In this latest post focusing on working from home Callum Girdwood, MEng alumnus and Project Engineer with Babcock International, tells us how he has adapted – and how your attitude and mindset will make a difference, to working or looking for work.
I think it’s safe to say that when I was sitting on a remote island in the Faroe Islands in mid-March and the news filtered through that when my holiday ended, I would be returning to a world of social distancing and empty supermarket shelves, I was rather unsure of what life was going to be like.
I work as a Project Engineer on the Submarine Dismantling Project at Babcock International Group’s Rosyth site. Three years ago, when I graduated from my Mechanical Engineering MEng degree, I never anticipated having to work out how I could continue to do my role in the midst of a global pandemic.
In these unprecedented times, I’m fortunate that I am able to work from home. However, when I was asked to pack what I needed to work from home, I had lots of questions.
How would we hold the multitude of face-to-face meetings that we normally have? How would we communicate with our MOD colleagues, and perhaps, most of all…
How would I actually get any work done?
This latter one, I am unashamed to say, was brought on by not so distant memories of my working habits at university. Unless I was hidden away in a quiet corner of the library and my phone was off in my bag, I was appalling at focusing.
So this was my first focus point on arriving home; how do I set myself up to work well? Well, first was to ignore the windowless box room where I had set up my desk. I was fortunate to be able to relocate this to my spare bedroom, with a view of Arthur’s Seat, in Edinburgh, and my neighbour’s garden. Whether you’re working from home, or still a student, I can’t emphasise enough the positive benefit of a good working environment.
It’s also important to be flexible. There have been times when the IT system has been a little slower, with many more people logging in from home. However, by changing the way that I worked and the hours worked (early mornings or evenings), I found effective ways of working. This has been supported by my team, both for productivity and wellbeing.
It’s OK to have a bad day
This brings me onto my next learning; it’s OK to have a bad day. This experience is new to everyone, and from my perspective, there have definitely been good and bad days living alone. When you have a bad one, there is no benefit of ploughing on and hoping for the best. Take a break, call a colleague or friend, and get away from things for even a few minutes. This is something that Babcock has thoroughly encouraged.
Whilst there have definitely been challenges during this period, it has also given me the opportunity to do far more exercise than I normally would. Rather than commuting home, I’m able to finish work and jump straight on my bike, or lace up my hiking boots and explore areas of Edinburgh that I’ve never noticed before.
I’ve found new places, tried new hobbies and started playing my trombone again for the first time in years, so whilst this is certainly a difficult time and everyone copes differently, I’ve tried to keep myself busy.
Starting out in this strange new world
Whilst I am fortunate to have been working at Babcock for a number of years before the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope I can offer some general advice to new graduates stepping out into a world that is made even more unfamiliar and challenging by the current events.
Be flexible – whether this refers to how you work, as previously mentioned, or the work that you do, flexibility is key in most sectors and jobs. Be willing to take on new responsibilities, work or roles, and ask for support or advice when doing so. The best way to find out what you enjoy and what you are good at in the world of work is to try new things.
Be accepting, of both yourself and others. The latter aspect is something that I think most people are good at, but the current circumstances place greater emphasis on this, as everyone is affected differently. As for the former, if you have issues – whether personal or work-related – please reach out to people. As a graduate, I found myself in a role where I was unhappy and my manager’s only issue was that I didn’t tell her sooner, so she could have supported me earlier.
Be long-sighted; the number of jobs available may be a challenge in the near future, but do not be afraid of entering a role which may not be your dream job. It will still provide opportunities to gain experience and skills. We have long careers ahead of us and there will be plenty of opportunity to change direction.
If you’re “starting out in this strange new world” right now, we’re sure the principles outlined by Callum will serve as a valuable guide whether you’re working from home or looking for work. And if you are looking for a graduate job now find out about our Graduate Jobs Fair Online which is happening on 22 July.