Advice for This Spring’s Graduating Seniors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I’m happy to say I have never had to answer this question before. These are unprecedented times, but I hope this post provides some inspiration, as well as actions, that graduating civil engineering students can take to maintain a healthy launch to their careers.

Here are five actions I recommend taking if you find yourself confused about how to navigate the next six months as you work to successfully start your civil engineering career.

1. Focus on Your Circle of Control

Stephen R. Covey, author of the bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” introduced the Circle of Influence/Concern concept in his book.

graphic showing the circles of control

The concept is shown clearly in the image above. The Circle of Control, in the middle, is made up of all the items we can control in our life – what we eat, what we think, where we live, etc. The Circle of Influence is where we find items that we may be able to influence, such as local policies, a promotion at work and other people in the workplace. Outside of that, the Circle of Concern includes items that we have little or no control over, like the environment, the economy or the news.

In times like this, remember to focus on the items you can control. Take extra precautions to stay healthy and mentally strong. Remind yourself that you can only control certain things. Doing this may help to reduce stress. Also remember, there are millions of other college students in the same situation as you. You are not alone.

2. Become Proficient in Online Learning

You are most likely finishing your classes online right now. Being able to learn complex engineering concepts online is a skill not everyone possesses.

It is obvious that this pandemic has forced the civil engineering world (as well as everyone else) to operate remotely. This will most likely increase the amount of time that civil engineering professionals work remotely in the future, so your ability to work remotely will become an asset. Become good at it.

3. Find a Mentor

Finding an experienced civil engineer to serve as your mentor is a great career development strategy. However, typically, it is difficult to do because civil engineers are busy and often moving from project site to project site. I would venture to say that for the next three to six months, they will have some more availability with many construction sites being temporarily shut down. Utilize tools like LinkedIn, your alumni office or your existing relationships to find a mentor who you can speak with monthly or weekly to help you best launch your civil engineering career during these times. Here is a podcast episode EMI recently published where experienced professionals discuss the importance of mentoring.

4. Read Books Related to Professional Development and Civil Engineering

This is a great time to read books specifically related to your professional development. You might also read some books or technical journals related to the discipline of civil engineering you are planning to work in so you can start gaining a deeper understanding of the concepts. You could read books related to the development of your soft skills as well. I highly recommend Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” I also recommend my own book, “Engineer Your Own Success: 7 Key Elements to Creating an Extraordinary Engineering Career.”

5. Volunteer to Help Those in Need During This Pandemic

There are many people out there, especially older people, who are in need of help during these times. Volunteer some of your time to help them. Don’t just volunteer so that you can put it on your resume, volunteer because you want to help them. Here are some specific ways you can volunteer.

I hope you have found these actions to be helpful. If you do just a few of these, they should improve your career launch into the civil engineering world.

Anthony Fasano, P.E., M.ASCE, is the founder of the Engineering Management Institute (previously known as the Engineering Career Coach), which has helped thousands of engineers develop their business and leadership skills. He hosts the Civil Engineering Podcast and he is the author of a bestselling book for engineers, Engineer Your Own Success. You can download a free video series on his website that will give you the tools needed to immediately improve your networking and communication skills by clicking here.

He has also started the Engineering Management Accelerator to help engineers become more effective managers:

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  1. Anthony:

    Excellent, concise advice.

    The Circle of Control can always guide us, but is especially useful in challenging times. First and foremost, no matter what, there are things we can do to improve ourselves and help others.

    Thank you.


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