One thing that you need to realize when you land your first job is that you’re not in university. It’s not like freshmen year when you’re lost, you have sooo many people who are lost with you,and a team specifically puts together a whole program so you’ll feel less lost – though you’ll still feel lost when you’re finding classes, trying to understand why there are endless lines outside Ibrahim Sadek’s office, and why everybody’s making fun of freshmen when you’re just that….lost. Also at work, there are no professors to give you a syllabus. There’s no course book to teach you the subject when you miss a class. There are no exams to show you how you are progressing with time. Finally, there are no friends to take notes from when you’re not in the mood for class.
As I mentioned in An EnginE-eeer’s Life, working as an engineer is not rocket science. Its main benefit is that it pays very well walhamdullilah. You can call freshly graduated 3engineers some of the most expensive copy-edit-paste-callers-printers in society, and it all goes down to the one piece of cardboard paper that you spent four years of your life getting, (and feel free to display an ear-to-ear grin at the sentence in cursive “With all the honors, rights, privileges and responsiblities pertaining thereunto”, because it might make you wonder, “Does that mean, it gives me the right to cause some destructive field explosions and then go, ‘whoops, sorry’*hand scratching head*).
As for the work environment, you don’t have to be smart to excel in it. The work itself is relatively easy, but your challenges are new. You need to get along with the people you work with, and you need to get a lot of things done as accurately and fast as possible. And that’s where the Always-Under-Stress-acquired skill of multi-tasking and handling stress comes in.
So when you’re walking around the office on your first day at work, you might not always be welcomed by everyone. Remember, you’re the new kid on the block. This is a list of what to expect at work.
I’m using “culture clash” as a generic term. It’s not supposed to signify differences in nationality only, but also differences in age and experience. At university, you used to go to class, and the professor had to give you information because it was their job, and you (or your parents or some sponsor) were paying for their job. But at work, you can only be trained by the people sitting there, and those people might be reluctant to share everything with you since you’re the kid who might take up their jobs in the future. This is worse when you have expat experienced engineers training local fresh graduates in government companies. So how do you solve this problem?
Learn The Work System
A lot of international companies are giving fresh graduates defined career paths, but if the company you work at doesn’t give you a defined path, then you’ll have to define your own path. Know your goal and work for it.
Simplifying the work system, there’s the boss(dubbed Big H.), the experienced engineers (dubbed the EE), and you…the duck to be shot whenever something goes wrong…um…I mean,the new kid on the block. To truly learn the system of your company, and the work you’re supposed to do, you’re going to have to talk to a lot of people. Master the art of asking.
And don’t be afraid of asking stupid questions, because you might get shocked to know that people with so much experience couldn’t answer some of your questions when these questions may have sounded “stupid” to you. Remember the only stupid questions are those that are left unasked. By stupid, I’m talking about being 5 years old again, and asking all those questions your parents used to be annoyed of (and might still be annoyed of), “What are you doing? How do you do that? Why do you do that? Why do you do it this way not that way? Let me do it. Show me this drawing. How do you read this? What is this? What is it used for? what’s the difference between using this and that? Why do you use this in this case, and not that?Who’s the manager? How did he become manager?”
Be endless with the questions. The thing with EE’s is that not all of them like to share knowledge of their own free will, but when you ask them, they might answer you (there’s a 50-50% chance upon asking, but it’s better than the 0% you might get when you don’t ask). Remember to use the new-kid-in-the-block badge to your advantage. Since you’re still a kid with no previous work experience, ask, ask, and don’t stop asking. That’s how you get that “Experience” that workplaces so love.
In any work environment, there’s normally a stabilised hierarchy, and it is established that orders and work go from Big H. to EE to you.
*And that’s if it reaches you*
What If You’re Not Given Work?
Unlike university where professors used to seek pleasure from giving you work, work and more work, at work, you have to work to actually get work (count the number of times the word “work” has appeared in this sentence). At the beginning, expect not be given any work or any responsibilities. You’re still the kid who knows nothing. Even with a university degree, admit it that you still know nothing about how the company works, what it does, and what your position in it really is. So you need to be taught first, and you have the right to a proper training, because you were employed for a reason, and that reason does not include playing solitaire and drinking coffee. So you need to be assertive, and take the active approach, i.e., be very annoying and ask for work. Typical reactions you might get from the EE’s are:
a) The cold shoulder by some people, because they’re “too busy” for you. “Come tomorrow. Or don’t come at all.”
b) Go read the manual
c) Print these papers for now
So why are you given not-so-important work?