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Old 09-05-2009, 07:20 PM   #1
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Questions about future employment


Hey guys, I'm attending school right now to complete an associate's degree in building construction. I don't graduate until September 2010.

I like carpentry and everything about it, but when school is almost finished I need to find an internship with a company to complete my hours for school. I know its hard to find a company that does it all from frame to finish considering so many companies specialize in certain jobs. I would love to find a remodeling company because I want to learn everything I can.

I have a class next quarter and we actually have to contact companies to find an internship. You guys have any ideas on what I should say to a company when I talk about a possible internship with them turning into a full time career if they like me? I'm stumped on what I would start to say.

I also was wondering where I should look for a job. I know its early but that's how I am, I know the future comes up fast. If I went up to a GC myself and asked him about it you think he would listen or nudge it off?; because there's a GC around my street that lives here and I wouldn't mind talking to him.

Sorry if its a dumb question, I just figured this is a perfect site to ask considering the amount of intelligence and professionalism on this site.

Thanks guys for even reading all of that, any ideas are good ideas.

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Old 09-05-2009, 09:18 PM   #2
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I moved this to the off-topic section since it isn't related to DIY work.

Please take no offense from what I'm going to say...I don't know you or anything about you so I'm going to try to cover a lot here.

I have a bachelors degree in construction management and did the job search thing back when construction was booming in the late 90's. I won't blow sunshine you know where and tell you it is a good time to be getting out of school and going into the construction business. The biggest and best commercial and residential contractors around are laying off very qualified folks and the construction job market is absolutely saturated.

Do you want to do field supervisory work or project management? They're two very different career tracks in commercial construction, and you need to make that decision before you hit the job market.

There are lots of laid off experienced folks and lots of new kids straight out of school that don't really know much, and both groups are looking for the same jobs you are. You have to set yourself apart. I can 100% guarantee you that the A-#1 way to do that is by getting experience. Not one summer's worth of experience...Not enough. You need to have worked for contractors each summer of college in positions of increasing responsibility each time. Chucking boards on a framing crew doesn't set you apart. Being involved in projects that you can talk about and interest prospective employers with will set you apart, at least from the guys and gals in your age group. Get involved in organizations on campus and the community, hopefully and especially those that are related to your field of study. Do big things in those organizations that make you a leader...Things worth mentioning on a resume. As opposed to summer internships, get with well-known GC's in your area and propose a mentoring program where you can spend time with their people and learn from them (read: volunteer in the office or jobsite office, not labor).

You can't learn much in one summer internship, at least not enough to make you effective as a manager. However, internships and summer employment can be a great inroad to employment after graduation.

When I've interviewed people for jobs in this industry over the years, the poor quality of peoples' resumes never ceases to amaze me. Get a book on resumes and refine yours. Nothing will get you thrown in file 13 faster than a mediocre resume and cover letter. The other thing that will get you quickly overlooked is a poor showing at an interview. If you look like a hip kid who works at Best Buy, you'll get less respect and interest. If you look absolutely professional you'll at least make a good first impression and that is critical. Slouching, looking bad, speaking poorly and generally acting like anything less than the consumate professional will never generate interest. You'd think it goes without saying, but I can honestly say I once met with a college senior with excellent credentials that talked like a rapper and didn't even offer to shake hands when we walked in the room to meet him. Instead, he greeted me with "what up guy?" I promptly told him that we'd might as well not waste each other's time with the interview and sent him packing. Also, a strong handshake is important when meeting these guys (and gals). If you shake hands like a girl that is never good, unless you're a girl. Your email address should be on your resume. Hint: Get an email address with your name only...If your email address is BigPimpin@_______ then you just lost points before a prospective employer ever meets you. Offer references as available upon request, carry them with you in written form matching your resume, and don't offer them at the first interview unless they're making arrangements to hire you. They should not be included with your resume. Sorry to lecture but these things put prospective employers off bigtime!

