Here are five things you can do to excel as an entry-level civil engineer.
- Reorganize your thinking
Imagine yourself as a pioneer in the field of civil engineering. You have been presented with a problem that has never been solved before. How would you solve it? Ask yourself: What kind of similar problems have been solved before? Then read up on all those problems and solutions and try to figure this new problem out. I call it “reorganization of intellect.” You have all the tools as well as the means to figure out lots of things. Reorganizing your thinking will help you make headway.
- Be the one with the answers
Now that you know all the possible solutions because you have been spending a lot of time reading manuals, research papers and textbooks, you have multiple answers for a single problem. At this point, your theoretical knowledge is built up and refreshed. Now you’ll want to understand what solution best fits the scenario. I would like to quote one of the most senior engineers from my office: “We are not in the business of raising questions; we are in the business of giving answers.” That’s right!
You work for a business which is pretty much a service that answers the questions somebody else has raised. You are capable of doing this!
- Do some heavy lifting
People who are not gym freaks may be new to this idea. Lift heavier than you can! Visiting the gym and lifting weights to get in shape is not the secret to getting in shape. Lifting weights beyond your capacity is. This philosophy is also suited to your career. Volunteer to get maximum exposure to people, problems and situations. Get yourself into situations you were never in before and use your ability to think, like I discussed in the first two points.
Giving your 100 percent and outperforming yourself is a long-term investment you can make in yourself. Don’t be afraid of failure – there will always be a helping hand around. That’s what mentors are for!
- Check your weaknesses
I came across an article by a professional powerlifter where he said that the mantra for being the champion is to train the whole body, not just the muscles that are used in powerlifting. He described how people usually stay away from the exercises they like the least, but that these are the exercises they need the most. So, remember that handful of courses you hated in college? Or the only tasks you don’t like doing in your daily job? Those are the things you need the most to grow as an engineer.
I always thought how I was an introvert, and I avoided talking to people around me. After reading the article, I started making it a point to talk to every person on the construction site, know their names and have as many conversations as possible. I did not become a better engineer after doing that, but I think I became someone they wanted to work with in the future.
- Go low-tech
Every opportunity you get to design on the job, go low-tech. Hand calculation is a great way to relearn what we have learned in college in a new context. Those assumptions and conditions that your professors put up in the problem are not given to you anymore. Opportunities like hand calculation or manual calculations prove to be great tools to have as they actively help you to build “better judgment” as an engineer.
I personally like to make Excel sheets for everything and always double-check my design from the software by manually calculating them and comparing them. Context is a fundamental factor we always miss out on when reading a textbook or learning engineering tools through coursework. This is the perfect time to get it.