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Talking Point

A message to graduates: overstating your abilities will garner you no favours in today’s hard-nosed geotechnical market, says Nick Landon

The evenings are drawing in, but it’s not just the colder nights that are making me shudder.

Once again Lord Sugar is putting the odious and incompetent, the unbalanced and ambitious through a form of The Weakest Link for the board room.

Over the weeks an individual slightly less psychotic than the herd slowly emerges to become the asset to the “company”, the confident, reliable individual the overblown CV promised.

My company has returned to recruiting this year and it has been in turn a sobering and rewarding experience.

And one rather changed from the frenetic days before the recession.

The CVs sent can be extraordinary.

Sadly some are written as if to Lord Sugar for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recruit a company asset: one who is utterly reliable, conscientious, nothing short of brilliant even if the education process hasn’t quite identified it yet.

To some, writing up a couple of labs, a CAL tutorial and a mapping project in Spain has peculiarly equipped them with “unrivalled hands-on experience” of geo-something.

Once we might have smiled at these overblown statements and binned the CV, but in this climate there is a sense of sadness too.

Unfortunately, exaggerating or even lying on a CV is far more pervasive now.

“Once we might have smiled at these overblown statements and binned the CV, but in this climate there is a sense of sadness too.”

It is clear there is a genuine belief in those newly graduating that the industry confuses confidence with arrogance and that skills are casually acquired in a matter of days.

CVs increasingly lack identifiable engineering or geological education at undergraduate and post-graduate level.

These young people have been badly let down by the education system in the last decade which channelled them to “introductory” degrees.

These leave them able, for instance, to identify a slope failure by the weeping house occupant, but incapable of calculating its cause or whether it might happen again.

Unfortunately, these degrees were cheap to expand in the heady days of targeting nearly 50% of 18-year-olds for university and they sounded “exciting” to teenagers.

They are near useless in these hard-nosed days.

Companies will inevitably look elsewhere for talented and numerate graduates who are able to communicate effectively in the UK construction environment.

So is there advice for graduates from this old curmudgeon? Well yes.

First, remember when using an agency it is a commercial organisation - someone has to pay them.

Second, if you are as committed to a career in geotechnics as your CV suggests, search the web, read this and similar magazines/journals regularly and write direct to the company.

Saying “I pay close attention to detale (sic) in all I do” is not convincing.

Doing a bit of homework and ensuring the email appears not to be a mass broadcast sells you more than a self-assessment of reliability or self worth.

Remember too, that much of this profession provides carefully written design and interpretative reports as its “end product”.

An ability to communicate accurately in idiomatic and technical English is essential.

A moment’s spell check and a third party reading for any CV is vital.

Saying “I pay close attention to detale (sic) in all I do” is not convincing.

Finally, remember the world has yet to invent “sky-hooks” and investigation is the necessary precursor to construction work which will be growing in the UK economy, but perhaps not in the same areas as the last decade.

  • Nick Landon is a director of Card Geotechnics


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