Interview with Wayne Statler, 12/26/2010

“As I tell people, this is the Wild West. It really is. It’s the last bastion of independent people.” So says Wayne Statler regarding his ODOT coworkers. Statler is Project Manager for Region 1 (read: Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties) of the Oregon Department of Transportation. In this candid, in-depth interview, Statler begins by detailing ins and outs of his work for ODOT, but as the interview progresses Statler expands the definition of his role with ODOT and his role as a human being. What does it mean to work? What does it mean to be human? And how can you reconcile the two? — JM


JM: What is your title?

WS: Project Manager Region 1, but I’m also referred to as a Supervising Project Manager or a Construction Project Manager.

JM: What is your job description?

WS: My job description runs to about fifteen pages and no human being alive can do that work. In general, once a project has been bid and a budget has been established then I get the project executed in the field.

JM: What does a project being “bid” mean?

WS: Let me go back to the beginning. The State of Oregon highway department, the Department of Transportation (ODOT), is charged with building and maintaining the road system in the State of Oregon — but not all the roads, only the roads the State of Oregon owns, which would be the highways. There are ORs, which is Oregon Highways. There’s US routes, the interstates for instance. Those are the roads we are in charge of. Local roads and so forth, we have nothing to do with.

JM: So the city is in charge of neighborhood streets.

WS: Neighborhood streets. The county is in charge of county roads. Sometimes we (ODOT) transfer streets to local agencies. Highway 26, which is right out behind us, part of it is owned by the City of Gresham and they have to maintain it.

JM: So that’s why you’ll drive along and all of a sudden it’s all potholes?

WS: Where I live, in Hillsboro, Maintenance used to kid about the 28 block highway. Oregon 10, which is Farmington Road, between 170th and 198th, is owned by ODOT. All the rest of it is owned by Washington County. It gets very little maintenance because it’s only 28 blocks. We’d be glad to give it to Washington County, but they won’t take it until it is brought up to current standards. Well, we have literally thousands of projects on the docket and we don’t have money for them all so it has little priority.

Back to the point, they have what is called STIP, State Transportation Improvement Program. We’re doing the STIP for 2013-2014 and all these local groups — cities, counties, Federal Government, whatever — come to the table and they have their projects they want done and they put them in a big pile on the table and they prioritize them, in essence, which ones are going to be done. It’s a book — I mean, the book is two inches thick — and that’s not all of them. They go out to these projects, look at the scope, figure out a rough estimate, and all that. Then we start putting these things in some kind of order. So now we’re just guessing. We do road condition surveys — the State does them — what kind of condition the road is in; is it excellent, fair, good, what? That’s part of this decision process. All these local agencies participate in this, citizen groups you can get on and influence what gets on the STIP.

Now we just have a rough scope and rough estimate. It gets further down the line. Finally one of these projects gets to the top of the pile. It comes into design. We start designing the project. We start refining the budget. We start getting funding sources. Funds can come from many different sources for a project.

For instance, if you lived in a small town, Estacada for instance — I pick them because they are unique in that you can see a limit to Estacada — if we have project going on there, they may come in and say, “We want to update our streetscape, sidewalks.” To which our answer is, “That’s fine, but you have to produce the money.” So then they go out and get a grant or go to somebody and get the money and they put money into it. Clackamas County may have money; we can put money in, so now we have a pot of money. Now we have to decide does the pot of money and the work we have to do match. You can imagine … generally there’s less money than what people want.

So now we start designing and we get into this negotiation with people, “Well, we don’t have the money to do that. Can you get the money?” We have to match the money and the scope and we make a design. So now we have drawings, plans we call them, we have a budget. Now we need a contractor. There’s a very complicated bidding process, done by [ODOT headquarters in] Salem. We advertise the project. We don’t tell the bidders what we think it is worth. We don’t tell the bidders details of the schedule. We give them a begin date and an end date and that’s it. Most bidders are low bid, period. There are some other bidding processes. But most bids are low bid. This is mandated by the Federal Highways. Federal Highways puts money into our projects. The rule is if there is one dollar of Federal money, it’s their rules. So, now it’s bid. It’s anywhere from three to six weeks from the time it’s advertised to the time it is bid. These are open publicly down in Salem. They open the bids, post the numbers, and it is public record. You can look up everything they did.

