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A few weeks ago, Sain Associates Principal/Owner, Joe Meads, wrote a blog post that was inspired by his daughter’s first college essay. In the essay and the blog, Joe answered three questions that explored his career path to help him determine what he wishes he had known at the start of the journey.
We thought this was an interesting exercise, so we presented it to our team leaders as well. In their responses below, they give their thoughts about the following three questions:
- What do you wish you had known about your career when you were in college or a young professional?
- What’s your best job search tip?
- What was your first job and would you pick it again?
“I wish I had known that one day I would need management skills as well as engineering skills. When it comes to job search advice, I always tell kids to check the bulletin boards outside the Dean of Civil Engineering office. My first job cleaning out ditches and pipes is absolutely one I would choose to do again.” Richard Holt, PE, M.ASCE, Tennessee Branch Manager
“I wish I had known starting out to keep my ears open and my mouth shut! I look back and realize how many learning opportunities I let pass me by because I was trying to talk instead of listen. I would advise that students and young professionals find someone who reviews resumes and get them to proof yours! Be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up, remembering that with time, hard work and dedication you can get to the top; but it shouldn’t be and won’t be handed to you. For my first job, I was a student worker in high school at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a typist in the construction division. (Does that show my age? Who has typists anymore?!) I would do it again in a heartbeat! They taught me about hard work, dedication, work ethic, loyalty, honesty and doing the right thing even if it wasn’t easy. I gained many lifelong friends and mentors there!“ Diane Hammonds, Louisiana Branch Manager
“College teaches you the technical aspects of engineering. It does not focus on the soft skills needed when working in a professional environment. I wish I had known my job would require writing, speaking and communication skills. A great deal of leadership and managerial skills are needed, which I have pretty much learned on the job through training, experience and mentoring. These days, the internet is a huge asset in job searching. Not only can you find job postings, but there are so many sources of information. I did not realize until I joined the Engineer Girl website that such a resource is available to ask questions to engineers all over the nation. Also, get out and talk to people in the industry. People are very willing to talk with students and young professionals and allow them to shadow in their offices, etc. My first job was in sewer rehabilitation. I reviewed video footage of sanitary sewer pipes, determined where repairs were needed and prepared design plans of the improvements. I also worked hand in hand with a field inspector during construction in keeping up with quantities and pay estimates. I can’t say that I would ever want to watch another sewer video as there are some very interesting things in sewers and some gigantic cockroaches, but I did learn a great deal about construction and inspection. The experience has served me well over the years in managing roadway construction projects.” Alicia Bailey, P.E., Transportation Team Leader
“I wish I had understood and better prepared for the evolution of the professional career track from technical specialist to manager. I’ve always enjoyed the technical development aspect of GIS but resisted the inevitable transition to a business development role that is part of management. Learning the importance of building relationships and identifying client needs are key skills for building a successful and prosperous professional career.” Dan Mellot, GISP, GIS Team Leader
“When searching for a job, personal networking is critical for getting an interview. Don’t be shy about telling everyone you know about your job search and ask for help. My first job after college was working in an Entenmann’s thrift bakery. I learned about customer service and how to reconcile a retail store’s weekly account books. I only worked there for four months and was glad to shed the uniform when I left to start my first job in engineering, but I learned a lot and got a character-building dose of humility.” Becky White, VP/Organizational Development
“My first job was at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in the budgeting office. I would definitely pick it again. The experience taught me to first understand how things are done before you try to change the process. It also taught me that each employee is not an island. A good working relationship with others is how you get your job done.” Vann Rutledge, VP/Controller
“I wish I had known that true success is not measured in money or things, but in the relationships you build and the impact you have on others. When searching for a job, ask your network of friends to make introductions for you. I sacked groceries at Cornelius Grocery Store in Tarrant for my first job. It might be easy to say I would have picked something else, but I learned a lot about hard work and how to deal with people, which are very important for success in business. I also made some lifelong friends.” Jim Meads, P.E., President/CEO