How to Get the Most Out of a Year in Industry

Published: Posted on

By Joe, Civil Engineering
College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham

I was very fortunate to be able to apply for a year in industry through the university-organised RESPECT scheme. Following a successful interview, I accepted an offer from Osborne (a civil engineering contractor on National Highways’ framework for delivery of major road projects). Between August 2020 and July 2021, I worked on the A46 Coventry junctions upgrade which involved the construction of a flyover to reduce congestion at Binley roundabout. Whilst working on this project, I experienced a steep learning curve with some major learning opportunities, in addition to successes. Here is how I think you can get the most out of your year in industry:

  • Be humble. It is important to understand that you will ‘start from the bottom’ and tasks you are given initially may seem tedious and insignificant. However, make sure to be grateful for any work you are given at the beginning of your placement as this is your opportunity to show your team just how useful you can be to them. It is only by doing the easy jobs well that you will be trusted with the bigger, more exciting responsibilities. At the beginning of my placement, I spent a lot of time editing simple spreadsheets, revising documents and looking after simple around-the-office tasks. However, my role quickly evolved into the management of construction activities once I had earnt the trust of my team.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is important to remember that following the instructions from other members of your team may not always be the best way forward. You should only act in a way you think is reasonable and responsible. It is important to remember that seeking help and asking questions is often far better than producing poor work.
  • Enjoy the challenge. Your year in industry will be nothing like your experience at university. The complex nature of the world of work is not replicated in university assignments and you should expect your technical abilities and soft skills to be put to the test in a way they have not before. Whether you are required to become proficient in a new programming language or have to deal with an unhappy client, you are likely to experience significant hurdles. If you are able to treat all of these more difficult tasks as learning experiences, your year in industry will be worth its weight in gold to you and your future career aspirations. It will be this attitude that will see you take on more challenging work and, by exhibiting a strong level of resilience, it is likely that you will be justly rewarded.

Your year in industry will be enjoyable and rewarding for a number of reasons and the contacts you will make could be of massive benefit to you further along in your career. Moreover, there is a chance that your employer will invite you back in the form of graduate employment. With a degree to your name and a year of relevant work experience, you could be justified in thinking that the world really is your oyster.