Okay. I participate in that design piece as a member of the team, but I don’t lead it. All I do is talk about the construction pieces. Once it’s bid, then I become the lead. In essence, instead of being a member of the team, now everyone works for me.

JM: You advise as it makes its way toward bid.

WS: I participate in that on construction issues and contract issues. I’m a project manager, but really I’m a contract administrator. I live by the specifications. The designers live by designing standards. They really don’t know a lot about construction specifications. They know a lot, but they don’t know the administration aspects.

JM: So the contract says it’s an on-ramp heading east, you make sure that happens and that it’s not going the wrong direction. Do they get artistic?

WS: No. I build what they design. That’s the rules. If I’m going to build something different, I have to contact the Engineer of Record and I have to get them to agree to do something different. If they don’t agree to do it differently, I can’t do it.

JM: Is the Engineer the person who has done the design?

WS: Yes. And there may be as many as 20 of them on a project. In other words, one person on the roadway, one person who designed the bridge, one person who designed the walls, one person who designed the traffic lights: each one is an Engineer of Record in his own area of expertise. As a professional engineer, I’m a PE, I can sign anything, but actually I am constrained by…. I’m not supposed to sign anything in which I do not have expertise in. So, that’s why you have these different Engineers of Record. You have a person who’s an expert in traffic signals. He’s willing to sign the papers in traffic signals, but he’s not willing to sign for pavement.

JM: So in a way they become part of your team.

WS: It’s absolutely a team effort. We sit in the room and we have these discussions about it. People can ask questions, but the expert is the expert. At the end of the day, they have to sign off. When the whole package is put together and we have all these different pieces, there’s a state engineer, Kathy Nelson, she signs on the cover sheet of the entire package. What she is in essence signing is that she recognizes all these other engineers as being PEs [professional engineers] and that they work for her. Now I’m also required to be a professional engineer. It’s a requirement of my job. If I lose my PE, I lose my job.

JM: Is that a certification that needs to have follow-up courses?

WS: It’s a test. Generally speaking, to become a professional engineer it can be in any field of engineering, you need to have a college degree (generally) then there’s a test called Fundamentals of Engineering. It’s a very comprehensive test, it covers virtually all areas of engineering and it’s … it’s a killer. Most of us take that right when we graduate. Then you have to have a certain length of time when you work for a PE then you can take the PE exam. It’s given twice a year. Generally speaking, 50% of the people who take it fail it the first time they take it. The reason they fail is because they haven’t studied for 8 years. Then you become a professional engineer and you’re under OSBEELS, Oregon Board Examiners of Engineers and Land Surveyors. If you practice engineering without a PE, they can fine you. The general fine is like a $1,000.

JM: Does it depend on what project?

WS: No. It depends on whether you portrayed yourself as an engineer. Usually it’s someone’s license has lapsed and they do engineering, or for instance, a surveyor does something that is deemed to be engineering, then they will be fined. I’m not a professional land surveyor. If I tried to go register a plot, they could fine me for working outside of my license. I don’t have a license to be a land surveyor. Every year there are several cases. They put out a publication that shows who got their hand slapped. The whole purpose of this is protection of the public. It’s to ensure that people have at least the basic level of skill to do this work to protect the public. Most professional engineers are quite serious about this. I am quite serious about this, which is one of the reasons that I will not sign [off on] anything where I don’t have the expertise. It would not be safe. The whole system was developed because in the early days anyone could call themselves an engineer. Anyone working under the supervision of a PE doesn’t have to have one but the PE must sign the work.

JM: What’s a typical project?

