Surviving Your First Year at an Engineering Firm

By Elizabeth Bell
Engineer gives career advice for engineering students

advice for engineering students group photo

Career Advice for Engineering Students & Graduates

Choosing a career is a daunting task, and engineering is not for the faint of heart. But some may argue that acquiring your ideal position and surviving the first year is an even more intimidating venture. Fret not! We invited a few of our engineers and recent graduates to give career advice to engineering students from Rutgers University and Brookdale Community College, and we’re here to share what they discussed. Here are a few tips on how to nab the perfect job and succeed in your new role as a professional.

Landing the Job


Whether you’re a junior in high school or a senior in college, we cannot urge you enough to take on internships. You’ll gain hands-on knowledge that can’t be found in a classroom. Allison Outwater, an engineer in our Bridges and Structures group, began her engineering internship after graduating high school. It gave her an edge throughout her coursework. “We’re required to take a concrete class and it’s a challenging lecture, but I had already gained so much experience that I didn’t even have to crack open my book throughout the course,” says Allison. Additionally, internships enable you to discover if you’d like to specialize in a certain area or if you even enjoy your chosen career path.

Engineer talks about engineering internship with students
Take advantage of your college resources!

Your professors are an asset. If you’re struggling with a course, talk to your teacher; they have office hours for a reason. “Your professors will be more willing to help you with your grades if they know you’re putting in the effort,” claims Steven Wheeler, an engineer from our Municipal team. “They’ll also be more likely to write you a letter of recommendation if you have an established relationship.” As references and letters of recommendation are standard for any job or internship, having someone with the credibility to say you’re a deserving candidate is a considerable benefit.

Embrace elective courses!

We understand your schedule is already jam-packed with all the classes you’re required to take, but some electives can help prepare you for your first foray into the professional world. Plus, it will also look great on a resume! For example, a public speaking course will teach you how to better communicate with your peers and potential clients. But one topic recommended by several of our recent graduates was GIS, a software designed to capture, manage, analyze, and display geographically referenced information. If your school offers a course that features this software, take it. “Many municipalities already have this system in place, and we can import their data to better craft solutions,” says Kevin Meade, an engineer on our Water/Wastewater team. “It’s a dynamic tool and a great skill to have.”

Becoming a Professional

Prepare to screw up!

Somewhere along the way, there will be a misstep. In fact, we expect it. As an engineer, you take on a lot of responsibility, most of which is challenging and demanding. But one oversight doesn’t mean the end of your engineering career as you know it. GIS Technician Sam Firmenich states, “You will make mistakes, but it’s how you respond that matters.” So, when the time comes, don’t sweat it, learn from it and start again.

Engineer gives career advice for engineering students

Get your game face on!

Networking is a significant portion of any profession, and it’s never too early to start establishing yourself within the industry. Join organizations, attend meetings and make acquaintances. If you haven’t already signed up on LinkedIn, do so immediately! These measures are all ways to share your work and build relationships.

Grab the bull by the horns!

The best way to become a valued member of the team is to ask questions. “How can I be more helpful? How can I be more engaged?” It is this dedication to not only your position but to the team as a whole that speaks volumes.

Build Your Future!

All of this is very much like engineering! You have the puzzle pieces; now, you have to put them together so you can have a successful and fulfilling career. Good luck!

Need help finding the right internship for you? Click here.

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2 Responses to “Surviving Your First Year at an Engineering Firm”

November 13, 2017 at 11:56 pm, Andrew B. Fetherston said:

Nice job

November 14, 2017 at 1:12 pm, Elizabeth Bell said:

Thanks, Andrew!

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