(Originally posted 12/1/14)
I recently came across a resume from someone looking for a senior project engineer position. The resume has some great info on it; the companies and projects this person worked on are impressive. The skill sets gained from this experience could be very valuable, but there's one issue: the experience is vague. A resume should, in one short page, leave the reader completely assured that your experience is legitimate and valuable. Being vague can make it very difficult to get that coveted interview.
Let Steve Largent and Jerry Rice Help You With Your Resume
Steve Largent was my favorite football player when I was growing up. He was, during his playing career, considered the best receiver not just playing, but of all time. He achieved this lofty status despite his lack of height and speed.
Largent was a flawless pass route runner. He was fearless running routes across the middle. His hands were soft--he rarely dropped passes. Anyone who watched football in the 1980s knew this. Yet, take a look at the back of his football card:
Notice it says nothing about his hands, his route running or his toughness? It's because while those were known, the only way to really show how good you are is with numbers. And Steve Largent has numbers. Each of the numbers on his card gives strong proof that Largent was the best receiver of his era. "Soft hands" and "toughness" are debatable. 10k receiving yards and 78 touchdowns are not.
By now you should be thinking "I get it...put numbers on my resume to show how good I am at my job." Bingo! Some of you might be saying, "Of course Steve Largent has great numbers. He was in the league for 10 years before he had those numbers." True, so let's consider a rookie.
Many of you reading this probably have no idea Steve Largent is, and that's likely because you grew up in the Jerry Rice era. Jerry Rice supplanted Steve Largent as the greatest pro wide receiver in the history of the NFL. But in 1985, Jerry Rice was a lowly rookie. Let's look at his card to see the lack of stats:
Whoops! Even Jerry Rice's rookie card is jammed full of stats. Most importantly, the space on his card that doesn't contain stats is used to state how important his stats are (49er rookie record; not bad for a team with Joe Montana as the QB). His card covers some of his college years, but again, it is the stats that jump out. No space is allocated for subjective descriptions (blazing speed, excellent on the fly route) even if they were considered by most to be true.
The Bottom Line: Use Stats to Demonstrate Your Skills and Experience
Let's bring this back to resumes. There are two points I want to make: 1) you should be able to paint a clear picture of what skills and experience you bring to an employer in one page. If Steve Largent's first ballot Hall of Fame career can be summarized on a single football card, you should be able to describe your experience on a single sheet of paper. 2) the stats tell the story. Don't tell someone you worked on a hospital project. Tell them you worked on a $____ million hospital project with a ___-month duration that required ____ hours of craft labor to complete. State how many square feet or number of stories the building has. Don't write that you have experience writing RFIs. State that you have written ___ RFIs for ___ different trades whose packages were worth $____. Same thing for submittal packages, change orders, payment applications, etc. Provide numbers! You get bonus points if you can demonstrate how your actions resulting in cost and/or time savings. Provide the facts that matter and the stats to back them up.
Before I get to the advice, my philosophy on internships: I think each of you should use internships to help you figure out what you want from the construction industry. I pretty commonly tell students that, over the time that they're students in the CM program, they should work for different companies in different segments of the construction industry. You may think you want to work for a larger GC, but you won't know heavy-civil until you've tried it. Many of our students get gobbled up by companies that keep them steadily employed, but I tell students to consider working other places just to get some variety on their resume and so they are sure of the direction they are headed. This has always made sense to me because it seems, in theory, to put students in a more knowledgeable position for when they have to choose a permanent job upon graduation, where the stakes are much higher. When making a full-time career choice, you want to have a clearer idea of what type of company you want to work for. But there's a reason I'm a college professor and not a recruiter...