WS: Generally we have two types of projects: bridges and roadways. Inside that, it can be an infinite number of variations. Roadways can be preservation — a pavement is bad, but not too bad — down to very intricate sidewalks, water quality swales. It can be a new bridge, one span or wide span, a huge multi-million-dollar bridge. Sometimes it can be a combination where you do a bridge and a small portion of the roadway. We do other things, like traffic signals. The whole project could be traffic signals or variable message signs, sometimes the project is just erecting these variable message signs.

Region 1 is basically Portland and the surrounding counties: Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas. We spend 40% of the money and we do at least 40% of the work in the entire state, but this is an extremely built-up area. When we get into a project, part of the complexity is everything is in the way. Telephone poles are in the way….

JM: Businesses….

WS: Businesses … everything is in the way. Consequently we do a large amount of our work at night because of traffic. If you get out into Eastern Oregon, they do most of their work during the day. To give you an example, I-5 and I-84: the daily traffic on those roads is between 150,000 to 170,000 vehicles per day. When I first came on to ODOT I had a job out near Heppner, Oregon. We were doing something with the culvert. The ATD (average traffic per day) was four. In the morning, two people drove down the road to work. In the evening, two people drove home.

JM: [laughs] That’s amazing.

WS: Yeah. That project was nothing … and not only was it two people per day going back and forth, sometimes they’d stop and come talk to us. If we delayed them for ten minutes, they didn’t care. They’d come talk to you. But here it’s much different.

JM: What’s a typical day for you? If a lot of the staff, people you coordinate, work during the night then what’s your day?

WS: What’s my day? One of the reasons I’m in construction is because no two days are alike. I’m the dividing line between the construction crew and management and design. I know about 10% of what my people are doing, and my people know about 10% of what I’m doing. A lot of my personnel — I have 19 people working for me. Personnel issues take up about half of my time. Personnel issues: not in the sense of discipline or anything like that, but personnel issues like assigning them to projects.

[WS points to a white board mounted to the wall. The white space is graphed. In each box is information: a site name, dates, stats, different colored markers for different information, and a list of project names down the left hand side.]

WS: The situation is constantly changing. If it rains, it changes everything. If a contractor comes in and says I’m not working, it changes everything. So getting people in the right place; making sure their records are kept; making sure they get reviews; making sure they have the right equipment, vehicles; participating on project development: I do use my people to do that. Others do regulatory issues. I have to keep up to date on that and make sure my crew is complying with the requirements of the regulatory agencies, fish issues for example.

JM: Does that mean you attend a lot of meetings?

WS: I attend a lot of meetings. I’m on the computer a lot. You’ve heard of the Peter Principle?

JM: Yes! I was going to ask you about that, actually.

WS: I’ve advanced to the point where I can no longer do what I like to do. I like to be out on the field, being on the projects, but I have reached the point where I spend virtually 95% or more of my time in buildings and in offices. Every once in a while I’ll rebel and block a day out and I’ll jump in the car and visit all the projects just to go see them. I’ve Peter Principled not to the point where I am not qualified to do the work, but to the point where I’m doing something where I’d rather be doing something else.

JM: The level at which you’re working, where you are in charge of so much, is there a lateral slide to someplace else? It seems ODOT is a pinnacle, unless you change states.

WS: I could be a project manager someplace else. In actual fact, I don’t want to go anywhere else. The reason is pretty simple. In the construction office, people are very, very pragmatic. The reason is we are dealing with the real world. It either is or isn’t. You go out to the site: the asphalt is either on the ground or it isn’t. The people downtown are removed from that. First they are looking at drawings, these nice neat lines. There are political issues. I’m not saying political issues aren’t to be addressed, but they are fuzzy. Starting here, it’s a one-to-one model. It is what it is. You take the drawings that say it’s supposed to be one way. Well it can’t be that way so we make the changes to make it fit. As I tell people, this is the Wild West. It really is. It’s the last bastion of independent people.

JM: Tar-slinging road builders?

