbying by ACECASCEAIA and others to secure this critical funding that provides you with so many opportunities as you graduate. You would do well to engage with these industry and professional organizations early and often on your professional journey.

If you would allow me to give you one piece of advice, it is this: Don’t wait to be “mentored.” Everyone in this industry is already overworked and maxed out. So, mentoring—for most of them—is low on their priority list. Instead, proactively seek out your mentor and learn from her.

Our country needs you more than you can imagine. Don’t let us down. (you won’t.) Don’t take these remarkable times for granted. (Some of you will.)


This article originally appeared on Morrissey Goodale’s websiteMorrissey Goodale is a CFE Media content partner.

Original content can be found at www.morrisseygoodale.com.