Your construction internship: Tips for making the most out of the experience

It’s that time of year—many students are starting their construction internships. This special two-part series explores topics related to construction internships and how they prepare students for careers in construction.

Josh Pinney, EIT and Jesse Carmody are both project engineers at The Hagerman Group who gained experience through college internships. Here are their tips about how interns can make the most out of the experience.

 By Josh Pinney, EIT

  • Learn as much as possible. I appreciated when supervisors trusted me with tasks that required more effort and big picture thinking, allowing me to go beyond pushing paper. Strive to get through those tedious tasks and ask for as much responsibility as the company is willing to give. Whether it’s the start of an estimate, submittals, requests for information, problem solving in the field, or owner relations, knowing how to approach situations will make you more marketable when searching for a full-time job.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You are there to learn, and your managers understand this. If you are unsure of something, ask! However, come prepared with a possible solution before you approach your supervisor with a question. It’s OK if the solution is wrong, but at least you’ve put some thought and effort into the problem.
  • Interact with the onsite workers providing construction labor. They are the people that ultimately make the project happen.
  • Remember that relationships are key. Whether it be with an owner, subcontractors, architects, etc., HOW you handle a situation will be remembered long after the outcome. The better relationships and trust you build, the better. It shows your character, which people will remember above all else, and they’ll be more willing to help you in the future.
  • Do what you say you are going to do. This also shows character and is probably the most important behavior I strive for. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don’t follow through on what they say they would do, which impacts their credibility and trustworthiness.
  • Never take shortcuts. I learned this the hard way, in both school and at work. Always put in the full effort for whatever task you’re given.
  • Learn what it takes for you to stay organized and on top of things. If that means writing down everything you need to do, do it. The more organized you are, the quicker management roles and responsibility are given to you. During my internships, I quickly learned that I forget things easily, so I’m constantly writing things down and emailing myself reminders.
  • Work with different managers and supervisors to see how they handle certain situations. Everyone has their own style, so if possible, try to get a feel for all the different ways to handle things and identify what type of manager you want to be.

 By Jesse Carmody

  • It’s worth repeating… ask questions! Beginning an internship with a construction company can be intimidating, especially if you start out in the field and have minimal construction experience like I had. Don’t be afraid to ask people for advice and clarifications.
  • Take on as much responsibility as you can. As Josh mentioned, ask to get involved with things you are intimidated by, or that you know are way over your head. (Clarify this with your boss so that he or she knows it’s a teaching opportunity and not a task that he or she assumes you can complete on your own). Interning is what you make it. If you treat it like a clock-in, clock-out summer job at a grocery store and put in minimal effort, you probably won’t find it fulfilling and wish you were sitting at your friend’s pool goofing off! But if you treat it as a three-month-long interview, your bosses/mentors will see that and reward you accordingly.
  • Don’t have an ego. The people out in the field know a ton more than you do, so listen to them. Also, be understanding of the fact that you will get “intern jobs.” One of my first tasks in my internship after my sophomore year was counting triaxles. While that wasn’t exactly a fun task, I willingly did it without complaining. This not only helped me gain the respect of my coworkers for being a team player, but also showed my boss that I would do whatever it took to get the job done.
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