WS: This is the Wild West because we don’t build anything in here [the office]. It’s all built out there. So I have to train and provide leadership to people and expect them to perform when I’m not there and expect them to perform as I would perform as if I was there. Now, do I always agree with everything they do? Well, no. But the general rule with my shop is that they come and tell me what they did. They don’t come and ask me what to do because they know what to do.

JM: It’s getting things done.

WS: And these guys are all gunslingers. I have a young engineer I hired here. [She’s] 5’ 5”, maybe 110 pounds. I put her on a project, down at 99E, at night by herself and here are these contractors, gorillas, okay? These guys are on these paving machines and this heavy equipment. They’re not bad guys. They’re just big honkin’ guys, you know? They were doing something and they needed to do it differently and she said, “Stop what you’re doing. You need to do it this way.” And, of course, four or five of these gorillas come up and are [makes confrontational sounds] and she faced them down. She faced them down. And after she faced them down, they all laughed and said, “Okay, we’ll do it.” They tried her on. Would she back down? If she had backed down, they would have kept going. But she wouldn’t back down.

Just because it’s the Wild West you don’t have to be big and tough. They aren’t going to hit you or anything. It’s psychological. Head games. But that’s the kind of people I have, all of them. If they go out there, I trust them to be looking after the interests of the State of Oregon. I support them in that. And that’s one of the reasons why they do it, because they know if they tell the contractor something, I’ll support them.

I tell ya, I’m going to retire in four years. It scares me to death. Not because I’m afraid of retirement. Because there will be no more projects. I’ll describe to you what that’s like.

JM: The empty table.

WS: The crew is my family. I love these people almost better than I love my kids. My projects are my children. I tell you, all these people, we’re all the same. We’re crazy. This is what we do. These people don’t want to retire either.

JM: They are making things, tangible things.

WS: They are making things. When we get done with a project and these people are riding around with their wife, their kids, their friends, they say, “Oh yeah, I built that! That’s my bridge, this is my road. I worked on this.”

Guy out in Region Four — you can retire after 30 years — well, he retired after 57 years. And he retired because they made him retire.

Construction people are unlike anybody else. There’s no other industry, there’s no other activity like it. I’ve known I wanted to do this since I was 13 years old.

JM: What was the turning point when you were 13? Is there a memory?

WS: Yeah! I got a book for Christmas. The name of the book was High Steel, Hard Rock, and Deep Water. After I read that book, I said that’s what I want to do. And that’s all I’ve done. Now, I’ve done all pieces of it: I’ve been an estimator, I’ve been a cost engineer, I’ve been a project manager, I’ve been a field engineer, been a surveyor. I’ve done all this stuff, but it’s always been in construction.

Some people never quite figure out what they want to do … they have my sympathy. Now, do all of these people [working for ODOT] start like me? No. But they’ve all come to the same point. This is what they want to do. I have no problem getting people to come to work because the people who like it, it’s beyond liking it.

During the height of the construction season, it’s very common for these people to work 80 hours of overtime in a month. Not only are they working 80 hours overtime, sometimes they work days then they work night, and going back and forth nights and days, weekends, that kind of stuff. I have never heard anybody complain. Not one word.

JM: So turn-over rate is low….

WS: I haven’t had anybody….

JM: It doesn’t exist?

WS: Pretty much doesn’t exist in my crew. The last time I had somebody turn-over was [one of my workers] took a job: she got a promotion. I was talking to her recently and she wishes she hadn’t taken it. She wishes she was back here.

JM: Do you think that is because of how clear you are? When I first met you, you had a job post that you presented and you presented the gruesome facts about it, you didn’t pretty it up. Do you think that’s why people … they know what they are getting into?

WS: Why do they stay? Okay … I’d like to tell you what a great leader I am [wry smile]. First it’s construction and they like construction. But also I take the position that everyone is a professional and they are supposed to do what they are supposed to do and I will back them up when they do what they are supposed to do. If they don’t do what they are supposed to do…. Anyway … if you have not worked in construction, it’s hard to describe it.

