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

We asked engineering recruitment specialists what the five most important things not to do during your early days in your first engineering job are. Here are their responses.

#1- Don’t be shy

Relationships are incredibly important in the workplace. Don’t be shy; make the effort to get to know your colleagues – you don’t know how influential they may be in the future.

You’ve heard of the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, well this still rings true. The beginning of your career – and indeed the first 90 days in a new company – can determine the next 90 months of your life.

Some of your colleagues may not be big players in the industry. They may be only a couple of years ahead of you themselves. But they may know big players – and chances are, they’ll become big players one day.

Even if you feel shy, put on a work mask as a ‘Mr Engineer’ and make the effort to get to know people. It really does pay dividends.

After work socialising is a great way to get to know people in a less busy environment. “Make a real effort to socialise with your new colleagues during the first few months,” says Greg Lettington, director at Hays Engineering. “Going out for a drink after work will make it much easier to build up relationships with your new team.”

#2 – Don’t hold in concerns

Don’t hold in concerns – speak to your manager about them. They can’t do anything about them if they don’t know they exist.

Another big mistake recent graduates make is being afraid to voice concerns for fear it could jeopardise their new job. Many forget that the probation period is as much about you finding out whether the company is the right fit for you, as much as it is about the company doing the same.

Some reservations are normal,” says Lettington. “It takes time to settle into a new organisation and many people have initial reservations, which they overcome quickly.”

He does stress that if a new employee still has concerns, the best thing to do is to speak about them. “If, however, you are still feeling uncomfortable after the first few weeks, you should approach your manager with your concerns.”

#3 Don’t job hop

Don’t job hop – especially if it is just for a bigger salary. The value of your first job isn’t just measured by how much is deposited into your bank account at the end of the month.

Absolutely do not ever job hop – especially if the only reason you want to do so is for a slightly better salary. The value of your job is not just in the numbers in your salary.

“The initial stages of your career are the foundations that you build on later in life and it is the project experience and qualifications that really matters now – not an extra £2,000 a year,” argues BRC engineering recruitment consultant Mike Waldron.

What’s more, it can actually damage future career opportunities. If five years down the line you apply for a job, having hoped between roles you’ll be much less attractive to the prospective employer. After all, what’s to say you won’t do it to them 12 months down the line.

#4 - Don’t rush into working freelance

Don’t be bewitched by the strong hourly rates of freelance engineering. In order to be successful, you need a lot of experience, qualifications and memberships. Perhaps most importantly of all, contacts. These are rarely things newly qualified engineers have.

One future career option open to engineers is going freelance. However, Waldron warns against being dazzled by the seemingly large numbers attached to the hourly rate.

“Don’t rush into working on a freelance basis,” he says. “The strong hourly rates on offer will no doubt dangle a rather attractive carrot, but you need to take a long term view on this. ‘Going-contract’ is a big decision and has many impacts.”

One of those is the opportunity cost. As Waldron explains, going freelance means working on the coalface for possibly the rest of your career. “You need to decide if you want to work in a front-end operational role for the rest of your career,” he says. “If you do, then contracting is probably a good option to consider.”

The flipside of course is that if you want to go into management, freelance isn’t always the best option.

And even if you are happy with that, it isn’t a place for newly qualified engineers. “You’ll need to have a wealth of experience, qualifications and memberships so that you are of maximum value to the maximum number of potential employers.”

Those things come after many years working in-house.

#5 – Don’t overthink!

Don’t overthink things. You can’t see into the future, so don’t worry about what is to come, just focus on how you’re going to get there.

Finally, don’t over think things. You’ve got a new job and your whole career is ahead of you. Breathe. Relax. Follow our do’s and don’ts and you’ll be fine.

“Don’t over think the job. When all is said and done, you can do all of the above, but you can’t see into the future. Companies change, people change and more to the point, what you want to achieve may change,” says Waldron.

“Keep your focus, keep working hard and you will have every chance to succeed.”

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