Thriving as a graduate during a pandemic

Thriving as a graduate during a pandemic

Evelyn Baxter started as a graduate with Calibre just two short months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She shares some of her personal experiences from this challenging time and offers tips to help you thrive as a graduate engineer during a pandemic.

I was very excited to start my first real job as an engineer. I had some preconceived ideas of what my first year of work would be like, but I was about to gain a completely different experience. Having spent the last couple of months settling in and getting into a routine, the news of moving to a lockdown made me feel quite anxious. So many questions popped into my head: How can I stay connected with my team? How will I make an impact? Will I have enough support? How will I achieve to my full potential?

One of the biggest challenges of working remotely was not having the opportunity to bond with others on a personal level. When you’re in the office, conversations happen organically and it’s how you develop relationships. You naturally chat to people by the coffee machine, talk about projects or ask for their opinion on work. Now that I had to use Teams or Zoom for all my conversations, I had to overcome the fear of “bothering” people with my questions and make the effort to connect socially.

The collaborative organisational culture, together with the relationship I have with my manger and the support from my peers, were critical factors that enabled me to operate successfully.

We have a very positive and inclusive culture at Calibre. I feel like everyone wants you to succeed and you can bring your ‘true self’ to work. We have smaller teams than what you would normally see at some of the bigger firms and this provided me with the opportunity for development and personal growth, and also the ability to build close connections with my peers.

Something that really stood out to me was the focus across the organisation on well-being. I think our leaders stepped up and led with their hearts as well as their heads and my colleagues were looking out for me. My manager put my wellbeing first, remained proactive about my development and looked for opportunities to give me challenging work.

Over the last year I have helped manage (from concept to construction) and design the warehouses for the Totalspan portfolio. I am the first point of contact for the client, providing advice on costing, innovation and improvements – I did not expect to lead a large client account so early in my career.

I have also had the opportunity to lead the design for Penrhyn Island Medical Centre in the Cook Islands. This project involves designing for tsunami and cyclone loads, which is very different from what I have done before. In both these projects, I have been able to test my boundaries, while knowing that there is a safety net with my team and manger, there to support me.

I am also part of the Young Professionals Group, which connects our young professionals, expands on knowledge obtained through everyday experiences and supports each other through challenges and career development. You get a mix of work related and nonwork related support through initiatives like technical sessions, CPEng café and discussions on how to save for your first house and general life hacks.

The COVID-19 pandemic has really given us a chance to change how we work. It has been a crash course in adaptability and am grateful that I’ve continuously had the opportunity to stretch myself, learn new skills and gain a broad range of experience while being able to manage my well-being.

Evelyn’s top tips for graduates

  1. Make sure you bring your own unique skills to the workplace and make them known. Don’t be afraid to show who you are.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It can seem more formal to ask for help over Teams or Zoom but don’t let this discourage you.
  3. Regularly meet with your manager and other team members over Teams or Zoom to discuss daily projects, group work, and individual assignments.
  4. Offer to help - you’ll be surprised how many doors this will open for you and will cement your own knowledge.
  5. Set up one-on-one meetings with your team members so they can get to know you.
  6. Get to know the other graduates across the business and start building your network.

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