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Working lives

James Wild, 25, is a graduate engineer with building services firm Max Fordham LLP Route to the job After completing a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Manchester in 1998, I started work in production engineering in Skelmersdale, making car turbo parts. I stayed there for a week. Soon afterwards, I got a job as a maintenance engineer at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, working for Tarmac/Carillion, which had a seven year facilities management contract with the hospital trust. I also spent a two month placement with building services consultant DSSR.

I joined Max Fordham as a graduate engineer in July 2000.

I had worked long enough in the public sector and had heard of the firm through the press and checked out its website. Having received its offer, I had to turn down a job I had already accepted with another company, which was very difficult and awkward. But I was determined to take the right job whatever the consequences.

Expectations I had a vague idea of what to expect. The impression I was left with after my interview was that the people who worked at Max Fordham had exciting ideas and vision. I was looking forward to working in this type of environment.

The reality There is lots of work to be done and I have plenty of responsibility.

Everyone is expected to work things through thoroughly themselves. This makes the work interesting. Another plus is that everyone is really friendly and helpful. Max Fordham has a desk not far from mine and as the office is open plan I can't help over hearing some interesting topics of conversation sometimes.

I have been working on swimming pools since I arrived, and at first the time scales seemed long. But now I go to site to inspect the real life versions of the symbols and lines I was initially moving around on drawings and this gives me a great deal satisfaction.

Time spent in the office verifying information for site contractors, working out and detailing specific plant/pipework and building arrangements is complemented by travel to site and my involvement in the design of a rainwater recycling system. I am also becoming more involved in the conceptual processes of building design, working more closely with architects and structural engineers, and in running practice activities.

Advice Find a practice that regularly works on the sort of projects you find interesting. Biggest is not always best. Never turn down an interview.

Join the institutions and do your research. Be prepared say 'no thanks' to a particular job.

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