If you are fairly early into your civil engineering career, your first few projects can be an exciting, yet stressful time. Mistakes are common, and while it’s a part of the learning curve, many of them are completely avoidable. In order to avoid the need of ever having to hire a personal injury attorney, and to successfully execute an architect’s design in a cost effective, time sensitive manner, consider the following advice.

Make Sure You Invest Enough Time 

In the first couple of years after you graduate, you should make the project site your home, be it a building, a road, or anything in between. Become intimately familiar with the lay of the land. Get to know the boundaries, levels and dimensions like the back of your hand. Be prepared to answer just about any question someone would likely ask about the site. When you don’t know, it can affect people’s confidence in you. 

Be Better Than Great at Reading the Drawings 

Getting great at this comes with experience, so make it a priority. Because so much depends on engineering drawings, you have to understand how to explain things through sketches, be able to identify any potential issues (like the design not being sound in terms of stability or weight, for example) and be proficient at collaborating with someone to make your own sketches. As a civil engineer, consider your ability to comprehend drawings the equivalent to learning the nuances of a language. You can’t fully speak the language until you can go beyond understanding words and conjugating verbs. You have to be able to fully comprehend and be capable of expressing what you need. 

Stay Organized 

You should keep all of your materials as neat as possible. Plan several steps ahead and be certain that the necessities are taken care of. If you have laborers who will be working at night time, they need to be able to see. Be sure the electricity will be available and working when needed. Make sure you will be able to cure the concrete with water when the time comes. This may seem obvious, but these mistakes happen. After all, the devil is in the details. Keep a list of all the little, unexpected things that come up on your site and incorporate them into frequent checklists.
Things you may not realize that you need to do at first may include:
  • Checking the quality of materials being delivered to the site before it’s unloaded and getting a delivery receipt. 
  • Having the materials arranged in the order in which they’re needed, getting prior approval for plastering, concreting, etc. 
  • Have tasks for the next few days or weeks planned out in advance (cleaning and moistening the surface before concrete curing, for example). 
  • Take photos of completed work. 
  • Maintain an engineer executive diary while working.
While no one expects that you will be perfect in the beginning of your career, it’s best that you learn early and quickly. Taking care of all of these things shows that you’re a serious, meticulous civil engineer that is a leader. 

In the meantime, if you are in the process of looking for your first or next engineering gig, check out this 9 questions to ask before hiring an engineering consultant post to get an idea of what hiring companies are looking for. If you can work toward meeting all of these qualifications in the beginning of your career, you’re in good shape!

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