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Insights How to make the most of your civil engineering graduate scheme

So, you’re thinking about starting a graduate scheme in civil engineering? Well, you’re in for a rewarding journey.

With access to professional development opportunities, mentoring sessions, and hands-on experience, you'll dive straight into real projects from day one. It's an incredible opportunity to make a tangible impact on the world around us.

But to truly make the most of this experience, you'll need to seize every opportunity that comes your way. That's why we've compiled a list of seven ways to make the most of your civil engineering graduate scheme. By embracing every opportunity to learn, connect with others, and establish a solid foundation for your career, you'll finish the programme with confidence and readiness to tackle whatever lies ahead.

1. Understand your role and responsibilities

This one might sound simple, but it’s effective. Understanding the role of a civil engineer will allow you to deliver your best, but more importantly, you want to grasp the specific responsibilities that come with the job.

Though your responsibilities will vary from one company to the next, you’ll be immersed in a range of projects and explore different facets like consulting, design, or overseeing construction. Depending on the scale of the company, you might even have the chance to select a specialization, which could be infrastructure, nuclear and power, or transportation.

2. Set achievable stretch goals

Setting goals is a great practice to get into, but if they’re not achievable, they can end up being more frustrating than motivating.

Equally, if your goals aren’t stretching you, you’ll gain very little from them. Aim for targets that challenge you just enough to give you that satisfying sense of achievement when you reach them.

3. Say “yes”

It’s no secret that graduate jobs in civil engineering are an opportunity to make a real impact. But how can you maximize that impact? By embracing every opportunity that comes your way.

Each new experience, whether it's working on a different project, collaborating with a new team, or tackling a challenging task, is a chance to learn and grow. By diving headfirst into these opportunities, you'll expand your skill set, build confidence, and discover your strengths. 

4. Be honest about how much you can take on

Although a continuous learning mindset is important in civil engineering, you need to be realistic about what you say “yes” to. You want to strike a balance and avoid overcommitting yourself.

Be honest about your capacity. Assess your workload realistically and consider factors like deadlines, complexity, and your existing commitments before agreeing to take on more.

Remember, it's okay to prioritize and politely decline tasks if you genuinely don't have the bandwidth to deliver them to the standard you’re happy with.

5. Make connections

On your civil engineering graduate scheme, you’ll be surrounded by a community of other graduates, senior colleagues, mentors, and external industry experts. Building genuine connections with these individuals is key to unlocking valuable insights, seizing new opportunities, and broadening your knowledge.

But having a solid network goes beyond professional development; it's about having a reliable support system to lean on for guidance, encouragement, or even a well-deserved laugh at the end of a busy day.

As one of our Graduates of the Year, Rose, explains “AtkinsRéalis definitely has that focus on tailoring your experience to get the best out of you, to help you develop and grow in the way you want. There's so much variety within the company that if you want to try something new, there are so many exceptional people you can reach out to develop in that area."

6. Find a mentor

Having a mentor is like having a seasoned guide who’s also your role model, sounding board, advocate, and ally, all rolled into one. They're there to share their wisdom and experiences, but they won't dictate your path – instead, they'll help you navigate the choices ahead.

Through their feedback and encouragement, mentors can help you shape your career goals, spot areas for growth, and decode the company culture. They're like your secret weapon, empowering you to make the most of your graduate scheme and start building your network in the industry.

7. Time management

You've probably experimented with a bunch of time management techniques during your degree, from time blocking to the trusty to-do lists. They've been pretty handy so far, but now that you're stepping into a civil engineering graduate programme, it's time to level up your game. 

Here are a few tips that are particularly useful for graduates starting a new job:

  1. Start every day with a plan - In the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
  2. Prioritize tasks - Ever heard of The Eisenhower Matrix or the Eat That Frog principle? These can be game-changers for figuring out what needs your attention first.
  3. Build your toolkit - Use apps like Todoist for keeping track of tasks, Trello for managing projects, Toggl for tracking your time, and Notion for jotting down ideas and meeting notes.
  4. Add buffer-time blocks - Set time aside after meetings or deep work. Use this time to catch up on emails or to take a breather.

Launch your career with us

Are you ready to be part of a world-leading, inspiring, and ambitious team? 

Our dedicated professionals are tackling our clients' most demanding engineering challenges. It’s not an easy task, but that’s what makes it so rewarding. A graduate scheme offers an ideal pathway to immerse yourself in this fast-paced environment, providing invaluable exposure and setting the stage for your future success. With the support of your peers, line managers, and senior leaders, you'll find your footing and pave the way for a successful career journey.

Your future starts here. Explore civil engineering graduate positions to take that first step.

Or if you're curious about other opportunities, view all engineering graduate roles to see what else awaits you.