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Five dos and don'ts for your first engineering job � part one

How do you make sure that you make the most of those starting days in your first engineering job? We spoke to two engineering recruitment companies to find out what you should – and definitely shouldn't – do. First up – the ‘do’s’.

#1 – Take your time

Do take the time to look at several jobs and what is on offer. It’s better to take the time now, than to job hop later on and potentially slow down your career.

It seems like such a simple thing to do, but far too many new graduates rush into the first job they are offered. That’s the wrong approach according to BRC engineering recruitment consultant Mike Waldron.

“Do take the time to join the right company,” says Waldron. “If you are working in the oil, gas, nuclear, petrochemical, mining or renewables sectors, you will find the market to be extremely buoyant – securing a position should be of little difficulty.”

He says a little time spent at the beginning of your career can pay dividends later on down the line. Don’t be afraid to delay making a decision – take the time to speak to other companies to get an idea of what else is on offer.

“Take the time to meet with several companies, compare what career options they can offer you and then stick with that company to achieve it.”

Waldron says this is the best way to avoid greener grass syndrome – where you look at another job and feel it could have been better. Even more than giving you the confidence that you made the right choice in the first place, it can help you develop your career faster.

“It’s far better to do this now, rather than move from company to company chasing what you always wanted originally,” he explains.

#2 – Use your initiative

Do use your initiative – but don't be afraid to ask questions if you're really not sure.

You have a qualification – it says you have a certain level of intelligence. But one of the biggest complaints employers have is that despite that intelligence, new hires often appear to not know how to use it.

Granted there is an understandable level of trepidation when starting a new role. You don't want to make a mistake, but you need to have confidence in your own ability says Greg Lettington, director at Hays Engineering – because your new employers do.

"You've secured the job because your they have faith in your engineering ability, so show they made the right decision and present solutions and ideas, don't wait to be told what to do,” he highlights.

However, that doesn't mean that you should be afraid to ask question if you genuinely are not sure about what you are doing.

"Ask as many questions as you can in the first two weeks, the longer you leave it to ask questions the harder it will become,” Lettington says. “Even if your boss or colleagues look very busy, ask all the questions needed to help you get up to speed as quickly as possible."

#3 – Take notes

Always take notes. Not only will it help you remember things later on, it will also make you look like you're taking the job seriously.

You have been looking forward to the end of university so that you don't have to take notes any more. Sorry, but you're out of luck. Taking notes – especially at the start of a new job – is something that you need to do.

"Take lots of notes when being given information - this demonstrates to your new employer that you are taking in the training you are being given," says Lettington. "Even if you think you can remember what you're being told, making notes shows you are taking your induction process seriously."

#4 – Keep training

Do keep an eye on the level of training you are getting from your new employer and don’t be afraid to ask for more.

One of the biggest mistakes some recent graduates do is think that because they have finished their formal education and have a job, they no longer have to learn.

Big mistake. In fact, one of the best ways you can impress an employer is to show how keen you are to learn and improve yourself. Often employers will pay for high-level training that if you were to fund yourself would run into the thousands.

However, wanting to train isn’t enough. You need to make sure your employer is committed to developing you.

“Do keep an eye on the level of training and development that you are getting from your employer,” says Waldron. “It is critical that they continue to invest in you and provide opportunities to develop your understanding and experience.

However, he cautions against holding on for the sake of misplaced loyalty. “If you feel you have reached a glass ceiling in terms of what your company can teach you, then it is time to move on to the next challenge.”

#5 – Know your objectives

Do know your objectives – let them shape your actions and you will be on the path to success.

Before you begin, you need to know what you want to achieve from your new job.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu wrote in his book The Art of War, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”. You need have this mind set if you want to maximise your first job.

“Make sure you understand what your objectives or KPIs are for your probationary period,” says Lettington. “Take advantage of any opportunities to highlight any concerns to your manager and make aware of any further training you need to fulfil your role.”

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