As if learning all of the technical material to thrive in this industry isn’t enough of a burden, junior people and those just starting out also must learn some important non-technical lessons.
Even experienced people might want to remind themselves of these basics regularly. Here are some to work on, if you have not mastered them yet:
• It’s not about you. It’s about working methodically and safely, and being grateful for feedback, mentoring, instruction, and advice related to meeting those goals. Check your ego at the door.
• Follow the requirements as given to you. In many types of work, your personal opinion about what’s required can really add value. Especially if you’re passionate about your work. But in electrical work, you can’t decide what’s required and what’s not. In fact, you must meet the requirements of several parties. If your personal opinion isn’t reflected in the job specs, procedures, or standards, then it’s not relevant to the work. As you gain experience, your informed opinion will become increasingly valuable when it comes to changing the job specs, procedures, and standards.
• When you hear an experienced person say “The Codes are just a starting point,” that person doesn’t mean your creativity takes over from there. The meaning of that statement is you meet the Codes as your starting point. You may need to exceed the Codes as engineering or other considerations indicate.
• Arguing isn’t acceptable. Seek to understand, instead. Although it is possible that the more experienced people are wrong about something, or somebody hasn’t challenged something that should be challenged, it is much more likely that it has already been thought of and addressed. It’s better to put things in the form of a “Help me to understand” question than to take an adversarial position. Remember that the learning curve for electrical is extremely long; consider yourself a student rather than an “out of the box” master.
• Don’t go overboard with seeking to understand. Nobody has time to explain everything to you. Many younger people today want a complete explanation on why they need to do something the specified way or even why it must be done at all. Yes, it is good to question existing procedures. But don’t exasperate your boss at every step of a project. Remember that as a junior person, you haven’t been hired to rethink everything the company is doing.
• There is no such thing as a stupid safety question. Feel free to exasperate your boss if a safety issue has not been adequately addressed. Never accept excuses for why something must be done unsafely. For this type of issue, there are published documents, including NFPA 70E and your company’s own OSHA-mandated safety policy. Use those as the basis for questioning.
• So-called “good enough” is not good enough. Those fussy old folks at your company went through the same frustration you experience now. All of them eventually found out that the electrical industry’s “ridiculously high” standards of workmanship are worth the effort.
• Don’t give in to time pressure. Whether you are imposing “get it done fast” on yourself or someone else is telling you to hurry up, don’t rush your work. That is how mistakes and even fatalities happen. Of course, this isn’t a license for goofing off or taking longer breaks than you’re entitled to.
• Turn the phone off. You need to focus on your work, because a lack of focus results in poor work and because a lack of focus can prove deadly. If you really need to check your texts or incoming calls, stop your work and do that. Never try to do both at the same time.
• Propriety matters. How you groom, dress, and speak has a huge effect on your career progression. Keep your hair neatly trimmed, keep your shoes shined, and pay attention to how you articulate your words (much more to this, but you get the idea).
A self-centered attitude is ultimately self-defeating. Center your attitude instead on safely and efficiently working to high standards.