A few weeks ago at the ASC competition in Sparks, Henry Meier introduced me to Gary Rafferty, the Chief Operating Officer for Swinerton. Gary started with Bechtel (one of the largest construction companies in the world and also one of the largest privately-owned companies in the world). He moved to Swinerton as a project manager and later had a massive heart attack. After getting healthy and refining his philosophy on management over time, he steadily worked his way up to the number two management position in one of the largest general contracting companies in the U.S. and a major employer of Sac State CM grads. Let's just assume this dude knows the business and he knows what successful job candidates look like when he meets them. Henry asked Gary what advice he would give students looking for internship opportunities and Gary passed along these nuggets of wisdom:
1) Ride the Brand: Some contractors have a better reputation than others. Find a contractor, in whatever part of the construction industry that you work in, that has the best reputation. This is very subjective and companies have different brands that they're proud of. Turner is know as being the biggest GC and that allows them to tackle very big and complicated projects. Boldt is know as a pioneer in IPD and lean. Tiechert has California Contractors License No. 8, which shows they have been around a long time and are incredibly stable. And of course Gary thinks Swinerton has a great brand in technical commercial structures. There isn't a single company with the best brand, but you should be looking to work for a great company with a great brand. That will make your resume stand out, whether you stay with that company or not.
A little side note on a company's brand: if you are going to ride the brand, it should be something you believe in. Many companies tout that they are or have been on Fortune Magazine's list of best employers (e.g. DPR and PCL). Others win more local awards for being great employers (like DesCor in Sacramento). Other companies, like Swinerton among many others, routinely get deeply involved with charities such as Make A Wish. Whatever sets them apart, it should be something you are interested in being a part of. If you don't believe in a company's brand, it will be tough for you to truly ride it.
2) Have Advocates: Just working for a company with a great brand isn't good enough. The people you work with should have great things to say about you, too, if you want to be successful. If the people at a great company tell a senior officer that you're a good intern, you better believe that company will go out of its way to keep you working there. Gary made the particular point that if he really wants to know how good an intern is, he'll ask all of the superintendents that have worked with that intern for their opinion. Superintendents are notoriously tough on interns, so getting a positive report from one is great. Getting a positive report from more than one is golden. What does this mean to you? Get to know the people you work with, be a solid team player, and make sure your work is of a high enough quality that your coworkers want to tell everyone how awesome you are. This sounds like common sense, but ask yourself: how confident are you that the last superintendent you worked for would sing your praises? If you're unsure, start building relationships with him or her by demonstrating that you are worthy of working at the company with the great brand. While Gary likes superintendents, don't forget you PMs, PEs, fellow interns, folks in the precon department and PAs (don't ever get sideways with a PA!). The more people that like you and think you're an asset to the company is directly proportional to the probability you'll get a great full-time offer.
3) Work Your Ass Off: Speaking of common sense that many people still fail to grasp. How do you impress a superintendent? Work you ass off. Get to work early. Stay late. Put your damn phone down and get out on the project site. Ask questions. Do work that goes above and beyond what you were asked to do. Do stuff that others don't want to do. Get after it. Every. Damn. Day.
Putting it all together, you should strive to work with a company with a great reputation and brand, and once you're there, work your tail off and play well with others. Some of you won't find that dream job in your first attempt. You may have to take some dead end internships before you land the prize. That's OK (and it lends some validity to may advice to try different things until you find what you want). But keep moving in the direction of Gary's advice. If you successfully follow that advice, you will be maximizing your internship effort. Our grads who maximize their internships tend to land the most fulfilling full time jobs upon graduation. Now you know.
It's been over a week and the dust has settled, so now is a good time to write down my thoughts on the 2016 ASC Competition. It also took me a while to write these down because I'm not sure how I was going to state what was on my mind, so screw it, I'm just going to start typing...
Throwing Some Shade:
Okay, so this wasn't our best year. At Sac State, we're used to getting a few more trophies with a few higher placings. When one of our teams was called out as the 3rd place winner in a very contested competition, I turned to a buddy of mine who teaches at another school and said, "damn, they're going to be pissed." My buddy, after giving me a look that clearly read "you've got to be sh&%$ing me!" said "we brought seven teams and they worked hard to get here and they would have killed to get a third place." I'll delve into this later, but at that moment, I felt a little like an ass. Let's face it: when you have 1,300 students, many from the top CM programs in the United States, competing, very few are going to walk away with trophies, let alone first place ones.
