Discussion Thread

Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

  • 1.  Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

    Posted 06-21-2020 07:54 PM
    Hello everyone,

    I think this would be very helpful for new grads starting 'real' first jobs. If you have any tip to help them hit ground running, please share. Any advice for mid-level or more senior staffs are welcome too.

    I'll go first: networking, talk to folks in the office and offer help if you can. Do not afraid to ask questions and try new things that are out of your comfort zone. Oh and ask about your company's dress code to not embarrass yourself on your first day at the job :)

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    Tung Nguyen, PhD
    Washington State University
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  • 2.  RE: Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

    Posted 06-22-2020 09:25 AM
    I have recently started my professional career as an civil engineer. My first job is a construction site engineer for a 10 story apartment project. Hope this thread will be much helpful for youngsters like myself

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    Pradeep Rajapaksha S.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Kaduwela CO
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  • 3.  RE: Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

    Posted 06-23-2020 01:25 PM

    To all the young engineers:

    Remember, who are trying to impress people at your first job.  This means treating people with respect, trying to find out who you fit into the organization and your role, and being a positive ambassador for your new company.  Most of these things are relatively simple and almost taken for granted, but can impress nonetheless. 

    1. Be on time.  Know where the office is.  Explore the potential traffic before your first day.  
    2. Greet everybody respectfully.  Try to learn names as quickly as possible.  This will vary depending on the size of the organization, but will earn small kudos.  Say "Good morning, Mrs. Smith" and "Hello, Mr. Jones".  If the people are new to you (likely), talk to them as you would your grandparents until you have established a rapport - she is "Mrs. Smith" unless she says "No, you can call me Jane".
    3. Smile.  Be friendly.  You'll be spending a lot of time with these folks - want to start off on a good foot. 
    4. Ask questions.  Learn what you are doing and why.  Ask for assistance when completing tasks to minimize rework.  Mistakes are okay - just learn from them.  Try to see the forest through the trees. 
    5.  Ask about the WORK part of the job, not the perks.  Asking about breaks, lunch, coffee, benefits, etc. first thing gives the impression that you do not want to be doing the work the position requires.  
    6. Take training and intake seriously.  Yes, watching safety videos may not be the most enthralling thing to do, but it must be done, and you will benefit and be prepared when you enter the field if you pay attention.  Ask about policies when discussed. 
    7. Dress "business professional" unless directed otherwise - shirt, tie, slacks at a minimum - and the equivalent for females.  It is much easier to go from "business professional" to "business casual" than to need to upgrade and not be prepared.  Shine your shoes.  If your new job will involve field work, have a pair of jeans and boots in your vehicle or pack bag.  If you have to ask if it's appropriate, it's not.  
    8. Until you are familiar with the culture, be cognizant of tattoos, piercings, and other adornments.  There are many people who are accepting of these nowadays, but there are others who aren't - lean conservatively until you know how your company treats such things.  Simple studs are fine, and have a long-sleeve shirt at first.  
    9. Be cognizant of your use of company resources.  Put your phone away for the first few weeks, unless directed otherwise.  Ask before using equipment at first- somethings require prerequisite training or certification. Use company computers only for business.  
    10. Every day before you leave, ask your supervisor "I did XYZ today - is there anything else you need taken care of before I go home?"  This shows initiative and gives you an opportunity to take on more responsibility in the future.  Whatever you are doing, do it well.  Ask how to improve what you are doing.   
    11. Engage with some of the more senior personnel around the office.  They know more than you do.  You don't know what you don't know.  Be an information sponge.  If you don't understand something, ask for clarifications.  Keep asking until you get it.  That is how you grow as a professional.  
    Hopefully this gets you started on the right foot towards a long and rewarding career.