Don't look past subcontractors either. The GC's get hammered with job seekers. Sometimes the subs, suppliers, manufacturers and governments need folks with similar credentials.

Get certifications. If you aren't ACI certified you need to be if you want to do field work, even if you won't be doing concrete it looks good. Look into the LEED program. Get your OSHA safety compliance course certificate. Get CPR/lifesaving certified through the Red Cross (I'm not kidding). There are lots of reasonably simple certs that will make you look good. Scholarships look good too, even if they're $100.

The associates degree is a 2 year program most places. Strongly consider enrolling in management courses or even think about making your associates degree a bachelors degree. Maybe do it once you're working, possibly pre-arranged with an employer. It'll make you much more marketable and will command some more money than a 2 year degree. Most project managers and many superintendents and field engineers in commercial construction companies hold 4 year degrees.
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Old 09-05-2009, 09:23 PM   #3
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Questions about future employment


As for what to say to companies in looking for the internship remember this one thing...

What can you do for them, not what can they do for you. Confidence my friend, confidence. You need to get ahold of the HR manager and discuss things...Send PERSONALIZED (not "dear contractor") letters. Tell them what you want to do for them and then ask if perhaps they'd have any internships available that might fit your needs and career path. Know things about their company by doing your legwork. Ask questions about specific projects when you talk with them in person. Otherwise you're throwing darts with a blindfold on.

Ok, I'll stop now.
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Old 09-06-2009, 08:20 AM   #4
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I understand. My job now I have to be up beat and talk to people. A lot of people are pretty old saying "what up guy" isint something I intend on saying.
The first day of 10th grade my teacher told us that a firm hand shake shows confidence. I've known that for a while. So I always give a firm grip, and my older brother calls me a P.... if I don't shake his hand firm enough.

My email is Timmymarsden@yahoo.com, my name. I would never do something unprofessional.

I don't want to be a superintendent or a project manager. I want to learn and go off on my own. I want to do residential work.

I don't graduate for another year. Alot of guys that are in my school got laid off and they're doing the TFA act or something. They get paid to go to school? Theres a guy in my shop like that.

My first interview with a GC(I was 17) he said he interviewed 7 people and he picked me because I was respectful, I looked him in the eye, and I was dressed like I was ready to work. I'm 20 now, I quit that job over being too immature. I didn't know what I wanted until 2 years later when I turned on a table saw and started cutting and doing stuff to my father's house that I really did learn from him when I didn't think I was.

And please I wrote that topic to get critisism like this. Your in the field with a degree, you know what someone should expect. I read every detail in what you wrote.

I asked my student advisor about a bachelor's degree, but the classes are at night. I drive Monday,tuesday, and thursday to school. Its 100 miles a day to drive back and fourth. Plus another $17,500 I can't handle. Well I could but I can't look at another loan because my head will spin.


I also have a 10 hour OSHA construction safety and health card I obtained in high school. And next week; Saturday and Sunday I'm going for a 24 hour real estate class. I know the economy is bad, but I know 1 day it wont be as bad. Maybe not back to normal.

I see alot of GC's in my area. They all look like grumps and They're kind of intimidating to talk to. I don't even think they would let me get a word in.

If there's a GC down my street you think sending a letter would be better than an actual ring the door bell kind of deal? And then speaking to him fro there?
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Old 09-06-2009, 09:05 AM   #5
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Questions about future employment


You also might want to test the waters over at the contractor's forums. Read up first, before you post. There have been many people in your shoes who have posted similar questions there. The answers you seek may already be in an existing thread.

My two cents on an internship. Understand that who ever you speak to has a priority list, and at the top of that priority list is making sure the business makes money on an ongoing basis. If you present yourself and the internship offer the wrong way, you could end up souring the person on the idea.

