BCSP Viewpoints: Find a passion and keep growing – advice for young safety pros
Advice and perspective from the Board of Certified Safety Professionals
I honestly didn’t know I could have a career like this one.
I graduated from Western Carolina University with a degree in construction management and enrolled in graduate school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University before I ever learned that safety was a profession. But when I found it, the fit was just natural.
Success in any venture starts with loving what you do and having a drive or passion. I knew I wanted to be part of something bigger than me. To be a good safety professional, you need a strong desire to make an impact and help people. That’s what I enjoy doing.
As I started on this career journey, I quickly realized two things. First, you can’t learn everything in school. You must be able to strike a balance between your educational knowledge and your new experiences in the real world. Humbly listen to colleagues and understand that you don’t know what you don’t know. Active listening is a huge skill as a young person. You can learn a great deal from others’ perspectives. Sometimes those laborers in the field can teach you more than a textbook can.
Second, I realized I couldn’t fear failure. I can still recall mistakes I made during my first year on the job that made me a better person in the long run. Actually, some of my best successes came as a direct result of failing. It’s all about having the right mindset to use those failures as learning experiences. Just make sure you don’t repeat them.
As you go through this development stage and beyond, it’s incredibly valuable to have good mentors. I have been blessed with some great ones. My first employer was Mass Electric, a subsidiary of the Kiewit Corp., and its leaders really invested in their people. A high-level group of safety pros took me under their wings early on. They inspired me, and I wanted to be like them.
The mentorship process influenced me to go beyond my potential. This profession is a roller-coaster ride. Not every day is full of excitement, energy and satisfaction. It’s so valuable to have someone you can call. And don’t just limit yourself to people within your organization. Go outside your walls and find other pros you trust who can offer unique perspectives. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there waiting to be tapped.
It’s so important to have a growth mindset, continually be learning and get involved. Plug yourself into professional organizations. Attend conferences. Seek professional certifications.
As you grow and develop, certifications provide a stamp of approval that you know what you’re doing. They can be so beneficial, especially as a young person in a world of veterans. But at the heart of it all is that initial passion. That’s my message to young professionals. Find it, and everything else will flow from there. If there’s something you really enjoy, I can promise you there’s a full-time profession on that task.
Don’t let trials prevent you from seeing the big picture. Many people face challenges early in their careers and don’t know how to get to what’s next. Just take small steps. If you know safety is what you want to do, there are so many avenues. Sometimes it takes a little time. Take a small step each day, each week. Find what you love to do, and you can really start working toward that.
The Board of Certified Safety Professionals provides safety practitioners credentials they can achieve that demonstrate their value, advancing the careers of proven professionals, and protecting workplaces, communities and the environment. BCSP partners with Safety+Health to help certificants maintain certification via a monthly online quiz related to each issue of the magazine.
This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.
Over a little more than a decade, Anthony Dohmann has risen through the ranks to be safety director for three different organizations, including his current post with Paragon Safety Group. Dohmann began serving as chair of the Board of Certified Safety Professionals’ Emerging Professionals Committee in April. He holds CSP, ASP and CHST credentials, as well as OSHA 500 and 510 certifications.