5 Tips for Engineering Students

It’s that time again! Graduation season is right around the corner, and for many eager grads that means it is officially time to transition from a student-centered mindset to working professional. We sat down with two of our Civil Engineering Interns, Spencer Sinkhorn and Terry Bondy, who are currently navigating that transition first hand while preparing to graduate from UMKC in just a few weeks. Here are their top 5 tips.

1. Communication is Everything.

Communication is essential to life, so it’s no surprise that both Sinkhorn and Bondy touched on this topic during our conversations, and we couldn’t agree with them more! Bondy stressed how, “Developing yourself, being able to work with people, being able to communicate and explain your projects to customers, or even someone who is not an engineer. Communication is way more important than just earning A’s in class.” Learn how to communicate well, and do it often, to be at the top of your game in the office.

wes 5-edited2. Start Where You Are.

No two individuals undergoing the transition from student to employee have encountered the same experiences along the way, and that is just fine! Sinkhorn and Bondy’s stories exemplify how simply starting right where you are is perfectly good enough. If you embrace the unique experiences encountered during college as well as during the transition to work, you will be set for success regardless of where you initially started. Now go on and chase your dreams.

3. Correct Answers Really do Matter.

One of the biggest lessons Bondy learned as a new intern was that, “Here [at work] the answers actually matter, and not just the process you use to get the answer.” Unlike school where you work through problems strictly to earn a grade, in the workplace if your “answer is totally wrong, whatever you are building just isn’t going to work.” Take time to fully understand the formulas and processes, because correct answers really do matter in the professional world.

4. Build Character.

The second most important attribute that will take you far in the working world is your character. Beyond having the correct answers, formulas, processes, and technical background, is the ability to build character——and to use it! Bondy described the importance of “developing yourself,” weighted equally as valuable as “being able to work with people” once you are out of the University scene. Correct answers hold zero value if you are unable to relate to co-workers and customers. Likewise, Sinkhorn stressed the importance of involving yourself in groups and clubs during college and then “applying those same character building/testing experiences” to your new role at work. For him, that was holding a chair as the Steel Bridge Captain at UMKC.

intern lunch 2

5. Get Uncomfortable.

Ever heard the expression, “Everything you have ever wanted is one step outside your comfort zone”? It’s true. Both of our interns credit their ability to quickly adapt and thrive in the office to stepping outside their comfort zones during college. For Bondy that was working as a tutor for the library where he was forced to step outside his comfort zone consistently. Likewise, Sinkhorn has found uses for knowledge he once considered useless and uncomfortable—-like statistics. Now go on, get uncomfortable! You may be surprised just how far it can take you.

We encourage you to enact the 5 tips above to reap the benefits of a smooth and easy transition to the next journey of your professional life. Share this blog post with all engineering students you know with a goal of making their exciting transition just a little less intimidating. There are companies taking broad steps to recruit your generation (Millennials) into the workplace. Do your homework, checkout their company culture and find a mentor.

If you aren’t feeling quite ready to take on the responsibility of a new full-time gig we highly encourage you to further prepare yourself by applying for an internship at an engineering firm within your field. There are programs such as the Engineering Leadership and Innovation (ELI) Program at Kansas State University, aimed at equipping students with the skills necessary to lead real-world engineering projects. BHC RHODES supports and sponsors this initiative and can help you with connecting.


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