JM: It sounds like you give— kind of like Google and other companies give staff a certain amount of time to develop whatever they develop and it’s for the company or not … that you are giving staff the room to make their own decisions and follow through, and that’s really rewarding.

WS: Not only giving the room, I expect them to make their own decisions. Also training. My general policy is I have a budget. I tell them I don’t watch my budget for training. If you need training or want training and we don’t have to have you out on the grade inspecting, go take it. Every one of my inspectors has seven certifications they are supposed to have [specific to inspecting] and I have quality control people who have seven separate certifications [specific to quality control]. I have people taking AutoCAD. If they say they want to take that training, go take it. The rule is, if I need you to inspect, I need you to inspect. That comes first. Then, if there’s time, go take that training. I have at least two, maybe three, people who take MicroStation drafting. My designer certainly takes it, but I have three others who take it as well.

JM: It makes sense, that cross-over. It makes them that much more astute in their work.

WS: There used to be something called management by walking around (MBWA). In the morning, I just walk around and see who’s here. Talk to whoever’s here. I do not have an open door policy. Open door policy means I sit in my office and you come in and bow and scrape and say, “Oh can I talk to you?” If you want to talk to me, you catch me. You catch me … just talk! If I’m sitting here working, you just walk in and get my attention and I stop what I’m doing. And sometimes they’re just telling me what’s going on. “I just wanted to tell you thus and so.” That’s great.

I’m at least 21 [years old]. I’m from before the time of computers, before texting, cell phones…. By the way, I have a cell phone. Only one person has the number and that’s my wife. I don’t text. I hardly use the cell. I have a state issued cell phone; it’s rare I carry it. I’m not being a Luddite. What I’m saying is if I want to talk to you, I want to talk to you face-to-face. Or, if you call me, I don’t want to be in a position of being forced. Leave me a message. I’ll get back to you with the answer.

I’m old enough to be despairing about the fact that this connection between people is diminishing because of these electronics. I like to play simple computer games. I find them relaxing because I can think of other things while I’m doing them. Spider solitaire, Freecell, Mine Sweeper; many of these are simple games. Last week, I was sitting there kind of chilling out and I thought, ‘you know, this is a terrible waste of time.’ So, I’ve initiated a new program. I allow myself to play those games on Saturday evening only. Other than that I’m going to read, talk to my wife, pet the cats; I’ll do something.

JM: Do something in the tangible world.

WS: Do something in the tangible world. That’s another draw of construction: the tangible world. It’s absolutely pragmatic. It either is or it isn’t. You go out there and you can tell — anybody can tell — is there asphalt on the road? Yes. No. There’s no in-between.

JM: Do you think there will be something other than asphalt?

WS: Oh, always. Continually there are different kinds of asphalt and they are trying different varieties of materials. Asphalt itself is just variations of asphalt. To give you an example, Oregon had something they called F-Mix. [Mixes are A, B, C, D, E, & F.] The idea was they would use large rocks only and then there would be openings. Then when it rains like it does here, the water would go down the openings and drain off the road. Well, first, if you drive on it, it’s very loud. Secondly, dirt fills up all those little holes and it doesn’t drain any more. And lastly, the rocks tend to what we call rattle, come out. On I-5, out by Wilsonville, this spring, there were piles of rock along the road. We don’t use F anymore. It was a good idea, but we don’t use it anymore.

There’s something called warm mix. Normally we heat asphalt to about 315 degrees. They are heating this to about 295 or 300. It saves fuel and all this kind of stuff. It’s a type of mix, different gradations of the rock. They are trying all these experiments for something to replace asphalt. Not in the near future, but eventually.

Used to be all the roads were concrete. Then they went to asphalt, it’s cheaper. Of course you have to replace the asphalt more often, but it was cheaper in the first place.

JM: In your job you hire staff. You also offer advice to people. You job coach?

