Benefits of Job Shadowing for STEM Careers

by Emily Rhoden on July 30, 2015

Benefits of Job Shadowing for STEM CareersStudents learn so much by observing — and, if they’re lucky, participating in — the everyday activities of employees. Exposing students to the workplace through job shadowing has long been a commitment at Burns & McDonnell.

We see how job shadowing changes a student’s perspective. A recent study showed students exposed to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) work environments are more likely to pursue STEM occupations. But it benefits our employee-owners, too. We’re energized by the opportunity to share our world with students and intrigued by the creative questions they ask about our work.

Why Job Shadowing is Necessary

STEM outreach for students remains a vital cause. The study addressed messages catered to students about STEM careers and found words alone aren’t pushing students into the industry.

Furthermore, parents, school counselors and teachers often fail to offer the complex information and career answers students seek. Only four out of 229 California students, or 1.7 percent, reported they received messages that communicated the opportunity for women and minorities in STEM and made them aware of the need for professionals in the fields, according to the study in the Journal of Applied Communication Research.

“Once students get a detailed picture of what it’s like to work in one of these jobs, it can motivate them to overcome difficult obstacles and adopt a STEM job as a goal,” says Karen Myers, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

If your student shows signs of being a budding engineer, encourage an experiential learning experience like job shadowing.

What Job Shadowing Means Here

We’re committed to empowering the next generation of STEM professionals at Burns & McDonnell. And because we recognize not all students get adequate information about STEM careers, we’re out to fill in the gaps.

Job shadowing opportunities are offered year-round and in half- or full-day sessions. Students can choose any combination of disciplines or specialties to shadow and will be matched with a young employee-owner who is walking the walk and living the life as a STEM professional.

This opportunity educates students about careers in engineering, architecture, environmental science, drafting and construction management. Students are involved in every part of a typical day — from interacting with clients and co-workers to witnessing projects coming to life. Participants leave with a better understanding of what skills they need to succeed in the workforce.

Was it fate or through experiential learning that led you to your career path? Continue the conversation in the comments below or with us on Facebook.

Emily Rhoden heads up Burns & McDonnell’s K-12 educational outreach initiatives. She works regularly with students and teachers to inspire an interest in STEM education. Interested in a job shadowing experience for yourself or for your child? Email Emily. If you want to learn more about working with Emily, connect with her on LinkedIn.


What It Takes to be a Project Manager

by Jordan Ott on July 9, 2015

What It Takes to be a Project ManagerProject manager — the title alone sounds a bit intimidating. Juggling multiple projects at once, managing schedules and budgets, carrying responsibility for the outcome. It may not be an easy job, but it’s a fulfilling one.

Project managers handle a wide variety of efforts related to a project’s successful delivery. But what exactly do they do? And, armed with a better understanding of the role’s responsibilities, do you have what it takes to be a project manager?

The project management process includes five segments: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. As a project manager, you apply your knowledge and skills throughout this process to holistically execute a successful project.


The initiating phase thoroughly vets the opportunity, ensuring it’s the right project, at the right time and place, for the right reasons. You’ll clarify and justify the project’s purpose and goals, analyze stakeholder needs to establish clear objectives and generate viable options to deliver on these goals.


Planning is the most critical and comprehensive phase for a project manager. You’ll define the scope, outlining the work necessary to deliver the service according to objectives. You’ll also schedule activities for the duration of the phased project, so it’s time to start living by the calendar.


During the execution phase, a project manager ensures the team implements the tasks defined in the initiating and planning processes. You’ll pay close attention to the project’s production and quality of the deliverables. Project planning is never really over and may recur during this — and all — phases.

Monitoring and Controlling

In this phase, project managers observe the tasks and metrics necessary to see that the project is being completed within scope and budget, poses minimal risks and meets deadlines. You’ll compare actual performance with the planned performance defined in initial phases, and oversee scheduling, finances, quality, performance and risks.


Three key stages define the closing process: commissioning, handover and project evaluation. Commissioning involves training and familiarizing the end-user — typically the client’s staff — with all project components. During the handover, you’ll finalize contracted services, collect documents, demonstrate benefits to stakeholders and — of course — celebrate! The evaluation phase includes post-project review, recommendations, staff performance appraisals and archiving. You’ll also capture and transfer the knowledge gained from this project to future projects.

Knowing the process is the first step. But project management requires a deep, thorough understanding of the engineering and the construction industries. From the big picture to the smallest detail, commitment and knowledge is vital to your ability to support clients.

So here’s the question: Do you have what it takes? If you’re organized, skilled at multitasking and strong under pressure, it could be the right job for you. What qualities to you think are necessary to fill this role?

Jordan Ott is a Human Resource generalist at Burns & McDonnell. She focuses on recruiting and hiring electrical engineers, instrumentation and control engineers, and project managers. Jordan is always looking for new ways to find top talent, so if you’d like to learn more about working at Burns & McDonnell, connect with Jordan on LinkedIn.


Planning a Vacation? Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed When You Return to Work

by The Burns & McDonnell Careers Team July 6, 2015

You’ve planned for months, packed for days and now you’re ready for your vacation. Time away from work and other responsibilities will be glorious! What’s not so magnificent? The stress you feel when catching up on work after a vacation spent sitting on the beach or sliding down the slopes. Retreats are meant for relaxing, […]

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A Day in the Life: How Recruiters Use Social Media

by Mike Myers July 1, 2015

Social media and recruiting — yep, I’m at it again. I recently wrote about why social media should be a part of your job search strategy, detailing how recruiters rely on social media to find, research and hire candidates. Social media is an integral part of a recruiter’s workday, but what does that use actually […]

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Job Search Etiquette: When You’re Contacted and Not Interested

by Mike Myers June 29, 2015

Picture this: Your phone dings. It’s an email from a recruiter reaching out about a job. You’re flattered, but not interested. How do you respond without eliminating future opportunities with the company? Whether it is a LinkedIn message, an email or even a phone call, you’ll likely be faced with this scenario at some point […]

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10 Reasons We Love Our Interns

by The Burns & McDonnell Careers Team June 22, 2015

  Summer is always an exciting time around here, especially with the start of another great summer intern program. This year, we’re excited to welcome more than 200 interns from some of the top universities in the country. Every year we’re blown away by the amazing level of talent these interns have — so much […]

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