Taking Your First Steps in Geotechnics
With another graduation season over and more students looking to begin a career in the geotechnical industry, we asked our staff what advice they would give to people starting out…
I would say that you certainly need to get your academic background sorted, and then I would say that you need to be open to all sorts of different experiences. If you can find a job, then get into it if you can. Find yourself something that gets you to use your earth science qualifications - whatever sector the job is in - and see where it takes you.
Find out what training you’re going to get, and what mentorship is available from the company that you join. If somebody asks if you want to go anywhere, say “Yes please!” Go and do anything you get offered.
Have a driving licence, or at least be prepared to get one on very short notice! Especially when you’re starting out, a big part of the job is going to be driving.
Other than that, I’d say good communication is key and get stuck in!
Don’t be afraid to pick up a phone and ask for some experience. Try and go to different places, get different experiences. Say yes to most things. Don’t be afraid when you can’t do something – someone will teach you along the way. Try and be varied with your experience - then you can decide which elements you like or don’t like. Just say yes to everything. Because you never know what opportunities might come from it.
And embrace our industry. Shout about it!
Expect to work up from the bottom, and don’t expect to become an expert quickly. It’s different for everybody (maybe I’m slower than most!), but to get good fieldwork experience to properly assess soils and rocks takes a lot of time. I believe it takes a good few years of solid site work: getting wet, muddy, hot, cold… Going out in all weathers and having that experience under your belt is invaluable.
After 3-5 years you’re in a very good place to interpret what you’re finding for the purposes of reports. You can’t rush the process of gaining experience in the field - it takes time. Without having that fieldwork experience behind you, when you’re more office-based and organising projects or tendering you have less of an appreciation for what is achievable each day from whatever technique is being used on site. Having site work under your belt is very, very important and returning to site work throughout your career is useful to keep abreast of how changes in legislation can lead to different workloads on site.