WS: That’s private. That’s not in my job description. Now I do talk to my boss, one of my many bosses. I have talked to my boss to say, “I’m doing this.” And they say fine. It’s in line with ODOT’s general thrust of trying to uplift, develop the community. But it’s not part of my job description.

JM: Part of the philosophy of ODOT.

WS: Part of the philosophy, but there’s no specific requirement to do it.

JM: So you are volunteering?

WS: Um … yes. Volunteering in the sense that I see benefits from it. Very hard times right now, it’s always hard times in actual fact. I’m trying to get people— there are any number of people who would like to take your money and give you fluff. Give you feel good. I’ve been in construction too long. I’m a very pragmatic person. That’s not how you save people. You’ve got to tell them the truth. Once they know the truth then they can act on it, then they can progress. If you give them a bunch of fluff and fairy stories, when they get into the real situation it’s confusing, it’s demoralizing.

JM: What’s an example of a fairy story? Is that like The Secret?

WS: I’m trying to think … when you were here with those other ladies [JM met with WS along with some friends to discuss resume writing], there is no format for your resume. Anyone who tells you there is is telling you a fairy story. They say, “I know the right way and if you follow me it will be perfect.” It’s not true. It’s not true. Your resume should not look like everyone else’s. It should look like you.

JM: And be appropriate for the job you’re aiming at.

WS: And all those things. This idea that this is the form you have to use. It’s not. It’s not. It’s a lie. And this idea that a person tries and tries and tries this method and it doesn’t work, it just discourages them.

When you visited that first time, I put things in there that are contrary to what the job consultants will tell you.

What’s a resume for? To eliminate you! A job consultant won’t tell you that. Generally these people are trying to give you feel good. You can sell greed and you can sell hope. What these people are doing, they are taking people who are really up against the wall, who are really having a hard time, and they are selling them false hope. That’s a crime. And selling greed is, you know, buy a lottery ticket.

JM: You have what’s called a chum resume that you recommend.

WS: Oh, a chum resume!

JM: Yeah! What is this?

WS: Okay. It’s like, what’s the old elastic fabric design? One-size-fits-all? It’s a lie. A resume has to serve your purpose. If you have a specific job you are looking at, you need to provide a resume that addresses that specific job. However, with electronic media and other things, you can put a resume out that floats everywhere. That’s the chum resume. The resume that you aim for a specific job, my recommendation — not necessarily for everything — is that it be one page because in your 10 to 30 seconds that you’ve got [the 10–30 seconds HR looks at your resume before recycling it] that’s about all they are going to read. But if you are just broadcasting a resume, putting it on a website or whatever you’re going to do with it, you don’t know what the job is; therefore you can put out a longer resume, maybe two pages, where you have all these things. That way people are more likely to go through and screen out here someone who has some of this and this and…. But you’re not aiming at a particular job, but you don’t want to pass any up. So that’s chum. You’re throwing it out there and hope one of the sharks eats it … and then calls you!

The chances if you chum your resume out there, the chances of someone calling you, are not zero. But they are not very high because they are also using truth tables. There used to be a whole class of people who were recruiters (headhunters). They’d use truth tables. They’d scan a resume, look for qualifications.

So that’s my chum resume. After I found a job, I was still getting jobs five years later. The most interesting one that I had, after I was with ODOT, was a company in the Midwest, Kansas I think. It was an ice cream manufacturer. They were looking for a cost engineer. So I had a conversation with the guy, asking him if I got free samples. He said, “Sure, you can get all you want.” Finally, I had to say, “Well, right now I’m sitting in the corner office. Can you offer me a corner office?” He said, “No, you’re a cost engineer.” I said, “No thanks.” That was about four years after I came to ODOT.

JM: You interview people. What’s the one question that people tend to flub up?

WS: Why should I hire you?

JM: How should they answer?

WS: I have no answer to that. That’s the question they flub up.

JM: They balk? Or….

WS: They’ve never thought about it. They are so intent on getting the job that they never sat down and rationally thought out why should this person hire me? Really that’s the first question they should ask themselves. Why should this person hire me? Because that helps you direct your resume and your interview questions and everything to answering that question. That’s really the only question I ever have. Why should I hire you?