Another Sac State team, however, acted like a bunch of babies when they were notified of their 3rd place finish. You know who you are. The tantrum wasn't localized to the team, as one coach looked like someone stole his bike from the schoolyard. Look, I get that no one likes to lose, but it happens. If you want others to respect you when your team wins, you need to respect others when they win. That's how true champions act after defeat. That, and they immediately start figuring how to regain the top spot. Tip your hat to the winner, seethe on the inside, and start getting better for next year. Doing better the following year does a lot to heal the scar tissue of disappointing finished the year prior. Besides, anyone thinking they would go through life undefeated is doing it wrong. No one in the construction industry gets every bid or finishes every project on budget and on time. It's how you learn from defeat that matters more than the loss itself because everyone loses at some point.
Another interesting realization from this year was that most of the teams I spoke to after their presentations admitted that they screwed something up. It happens. When you put six students in a room and ask them to do something that people in industry would find impossible under that same circumstances, mistakes are made. This is another reason to acknowledge the people who beat you in these types of competitions, because they likely screwed up less.
But there was a phenomenon that I experienced for the first time since I've been at Sac State. Judges, people helping judges, and people in the audience, in at least three competitions, pointed out that they have seen the same templates Sac State teams used for multiple years going. One judge pretty bluntly stated "the proposal I read today is the exact same proposal I read the past two years." Ouch. Not only does that show a lack of imagination, it is a gross display of laziness. This is a self-inflicted wound that no Sac State team should tolerate. The ASC Regions we compete in are no joke. Besides the usual competition from much larger schools like Cal Poly, Chico State, University of Washington, etc., we now need to contend with ballsy upstarts like USC (not exactly an upstart, but they're relatively new to Reno), New School of Architecture and Santa Clara. Folks, the only easy day was yesterday and we need to strive for perfection each year, and that target is moving.
Now for a Little Love:
So remember my buddy that thought I was a jerk for thinking we were crazy for being upset by a third place finish? Well, I'll admit I didn't feel that badly for my attitude or the team's. It was a bit of a sorry/not sorry moment. One of the things I love about being associated with Sac State CM is that we are some competitive S.O.B.s. And while I truly believe that it's important to be a gracious winner and loser, I really like that we typically don't take losing lying down. I think that's healthy and I think it's a necessary ingredient to being great. We're not satisfied with results that others would be over the moon for. You know who else is like that? Michael Jordan, Tom Brady (don't hate...), Derek Jeter (seriously, don't hate), and just about every other person that has reached the highest pinnacles of their respective fields.
Another thing I love about Sac State is that we're almost always on the forefront of innovation in CM competitions. Whether it be the use of industry coaches, a draft for selecting teams, getting our teams suites to work out of, using Prezi (ugh...not sure if I like that one), and so forth, we're usually the first ones there, and industry notices. That's why it hurt when people said our style is getting a bit dated. We're better than this, and I hope we return to our innovative ways. For better or worse, industry actually expects innovation from us! It may seem unfair, but judges expect us to be on the cutting edge. You can either whine about that or accept the mantle of being elite. I think I know where you stand and I will be proven correct next year when we get back to our way of competing. You feeling me?
One last thing: the Sac State presentations I saw were all pretty good (I apologize for missing two of them. Also, and completely off topic: Concrete's ability to play through the IT issue was pretty damn masterful). When recruiters asked me about many of the presenters, I embarrassingly said "I don't know who that is." That was because we fielded teams that were made up of a majority of students still in the lower division of the CM program! I am very proud of the returners who came back and served as mentors, particularly the five seniors that needed Reno like they needed a booming hangover. You young'uns may not know it yet, but those seniors coached you in ways your won't realize for a few years. I'm hoping that this year's juniors follow suit, because the next few years of Sac State talent is going to be deep and skilled. Many schools are in the same boat, so those of you thinking next year will be easier, you're not following along. But I think that our talent, along with the drive and competitiveness we typically bring to competitions, are going to be tough to beat in the future.