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    Joseph M. Rozmiarek, P. E., M.ASCE
    Principal Engineer
    Roseville, MN
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  • 4.  RE: Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

    Posted 18 days ago
    Joseph- a nice list to follow. I would like to add two more items:

    1. Always keep a diary- not any diary- but one with bound pages and in ink. At the end of reach day, underline what you have written and cross out the blank spaces. This diary should include all phone calls, meetings, etc .Emails should be saved and some should be referred to in the diary. If it might be of greater importance- allow more space.  If you ever have to appear in court or make a deposition, the diary will be most appreciated.

    2. If you find yourself in the field fairly often, it is necessary to develop a working relation with site leaders as well as some craftsmen and totally without any bit of assumed superiority on your part. The foremen and superintendents know what is going on from their own experience and will usually open up to you if things are on an equal basis. They will probably respect your education, but the rest is up to you.

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    Jim Worrell] Retired
    PE retired, RLS (retired)
    Raleigh, NC
    jimworrell@...
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  • 5.  RE: Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

    Posted 06-24-2020 08:59 AM
    Hi,

    I would Just like to add one thing for all the engineers starting their career and that is is to Be Honest. In a world filled with falsehood and malice, it might seem difficult but in the end it does matter. Honesty might seem as a small word but its repercussion for engineering are many fold. The things we build are for other people to use, and they trust us with their life, money and safety.

    1.) Honesty means to speak up when ever you see any unsafe work environment or any design decision which might make it unsafe for people to build or use it. Always give equal importance to the safety of your stakeholders, your co workers, your sub-contractors,  the maintenance staff and your end user.

    2.) Be honest in your use of Client's money, follow the contracts to the word, take no favors and give none.

    3.) Be Honest about your own capabilities. If there is some skill you lack some knowledge which you don't have, some type of design which you have never done, be honest about it and try to connect with others to gain that knowledge. You will see people up-selling themselves and trying to be "a know it all", but like you can figure out their true knowledge when you talk to them same way others can too when they talk to you.

    4.) If you have made a mistake accept it. We all do make mistakes, it's how we learn. Not accepting your mistake at the beginning can have greater consequences later own. It may make you look wrong in the beginning but it will eventually build your credibility.

    5.) Be Responsible, own the work you do, it represents you, it is a part of you. Try not to pass the buck around but do not be afraid to assign accountability where it rests.

    I don't intend it to be a code in ethics but if you try, it's much easier to incorporate and will help you build trust and long lasting relationships, may not with everyone but with those who also value "Honesty".
    Hope it helps.

    Mandeep S. Kohli CEng (I), M.ASCE
    Senior Engineer
    INDIA

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    Mandeep Singh Kohli CP, M.ASCE
    Senior Engineer
    India
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  • 6.  RE: Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

    Posted 06-24-2020 12:37 PM
    If only I could go back and tell my newly graduated self these things.
    - invest 15% from the beginning.
    - not all managers are good leaders, but that doesnt give you an excuse not to be a good leader yourself
    - understand the different personality styles
    - network, network, network. It's super uncomfortable and inconvenient at first but the investment is priceless
    - volunteer with a local ASCE YMF.

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    Nicolai Oliden P.E., M.ASCE
    Roadway Team Leader
    ETHOS Engineers
    Tempe AZ
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  • 7.  RE: Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

    Posted 06-29-2020 10:14 AM
    One piece of advice I have is to make sure you phrase your questions in a way that shows a desire to learn. Every project is an opportunity to grow your "engineering toolbox"

    For example:
    "What type of pipe do I use for this waterline?"
    vs
    "How do we determine what type of pipe to use for water mains?"


    The first question only helps you solve this specific problem. The second question sets you on a path toward being able to design more independently and think like an engineer.

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    Heidi Wallace EI,P.E.,M.ASCE
    P.E.
    Tulsa OK
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  • 8.  RE: Things you wish you had known before starting your first job

    Posted 06-29-2020 11:59 AM
    Thanks everyone for sharing! These are really really good to know!

    I found some more discussions on this topic
    Tips for Starting Your First Civil Engineering Job
    What do you wish you had known before starting your first 'real' job?

    Cheers!

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    Tung Nguyen, PhD
    Washington State University
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