Now, I say flub up. It’s the one they struggle with. They don’t flub it up. They just struggle with it because they haven’t thought about it.

What’s your story? It’s another thing they haven’t thought about. Not only have they not thought about what I want. They haven’t thought about what they want! [laughs]

JM: So the elevator pitch….

WS: Yeah.

JM: And the employers needs, rather than … as a person needing a job, you’re walking around thinking “I need this job. I need this job. I need this job.” And you don’t think, “Oh, I have these skills that are going to fulfill their needs.”

WS: Right! If you want a job you have to say, what does the employer want? What is the employer looking for? You’re not being altruistic. That’s where you get your job. Now, what are they going to give you? They’re going to give you pay, benefits of some sort … you’ll negotiate that. First you have to get in line to get the job.

These job consultants, they don’t teach that. When I’m hiring somebody, I’m absolutely ruthless. I’m going to get the best person I can get to do what I want done. When I say I don’t care about them, in the job sense that’s true. In the personal sense I do care about them as people. In the job sense, I don’t care what they want. I don’t care what they need. I only care what I need. That’s why I’m hiring someone in the first place. [laughs]

JM: Right. They should have filtered themselves in the first place.

WS: Yeah. Now the story is where you get leads. That’s where you can say what you want. Even then, if your story is only what I want — I want this, I want that — people are going to turn you off. Your story really has to be, this is what I bring to the party. “I’m an engineer. I’ve written books. I would like to teach college.” What are you giving, what are you putting out there that people are going to use? I might say, “I want to work in construction,” or something like that. That gives a person an over-all picture. Even the people you are telling your story to have got to have some takeaway of what are you bringing, what are your skills.

JM: So part of what you tell people is that they should think about where they want to be in ten years. Is that also in that elevator speech? Is that implied or is that….

WS: Uh, no. When you’re looking for a job, it’s immediate. If you have a job, you can get a job. What you’re looking for is right now. It’s important for you to know five years, ten years. For getting a job, it’s not important; it’s what can I offer this employer. Once again, never lie, but how you present it is up to you.

I generally tell people if you read a job description and you figure you can do 50% of what’s written there, apply for the job. To tell you the truth, I don’t really expect I’m going to find anybody— the only people who can do 100% of the job description I have for them are the people who are already doing the job. That’s why I have a blank, because that person’s gone. For me to find another person to do that job, I’d have to steal them from some other crew. And even then the person wouldn’t be 100% because I run my crew differently from other crews. Every employer, same deal.

If you see a job description and you believe you can do 50% of the work, apply. What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t answer you?

The trouble with job searching is it is discouraging. It’s rejection after rejection after rejection … in a row! Phew! I did it four times and I tell ya, it’s crushing. But you have to just get through it. You can’t care. The people who really are successful at this, at least on the East coast, if you can’t help them they just kind of write you off. If you’re at the party and somebody asks what you’re looking for, you tell them your story. If they say, “Maybe I know somebody.” Fine. Great. If they don’t, move on. Just because you told your story doesn’t mean they are going to react.

When I get people in here who are doing their resumes, I don’t give them feel-good. Most of the time I tell them their resumes are junk. I wouldn’t hire anybody whose resume is like that. I’m trying to cure them. I’m trying to give them the wherewithal, the mechanism, the thought pattern to win. Because it’s like with my inspectors: I can’t stand out there and watch them work. I have to get them into a head-space where they’ll go out there and do the work, and come in and say I did the work. They’ll come in and say this is what I did. Good! I had one guy tell me one time — a young guy — he wanted to talk to me I could see. He’s talking about this … finally he says, “The contractor called me a name.” I said, “Good. You must be doing your job.” [laughs] He didn’t tell me what the name was, but he was all upset. I said, “That’s good. They’re going to call you another name some day.”

Edited by John Allen.


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