In closing, let's leave on a positive note:
1) Congrats to Heavy-Civil, Electrical and Concrete on third places in three unbelievably competitive competitions. I talked to people that watched all of the competitions in each of those problems and they said that the competition was absolutely brutal and that Sac State represented the University proudly.
2) Tyler Creason on getting a first place in the Alternate competition. Don't quote me on this, but I think that's the first Alt 1st place since I've been at Sac State.
3) Evan Albright getting MVP in the Electrical Competition. Absolute baller.
I'm proud of all of you that competed and look forward to next year. The 2017 Reno season starts today!
We really have only two weeks left, but they’re going to be bananas. To make things easier, there is a three-week look ahead schedule for CM 10, 125, 127 and 127 below and some details so that we’re all on the same page. For those of you in my upper division classes, I want to draw your attention to the fact that we will have three exams on Thursday May 14. Yeah, you have 1.5 weeks to prepare, so get cracking!
What's Going on in Classes
CM 10: Tuesday's lecture (5/5) is Henry Meier from Swinerton Builders. The following week we will be completing two items: 1) during the first 20 minutes of class you will complete course evaluations, and 2) during the last 30 minutes of class you will complete Exam #2. Please get to class on time. You know how my exams go, so prepare accordingly.
Your memo for Henry’s lecture is Tuesday, May 12 at 8:00 AM. Your Reflective Essay is due May 15 at 5:00 PM. The assignment and details about it have been posted to SacCT.
CM 125: The lectures this week are a bit random. We will have an in-class exercise on Tuesday that will highlight some numerical issues regarding risk and uncertainty that is typically performed as part of understanding lean construction. On Thursday, we will discuss how contractors interact with owners to tie project estimates to project financing. On Tuesday of the following week (5/12), we will take care of course evaluations and prepping for the class exam. The exam is on Thursday (5/14). A practice exam has been posted to SacCT.
As for lab, here's the remaining schedule and milestones:
CM 127: We will focus our few remaining days on resource loading. We will perform some in-class exercises on Tuesday and Thursday. On Tuesday of the following week (5/12), we will take care of course evaluations and prepping for the class exam. The exam is on Thursday (5/14). A practice exam has been posted to SacCT.
CM 135: This week we will be finishing retaining structures. There is one last assignment on piles that has been posted. It is due on May 15 at 5:00 PM. On Tuesday of the following week (5/12), we will take care of course evaluations and prepping for the class exam. The exam is on Thursday (5/14). A practice exam has been posted to SacCT.
In lab, we will finish the sand cone lab and perform the final calculations. My intent is to finish it during the lab period.
I know you all feel like you're about to hit the wall, but there's only three weeks of classes (four including finals week) so the end is in sight. Let's finish strong!
What's Going on in Classes
CM 10: Tuesday's (4/28) is supposed to be alum Scott Maxwell from Unger Construction. Unfortunately, I did not coordinate with Scott last week because we were both traveling. Hopefully he is still able to join us. If not, we'll discuss the CM curriculum so you know what to expect in the coming semesters
CM 125: Please bring any outstanding Ice Blocks questions to class on Tuesday. After that, we will discuss LEED and tie it back to Ice Blocks. On Thursday, we will talk about how lean construction affects general conditions and, again, tie it back to Ice Blocks.
As for lab, here's the remaining schedule and milestones:
CM 127: We will continue our journey through lean construction. On Tuesday, we will conduct another pull planning session (reverse-phase schedule with Post-It notes) and on Thursday we will perform simulations that demonstrate how uncertainty with task durations affect the overall schedule. It sounds nerdy but it's fun.
