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Working lives

One year on Saeid Vahidi is a 43-year old senior engineer, working at the civic centre for City of Plymouth council.

Route to the job

In 1980 I graduated in civil engineering at Plymouth Polytechnic, and in 1993 gained an MSc in highway engineering from Nottingham University.

After leaving Plymouth, I worked in Iran on a large dam construction and irrigation project. I joined the army in Iran from 1982-84, and was trained in speedy construction of roads and bridges for army use. Thankfully, I never had to use my explosives training to destroy bridges!

In 1985 I joined Lincolnshire County Council as an assistant engineer, working on highway improvement schemes. In 1989 I spent a year at West Yorkshire HETS, a local government consultancy, before moving to Daventry District Council for nearly 10 years, first as an engineer, then as a senior engineer. In July 1998 I saw this job advertised in NCE.

Expectations

I had been doing similar work with my previous employer, so I had a clear idea what to expect. Plymouth has a relatively clean and modern city centre, with some great conservation areas near its shopping centre. There is therefore a great opportunity for an engineer to combine technical and imaginative skills to find solutions to different and often conflicting demands. This is exactly what I expected - and I wasn't wrong Naturally, I was quite apprehensive about moving to an unknown place after working in Daventry for 10 years. But very soon my fears proved unfounded. My colleagues made me feel welcome in my new workplace. I did, however, have to adapt quickly to new Quality Assured office systems.

Reality

If you think all local government is the same, think again. While there are some similarities in delivery of service, local government can certainly run quite differently. It does not mean that one is better than another one: the management style and policies could simply be different. Plymouth has a very comprehensive equal opportunities policy, which ensures that all groups such as disabled people, ethnic minorities and women are treated fairly. Employees are also offered good training opportunities.

The workload is heavy, and you have to work long hours. But to compensate for this, you can take flexi-leave. I have also been very fortunate, as I work with some great colleagues. And believe me, the view from the Civic Centre's tall building is superb.

Advice

When you move job, you should try to be flexible and adapt. The greatest benefit from moving is that it can broaden your experience and widen your vision. The cost associated with moving is enormous - although most employers make a contribution to your cost. I estimate that my expenditure in the first year increased by 20%. My children settled into their new schools quickly, but they needed more of my attention.

My advice is to find out what your potential employer can offer that is important to you. For most people, money can definitely be a driving factor. But other factors - such as the working conditions and the people you work with - can be more important.

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