Succeeding as a young professional

May 07, 2023

As long as learning is at the forefront of your goals, these skills will help you reach your career milestones.

From career fair etiquette, elevator pitches, and mock interviews, most college students have access to the tips and tricks that will make them stellar candidates for companies. The goal is to land the dream internship, co-op, and eventually a full-time job. The steps to “success” after landing that full-time job seem to vary widely from company to company and even across industries.

Transitioning between intern to entry-level staff and forward can be challenging, but there are some essential skills that have helped me in my career thus far:

  1. Communication. It may seem repetitive and often emphasized in other parts of our lives outside of our careers, but effective communication truly goes a long way. Clearly communicating expectations, updates, issues, and goals is the key to maximizing success. As an intern or new hire, learn to be comfortable in communicating issues or concerns. Learning to communicate with project managers and other team members will not only help achieve great results, but it will serve as practice in communicating with clients directly. Mastering not only in-person communication but also “online” communication is key in this new age of hybrid work environments. A quick message or email can do the trick with most people, but there is nothing like picking up the phone (or meeting with someone on Teams/Zoom) and conveying the message verbally. Every method of communication has its advantages and learning when to use which form of communication is important. Mastering clear communication is something that’s helped me tremendously in my career.
  2. Ownership. Although interns/new hires aren’t responsible for stamping or approving work, you should be confident of the work you present to others. Always keep a record of sources, values, reports, and other references used and make sure to keep things organized. As you’ll learn pretty quickly, people will always have questions about your work. How you did you get this value? Where did this come from? What were your assumptions? Having the answers to these questions will make meetings more productive and will simplify the process of making changes.
  3. Relationships. One relationship I advise interns and new graduates foster is the relationship with a mentor. Ideally, you’d have multiple mentors; for example, a mentor at your company and one outside of the office would be ideal. When looking for a job, make sure the potential employer has a strong mentorship program. It is always great to be able to call someone and bounce ideas off each other and listen to recommendations/lessons learned from previous projects. Mentors not only provide valuable advice for projects and technical issues, but they also provide tips for advancing in your career. For most of us in the civil engineering industry, obtaining your professional engineering license is a huge milestone. My mentor has been great in providing study material and tips for studying while balancing a full-time job (and a personal life). Networking with other engineers is also important, and one of the easiest ways to develop these relationships is by getting involved in professional organizations. Professional organizations have been a great way to meet other engineers in the industry and learn about local projects. Attending these events felt intimidating at first, but I’ve made it a personal goal to meet one new person a month. Slowly but surely, I’ve started meeting more people and getting involved in organizing actual events. Consider taking on a leadership position within the organization. 
  4. Acomedido. The last essential skill is a word in Spanish I recommend everyone add to their vocabulary. According to online translators, being “acomedido” is when someone is helpful or obliging, but the word really encompasses so much more. Being “acomedido” means you’re a self-starter and you’re willing to complete tasks without people asking you to perform them. As you become more familiar with your work and responsibilities, it is great to take initiative and take things off other’s plates. Regardless of title and experience, I believe this skill is extremely valuable in earning a key role at your company.

As you’re faced with obstacles at work, you’ll begin to notice how these skills come into play. Discussing these skills with a manager is a great way to gain feedback and identify areas of improvement. There is no direct path to “success,” but as long as learning is at the forefront of your goals, these skills will help you reach your career milestones.

Cindy Sevilla Esparza is an assistant engineer at MKN.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.