CM 135: I have graded Exam #2, so we will quickly debrief it. Then we will continue with deep foundations. If all goes well, we will start with retaining structures on Thursday.
In lab, we will be performing the sand cone test. Sand cones determine field density of soils (the old school test before nuclear gauges were invented). The lab is pretty involved so I'm going to post the procedure tomorrow. Please read it BEFORE your respective lab period.
Just to repeat, this is the week I will be traveling International ASC conference in Texas and won't be on campus. But there's still a lot going on so I want to make sure we're all on the same page..
What's Going on in Classes
CM 10: Tuesday's (4/21) guest speakers will be Brad DesJardin and Neal Cordeiro of DesCor Builders. DesCor is a commercial building general contractor. Neal and Brad are great guys and love answering questions and dropping knowledge on students, so come ready to interact. I'm giving you an extra week for the Rob Clark memo because I totally forgot to post the assignment. It's up now. Also, on the flight to Texas, I promise to grade the exam.
CM 125: No lecture this week, but Mike will be in the lab to discuss Ice Blocks. As discussed in class last week, we have developed milestones for the project. These milestones are for your benefit: they will help keep you on track. Here they are:
If you have any questions, ask Mike. He's a great reference for putting together budget estimates, among other things.
CM 127: Use lecture time on 4/21 and 4/23 to meet with your ID+CM team.
CM 135: Exam #2 is on Thursday (4/23). Anyssa will proctor it, but I've already told her that you cannot use scientific calculators or your phones. So go get a calculator if you don't have one. Because Angelica asked nicely, here are some answers for the practice exam:
There is no lecture on Tuesday (4/21), but I would use the time to study. There are no labs this week.
Adios and I'll see you next week.
I know, I know...it's been a long time since I've done some planning. Better late than never, right? The next two weeks are going to be chaotic, so I thought now would be a good time to get a game plan set. Here goes.
This week we have classes as usual. I will be traveling next week to the International ASC conference and won't be on campus. However, there is still a lot going on and there are no days off.
What's Going on in Classes
CM 10: Tomorrow (4/14) we will be having Rob Clark of Rosendin Electric in class. Rob is a very recent grad and will talk about the specialty contracting side of the construction industry. He's also working on the Downtown Arena. Next week our guest speakers will be Brad DesJardin and Neal Cordeiro of DesCor Builders. DesCor is a commercial building general contractor. Neal presented in my CM 10 class last year and crushed it. You're sure to be entertained. I won't be in class, but I have my spies so please be respectful to Brad and Neal.
I've been getting questions about posting grades. This semester has been bananas and I'll get to it eventually. Please be patient.
CM 125: This week we will cover LEED and green building. If you'll recall from last week, Mike Heller is not seeking LEED certification for Ice Blocks, but he is seeking ways to make the building more green. We will discuss how this is done. We will be having lab this week, for which you are expected to start working on Ice Blocks. Some of you might be thinking "our ID teammates are lagging on the drawings..." or some other whiny complaint. You still have a lot of things you can do without plans, like site logistics, QTOs based on the existing floorplans, demo plans, etc. Time is your most precious commodity, so use it wisely. Also, there will be no lectures next week (4/21 and 4/23). Some people asked for class time to work on Ice Blocks, so there you go, you get class time on those two days to work on it.
There will be lab this week and next. If you're in Thursday's lab, please come to lab on this Tuesday so that Mike Penney can give you some audit trail feedback for SFHS and I can provide you with some advising. You likely won't have to stay for the entire lab period.
CM 127: This week we will start talking about lean construction and focus on pull planning. Next week there will be no lectures, but read the CM 125 paragraph above. Use lecture time on 4/21 and 4/23 to meet with your ID counterparts or work with your CM homies.
