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As the end of University draws closer (ugh exams!), many students will be starting part time work or if lucky, beginning a vacation placement in an engineering related workplace.

Stephanie Somerville, Manager, Career Services interviewed Eve Smolinska, a current Engineers Australia Student Ambassador about how she gained practical experience in the engineering field this year.

Eve is currently studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil and Infrastructure) (Honours) at RMIT University.

Q. Why do you love engineering?

I have always regarded engineering as a noble profession. Growing up in Europe provided me with an opportunity of having incredible structures at my fingertips and ultimately led me to choose Civil Engineering. To me, the beauty of engineering does not only lie in the physical elements that get constructed but in its usefulness to the general population. To put it in perspective, thanks to engineering we are able to construct a high rise structure, which consists of numerous small parts, each having their own design and serving their own specific purpose. Together, they make up the skyline we see each day, providing space for the increasing population and raising the comfort of living.

Q. Tell us how you got your vacation/work placement?

At the beginning of the year, I attended an event titled “Elevation”, hosted by Engineers Australia. During networking time at the company stalls, I talked to a John Holland representative about their projects and about company culture. Due to my volunteering involvement at the Civil Engineering Student Association (CESA) at University, we also discussed the upcoming Industry Night, to which John Holland accepted an invitation to. Later in the week I also sent my resume and cover letter to HR and I got a call a few weeks later. Now, I have been working at John Holland as an Undergraduate Site Engineer for the past 6 months and couldn’t think of a better place to start my career.

Q. What was the best thing about the practical experience?

As my practical experience is in the construction industry I have numerous opportunities to go out to site and see design come to life. Every work day I am a part of either a concrete pour, reinforcement fixing, shield install or asphalt paving, depending on the day and activities taking place. This part-time work in the industry enabled me to more clearly see the relevance of the material covered at University and has provided me with a more in-depth understanding of all aspects of project delivery.

Q. What advice would you give another student about to start their summer vacation placement?

Be curious and always ask questions. Throughout any task ask yourself things such as: why are we doing it this way? Is it more cost effective? Is it safer? Is it a legal requirement? Industry placement is an incredible opportunity to learn every day as you are surrounded by experienced industry professionals – take advantage of it.

For more advice from those that have been where you are, watch the latest Engineers Australia Career Webinar on Gaining Practical Experience.

Have you ever thought about how you want make the most of your first year as an engineer? Start with these five tips from the Engineers Australia Careers Manager – Stephanie Somerville to make the right first impression.

Hundreds of companies will start recruiting for next year’s fresh graduates in the coming months, so now is the time to start thinking about how you are going to present yourself into the competitive and fast moving world of work.

For those of you about to embark on this new journey in your lives here are five points to help you start off on the right foot and be a success from day one.

  1. Proactively network

Take the initiative – introduce yourself first and get to know your team. These are the people you will be working with 9 to 5, five days a week. Let them know your background, and that you’re available to help on projects. Not everyone will have time to come to you… so go to them. Get to know other people from different departments and figure out how they all fit together. It’s handy to have friends in different departments. And if someone asks you to have lunch with them – say yes!

  1. Develop a new routine

Work out your work / life balance early on. This will help you settle into your new role faster, and help you handle the stress of starting a new job. It’s time to adapt – try packing your lunch the night before, or going to the gym in the mornings if you work late.

  1. Establish expectations

The first week in your new job sets the tone for the rest of your time with the company. Make sure you meet with your manager early on and establish what their expectations of your role and how your performance will be evaluated. This is also the time to ask all your questions about protocols for taking leave, office hours and overtime.

  1. Develop your knowledge

Learn as much as you can about the company in your first few weeks. People will be patient with you as you learn the ropes – show an interest in learning and they will be happy to spend time with you. This will help you to become a more effective team member, and make valuable contributions to the team.

  1. Seek out development opportunities

Don’t be afraid to ask about career development opportunities within the company. By showing you are eager to progress your skills further you’ll be seen as goal driven. Professional development is an invaluable resource to your future career, and the earlier you start the better.

Originally published by Engineers Australia.