Our current intern, Tawni Depaoli, has some words of wisdom to share with all future construction interns.
By Clare Christensen on Apr 7, 2016
Updated Oct 15, 2021

For anyone pursuing a career in construction, there’s nothing like the hands-on experience you gain by diving in and getting your hands dirty. This is especially the case for our interns. Whether they come from engineering, construction management or business backgrounds, there is so much for interns to learn that isn’t taught in a classroom.

Our current intern, Tawni Depaoli, has some words of wisdom to share with all future construction interns.

Dear Future Construction Interns,

Are you in school obtaining a degree that will eventually lead you to a career in the construction industry? Do you think you have what it takes to be an intern in the busy field of construction? Well then this article is for you!

Last spring, I had just completed my junior year as a civil engineering undergraduate, and was granted the opportunity to be the summer intern at Clark/Sullivan Construction. I spent all summer experiencing what engineers actually do in the real world. From one experienced intern to the new guy, I have a few tips to either entice you to join the field, or make you go consider that underwater basket weaving option.

  1. Take what you’ve learned from the classroom, and stash it in your back pocket. Your textbooks don’t hold all the answers, in fact they don’t hold very many. The minds around the office have a solid way of solving things without making you pull your hair out.
  2. The estimators are pretty laid back and can throw an accurate “random” number at just about any line item you can think of. They’re so accurate I’m not sure why they don’t have a dart board in each office. Challenge them to a bidding duel, it brings up good stories.
  3. The project managers are always right. Period, no argument, just nod and agree.
  4. Make friends with the IT guy, he’ll be your closest ally in the ever growing technology world. Never download software without consulting him. While he says, “It’s OK” with a half-smile as he fixes your mess, he’s secretly plotting how to sabotage your computer when you run back to class.
  5. Superintendents are the site magicians, and I’m pretty certain there’s a rabbit hidden somewhere in that hardhat. If you want some unique insight on how a project comes together, spend some time watching them manage a site.
  6. Get in on the field trips. Seeing what the stack of papers on your desk is in person makes the cross-eyed days from reading details really worth it.
  7. Ask a lot of questions…just make sure you don’t ask the stupid ones, because you may never live those ones down.
  8. Be ready to make bets on your certainties, and save your lunch money, because a lost bet means lunch for someone else.
  9. Be flexible and willing to take on tasks from every individual in the office that needs the help. Learning each person’s crazy ways of accomplishing the tasks in the office will allow you to discover your own level of craziness that makes you an asset to the company and the construction world.
  10. Develop strong relationships with your subcontractors and suppliers. Without these really important business partners, your hours of work with the drawings will never become 3D.
  11. Two words: baked goods. There is no better way to win over all the hearts in the office than through baked goods. If you haven’t conquered this skill, you had better spend the weekend with your grandma learning this trade! Don’t ever expect to outdo my miniature pumpkin pies, you’ll lose every time.

So, do you still think that the construction industry is for you? It really is a very fun and often fast-paced field that provides long-lasting physical rewards that you can admire throughout the city for years to come. I encourage you to take the leap and apply for an internship if this field really interests you, because entry level experience will benefit you both academically and professionally for years to come.

Sincerely, Tawni DePaoli

C/S 2015 Summer Intern

PS: If you have decided that underwater basket weaving is more your fit, here is a link to the course listing.