For example, if you make it clear that you want the internship to gain experience and go out on your own, that could instantly turn off many people. "Why should I spend the time to train this kid when I know he's going to leave at the first opportunity and possibly try to feed from the same trough I'm standing at?" And even if you were careful, some of the folks are still going to say "I know what this kid wants, he wants what I have." They're going to see that you have a degree, but want to be out in the field getting experience, and they'll be able to put two and two together.

If I were in your shoes, I would do the following:
1. Expect that residential construction in 2010 isn't going to be much better than this year.
2. Expect commercial construction to be in tough shape for at least the next year or two.
3. Try to go hard after an internship with a larger company. They'd be less inclined to think along the lines of "he's after what I have", and they'd be in a better position to plug you into different scenarios. "I need a super at this site to oversee some deliveries and attend a couple meetings, let's bring Tim so the next time we can send him there alone."
4. Soak up as much as you can while you're there, and ask questions.
5. Avoid a small outfit, if you don't know the owner personally. You won't get trained. You'll be a gopher/helper. At least if you know the owner, you might get some time at the saw.
6. Think about finding an internship in another market, so you can honestly say "I'd like to help you as much as I can while I'm here, and when I get back home I can put what I learn from the experience to the test."
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Old 09-06-2009, 09:26 AM   #6
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Questions about future employment


Tim, even though you love the carpentry aspect I'd follow Aggie's advice when it comes to the internship. If you want to go out on your own you need the managerial experience (bidding, job costing, scheduling, etc.). Only time will give you the carpentry experience, and that will come.

I also agree you're better off at a much larger company. For a smaller guy, you'll be a gopher no matter what. I worked for a great residential builder during college and although I did learn a lot, I didn't learn much of the "running the business" aspect of things. As Aggie said, nobody wants to be a stepping stone or be the contractor that develops their own competition with summer internships. Remember that the larger commercial outfits really know their stuff and small business owners can learn a lot from how successful larger companies are operated.

Sorry to sound like your dad with all the talk of firm handshakes and stuff...Sounds like you've got your head on straight.

Something to be ready for in the trades:
In residential construction the VAST majority of the managerial and labor force came up through the ranks IN THE LABOR FORCE. They didn't go to college to learn their trades. I graduated 12 years ago with a bachelors degree and good experience, and to this day I still get the "college boy" treatment from the occasional guy in the field. Although it comes in the form of disrespect, I don't let it get to me and you shouldn't either. Be proud of the fact that you've got a college education, but be humble as well, always cognisant of the fact that you have a lot to learn. Much of what I've learned since graduation (which is most of what I know) has been learned from guys that look like they just got out of prison....The guys that have been doing it since they were green often know their stuff.

Sometimes an impromptu face to face meeting with a GC will get you in the door. Remember that he doesn't know you and might consider it more professional if you write him requesting a meeting that works with HIS schedule and send him a resume. I would. If you want to work on a framing crew as a laborer, walking up to the site or the company owner is more appropriate. If you want him as a resource to learn from I'd take the more professional approach...Formally setting up a face to face meeting.
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Old 09-06-2009, 12:36 PM   #7
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got ya

Kind of scared of the economy. My mom was pissed when she knew i was going to school for construction. Hope things arise for someone young like me. I really do want what a contractor has. Guess we'll see, if I never get a chance like I had before then I'll just stay at my job and stay in an apartment my whole life. Just sucks.

Thanks guys
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Old 09-06-2009, 02:49 PM   #8
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Things will turn for sure eventually. Remember that you're better off knowing a trade than you would be not being able to be of any use to anyone but big companies. You can always put your skills to work in some capacity.

Just remember that most contractors work for 20+ years bleeding and sweating 7 days a week 15 hours a day before they get to a very solid financial position and are able to live the "good life".

I learned very quickly that I have no desire to work evenings and weekends, no matter how much I could make. Working as an inspector has been a great fit for me due to the fact that I work my hours and I don't have to take work issues home with me. I also didn't want my own finances on the line. I just decided that's of more value to me personally than making paychecks twice the size of what I do.
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