BTU #16 – John Vardaman: Construction, Project Management, and Tesla

“And I think sometimes that was hard to admit to ourselves and to others in the military: it was a little scary looking out there at the job market and trying to figure out how am I going to make this work and make this happen? It is not that bad – and I would encourage folks to be confident in themselves and their skills. You’ve been equipped with the skills to land pretty much any job out there.”
 – John Vardaman

John Vardaman is a Senior Construction Manager at Tesla. He started his career in the Construction Industry at DPR Construction, where he served as a Project Manager. While at DPR Construction, he earned his Masters in Sustainable Design and Construction at Stanford University. In the military, John served as a Human Intelligence Officer in the Marine Corps, and graduated from the US Naval Academy.

In this conversation, we cover a lot of topics, including:

  • How John used multiple recruiters over the course of a year to find his ideal job
  • What it’s like to be a Project Manager, and how the military prepares you for this role
  • The benefits of pursuing advanced education once you have civilian working experience
  • How to explain your background to an employer in terms that will resonate with them
  • How to approach the job search with confidence and humility
  • And much, much more…

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: How can I make these episodes more valuable to active duty military personnel considering transitioning to the civilian world? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • [2:00] John’s Background
  • [2:48] Making the decision to leave the Marine Corps
  • [4:54] Evaluating whether or not to join the Reserves
  • [6:30] Choosing his first job, and working with Recruiters (and the pros and cons of Recruiters)
  • [9:18] Starting to work with Recruiters one year from separation and the advantages of more time for interviews
  • [12:30] What drew John to Construction and Project Management
  • ** [13:20] John does an amazing job explaining his past as it would help in a Project Management role. I thought this was a great, tangible example of how to sell your background for ones desired role
  • [16:20] John explains how he would explain his military background in a Project Management role
  • [19:27] Day-to-day life of a Project Manager in the Construction industry
  • [22:40] Where John felt ahead of his peers based on his military service… and where he felt behind
  • [25:48] The most surprising aspect of John’s transition to life as a civilian
  • [31:23] How leadership outside of the military differs from leadership in the military
  • [34:18] Pursuing a Master’s at Stanford while working, and how John benefited from having experience before pursuing advanced education
  • [39:37] John’s experience working at Tesla, and how great it is to work at a company aligned with your values
  • [44:44] Final words of advice for military personnel and other veterans