Fostering a Strong Foundation for a Successful Future
by Lauren Herr
Construction Management student
As an intern, I am always apprehensive walking into a company for my first day on the job.
I get a feeling that I won’t have the proper knowledge or hands-on experience, and that I will be more of a hindrance than a help. However, it never fails that within the first few days this feeling dissipates. As I settle in to my new work environment, actually start to remember others’ names, and can assuredly find my way through the office, I begin to relax and put my knowledge and skills to good use.
Although I have three years of college under my belt as a construction management student, and a previous internship experience with an excavating company, this still is not enough to make me feel comfortable walking into a company with full confidence in my capabilities. But I have come to realize that as an intern, I am supposed to feel uncomfortable and that I do have a lack of knowledge.
Internships are in place to help students gain “real-life” experience in their fields, develop character, and help employers assess one’s potential. That being said, I am not afraid of being wrong and asking the simplest of questions; I am here to learn and to be myself.
My internship this summer at Warfel Construction in East Petersburg, Pennsylvania, has been a whirlwind of an experience. Two fellow interns and I are going through a rotation cycle that for me started in preconstruction, followed by estimating and finally project management. This has given me a unique perspective of the process a project goes through from beginning to end. Through this rotation, I have also gotten to know almost every employee that works in the office; for this I am fortunate. With the two summers I have had working full time, my experiences tell me that the people are what make a company and a job enjoyable (or not so enjoyable). You can be working in a job or position that you like, but if the people around you are unsupportive, disconnected and impersonal, it is not going to make it a job you love.
Beyond experience and getting to know people, internships are for making an impression. By impression, I mean be yourself. This advice goes for interviews, as well. Never present yourself as someone you are not or try to be a “better version” of who you actually are. The truth is, usually people see right through it. What employers are actually impressed by are vulnerability and integrity; let your personality shine through and be honest about your abilities.
One of my main challenges and apprehensions as an intern this summer has been communication. No matter what career you get into, being able to talk to people, hold brief or extended conversations, and talk over the phone is vital to success. In construction, it is a realistic possibility that you are on the phone or talking to others all day long. Being an introvert, I find it sometimes challenging to make phone calls or interrupt others to ask for assistance. Naturally, over the course of time, I have gotten much better at my communication skills. Beyond the speech course taken in college, my internships have helped me develop the skills required of a construction manager.
Although cliché, internships truly jumpstart students’ careers with strong foundations that lead to successful futures.
The amount of practical and technical knowledge gained over a summer working full time is inimitable. What you learn in your actual field cannot be taught in the classroom; it must be experienced firsthand. So, as a final note to students, go out and find an internship while in college. It will change your perspective on working in the “real world,” help you discover who you are, test the knowledge you have gained in the classroom and potentially lead to a full-time job upon graduation.