CM 135: On Tuesday, we will be continuing our discussion of footings, particularly eccentric loading. We will also discuss the next homework assignment. On Thursday we will be moving on to pile foundations. In lab this week, we will be working on footing example problems. I know this doesn't sound exciting, but it will help prepare you for the exam next week. The problems we will work on have been uploaded to SacCT as Lab #7 if you want to download them ahead of time.
Speaking of exams next week, Exam #2 is on Thursday. Anyssa will proctor it, but I've already told her that you cannot use scientific calculators or your phones. Don't screw with Anyssa. I'm bribing her with 3 cups of coffee for every cheater she rats out, and the only thing Anyssa likes more than being the most competent person in the CM Department is drinking coffee. To help you prepare for the exam, I've done something I've never done before: I've posted an old exam for you to use as a study guide. Exam #2 next week will be very similar. Here's the tradeoff: I can guarantee with 100% certainty that there will be no make-up exam for Exam #2. I figure posting a sample exam is better for your preparation and creates less work for me.
There will be no lecture next Tuesday (4/21) of labs next week for CM 135.
Brief summary of what's going on in classes this week. I will not be on campus on Monday.
What's Going on in Classes
CM 10: Kurt Frandrup from Flatiron will be our first guest speaker. You can find out more about Flatiron here.
CM125: This week we will cover preconstruction services during both lectures. In lab, you will be working on SFHS Dining Hall. Not a whole lot of hard work was on display regarding SFHS last week, but I strongly advise you to get going on this.
CM 127: On Tuesday we will finish up scheduling by hand. On Thursday, if you behave, we"ll start using Microsoft Project to create a real adult schedule. Again, only if you behave.
CM 135: On Tuesday, we will be continuing our discussion of trenching.Thursday we will switch to soil volume calculations. Lab will be a site visit to the Steve P. Rados pipeline project downtown. I'm not sure exactly what we will be doing on site, but bring full PPE just in case. Be sure to turn your labs in on time (see SacCT for details).
OK, starting to recover from the Reno madness. Time to get back to business.
A lot of jobs on Talent Exchange page. It's not even updated so there's even more jobs than those listed. Seems like the whole world is hiring. Good time to be in CM.
What's Going on in Classes
CM 10: Tuesday will be a recap of the Reno competition. We will also be discussing careers in construction management. I'm in the process of arranging guest speakers, but I think our first one will be on February 17. The class is about to get more interesting! Once I have a concrete speaker schedule determined, I'll post an updated version of the syllabus.
Many of you have sent me e-mails over the last week and I haven't answered them. My apologies. Please ask your questions in class tomorrow.
CM125: This week we will cover contractual incentives on Tuesday and proposals on Thursday. In Tuesday's lecture, I'll also be discussing the first major lab assignment. In teams of 4 max, you will be putting together a proposal for your old friend the St. Francis High School Dining Hall.
Some people have asked about moving between lab sections. I discussed this with Mike Penney since it's really his call and he's cool with it so long as the lab sizes stay pretty even. In theory, if one person from Thursday's lab joins a team of people from Tuesday's section, then one from Tuesday should join a Thursday team. If things get out of whack, we reserve the right to disband your teams and reformulate them as necessary. In other words, be cool about it.
CM 127: On Tuesday we will discuss factors that affect project schedules. On Thursday we'll actually start scheduling with baby steps. We will create some bar charts using Excel and then ramp up into performing the Critical Path Method by hand.
CM 135: On Tuesday, we will be discussing soil properties. You should have watched the Auburn video on shrink/swell. On Thursday we will actually be getting into construction issues when we discuss trenching.
In lab this week, we will be performing the sieve analysis test. Shortly after I post this, I will be posting the lab. Read the lab AND the ASTM standard on how to perform the lab. If you have time, read the CalTrans specs provided as well; it will help you perform most of the assignment and reduce the amount of homework you have.
Classes on Tuesday. Reno the rest of the week. Go get 'em Hornets!
I teach people who will be building our country's infrastructure.