THAT CRITICAL FIRST YEAR OF EMPLOYMENT
(from James A. Ragsdale*)
Let’s talk about your first year out of college, working as a geologist. What are some things you could do during this critical period that might help positively direct your future professional life?
The First Year is a Provisional Experience
Regardless of whether it has been formally spelled out, you should operate with the notion that you are a provisional employee during your first year on the job. Look on it as a mutual opportunity for you to demonstrate what a conscientious, capable geologist you are, how rapidly and thoroughly you learn and grow, how well you work with others, and how concerned with the firm’s welfare you are, and also as an opportunity for you to assess the firm as a place in which to pursue a fulfilling professional career.
From your first day on the job, remember this: your education in the geological sciences has made you a professional.
You have not been hired just to be present from 8 to 5; you have been employed to get geologic work done. Whatever the official hours may be, your objective is to do your job well, on time, and within budget. Always observe your employer’s office hours, but remember that you are not an hourly employee; set goals for work to be done each day and fulfill them, no matter how long it takes.
Watch the people around you and learn from them; emulate the work habits of the best of them. Seek advice from those who are the most proficient at their jobs. Find a mentor, a person you can go to for advice and counsel. Don’t let your ego get in the way; never be afraid to ask a question for fear you’ll be thought stupid. Most people will be happy to share their knowledge with you and will be flattered that you asked them a question.
You probably got into geology because you like it. Make your vocation your avocation. Always be ready for now challenges. If you approach your profession with a positive attitude, you can find yourself throughout your career doing something you enjoy at work each day. Very few people are that lucky!
Your work will be of value only if you can communicate your results clearly and concisely to others. Whatever the results of your work may be, maps, graphs, tables, written reports, or oral presentations, always strive to make your conclusions and their significance crystal clear. Think of your audience! Consider your readers; what do they need to know? The things that are most interesting to you about your work may not be the things of most interest to your audience. Construct your reports so that they convey the pertinent information.
Writing skills are essential for success as a professional scientist. Little of your written output will be descriptions of research you have done. Most of your writing will be letters, reports, or memoranda recommending and justifying action. Learn to write so that the important things get to the reader first. After reading the first paragraph, the reader should know what you recommend. You can then explain why.
When you read communications from others, consider how effective they are and how they could be improved. Learn from reading good reports. Consider taking a course in business or technical writing to unlearn bad habits you may have picked up in college – or learn good ones you didn’t pick up at all!
Your maps, cross sections, and other graphical means of communication should clearly illustrate the story you are presenting.