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Industry heavyweights offer graduates job advice

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Industry heavyweights working on major projects such as Crossrail and Crossrail 2 offered graduates advice about how to break into the engineering sector, at a special student Question Time hosted by New Civil Engineer

Students from the Imperial College London civil engineering society, CivSoc, put their questions about the industry and their careers to a panel of senior engineers including Arup director of infrastructure design group Tim Chapman, Crossrail 2 managing director Michèle Dix, Crossrail head of technical information Malcolm Taylor, Association of Consultants & Engineers chief executive Hannah Vickers, and Balfour Beatty managing director Stephen Tarr. 

Advice about getting onto the job ladder ranged from communicating new ideas to fleshing out CVs. Tarr said that the ability for engineers to communicate ideas and convince people of their merits was a critical skill, sometimes missing in graduates. 

“Something that we at Balfour Beatty see as critical is the ability to martial thoughts in a persuasive way and communicate across teams and collaborate across boundaries,” he said. 

Chapman agreed, and added: “Curiosity, listening skills, and clarity of thought are the big three that I would look for in a graduate,” he said. “Good knowledge of systems engineering is also a key area to grasp.”  

Dix said there was no “correct” answer to deciding whether to work at a small specialist firm or a tier one contractor working on national projects. 

“There is no right or wrong choice here,” she said. “What is important is does the company feel right to you and do you like the people?” 

Taylor said that it was important for future engineers to get experience as a student and to gain insight into what areas of the industry most appeal to them.

“Get as many holiday and short term assignments as possible,” he said. “Then you bolster your CV and gain a wider experience of different parts of the industry.”

Vickers added that an ability to view a project from the angles of different stakeholders, as well as considering small details, was important for graduates.

“The ability to see the intricate details of a project, but also zoom out to view the bigger picture is something I would like to see more in graduates,” she said. 

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