NEW IN THE WORKFORCE
Marianne Bom & Rie Jerichow, Publicér
Johnny Tuan Nguyen, Christina Berg Olesen and Pernille Gylling Jensen each tell about what it is like to be new in the workforce at MOE, NIRAS and FMC Corporation, respectively.
New job, new colleagues, new home, new city
When Johnny Tuan Nguyen graduated from Aalborg University in February 2019 and could call himself a bachelor in engineering within building and construction with a major in road and traffic planning, it did not change much in his everyday life. As it happened, Johnny continued as an engineer in a project position in COWI, where he had previously worked as a student helper.
It was a bigger leap when his project position ended in the summer of 2019, and Johnny moved to Copenhagen to start at the consulting engineering company MOE. Here, he talks about his experiences.
“A lot of people told me it was quite a leap to move from Aalborg, where I had all my friends, to Copenhagen, where I barely knew anyone. They may be right, because I had a lot of hobbies in Aalborg, and a lot of great friends with very different ways of thinking and views on life. I was scared of losing it all by moving to Copenhagen. I may also have had a fear that people would be more snobbish and secluded here in Copenhagen, but I quickly realised that there was not a very big difference. I have in no way regretted taking the leap. Of course it sucks to lose some of what I had, but I look at it as a new chapter in my life. I am in good hands, and I have met some lovely people that I would like to continue with.”
The start is energy consuming
“I had been deeply involved in the tasks as a student helper. Therefore, there wasn’t a big difference between being a student and graduating. I got a higher salary, a bit more responsibility, and some more tasks, but work wise, it was almost the same. When I came to Copenhagen, I chose to move into a collective, where I would automatically meet new people. I was a bit surprised about how much energy it takes to move to a new city, meet new people, and start up in a collective. I am less productive in my free time, because I engage more socially. I am very active by nature, and like to climb and paint pottery, but there has not been a lot of time for that so far.”
“I have good colleagues at MOE. They have treated me nicely, so it hasn’t been a problem for me to feel at home in a new workplace. Generally, you are very open to each other here in the company, and I have already been to several social events and parties.”
“My days are very different. I like variation in things, and that there is a difference between being in the office and getting into the real world, so I can honestly say that I look forward to working every day. I look forward to getting smarter and completing the tasks I am given. I don’t mind working at all, and I am not the type to look at the clock – so my daily life is good.”
The biggest surprise
“It all surprised me. The culture, the city, the people. All of it in a good way. I have definitely not experienced anything negative – except maybe having my bike lights stolen. No, I am kidding – it has been a good experience all the way through.”
A lot to learn and more responsibility
Christina Berg Olesen studied at Aarhus University, where she first got a bachelor in engineering in bioprocess technology before going on to get a master of science in environment technology. She finished in the summer of 2017. Along the way, she had a study job at COWI. She worked there until May 2018, when she was hired by NIRAS.
Read about her experiences from her first year on the workforce here:
“My expectations were probably classic. I hoped to now go into the world and make a difference, and use everything I had learned in the last five or six years at university. At the same time, I expected to learn a lot of new stuff. It was my belief that in the field of counselling you work on a very broad spectrum of projects, so you constantly have a chance to broaden your professional profile. I was excited about getting a workday and a relation to my field, where I was going to do something that others could use and appreciate, and not have a primary goal of an exam. And then I probably looked forward to not being a ‘poor’ student.”
“I have previously been in an internship and had a study job in the field of counselling, so the transition from student to graduate did not surprise me much. I was fairly prepared for what awaited me, and what it entailed. But there was still a lot new stuff to learn. So I put a lot of work into the projects, and sometimes it ended up being long afternoons or nights. So even if I have now been done for two years, I still come across a lot of new tasks, and the days can still become long when you are buried in something new.”
“I am happy about my colleagues, and it has made a big difference in my workday. In both companies, there has been a good mix of young people and more experienced people, and I like that. Both places also had good introduction periods for new employees – so-called onboarding, where you are taken by the hand in a planned process. It included meetings every so often where you evaluate with your boss.”
Commitment every day
“My life has not changed that much. I have stayed where I am, in Aarhus, so my free time and my friends are practically the same as when I studied. But my everyday life has still changed. I am not as much in charge of my own time as I was while I studied. Because even if the engineering courses and lectures expect you to study from 8-4, I usually decided for myself, and was able to control my day a lot. Now there is a lot more commitment, but I can, on the other hand, spend my free time with a good conscience when I have done my job. As a student, you can always do more.”
The biggest surprise
“It still surprised me how many new areas and work processes I came across. You can’t get to know everything during university. For instance, I had to read up on procedures and conditions in relation to open procurement, and there are a lot of laws that are new to me, and that are different from project to project. But I think it is exciting to work so broadly within my field and constantly learn new stuff.”
Butterflies in the stomach
When Pernille Gylling Jensen graduated in the summer of 2018 as a chemistry engineer from Aalborg University, she was excited about getting into the real world, and experiencing that someone could use everything she had learned. The first of october same year, she started as a production engineer at Harboøre Tange in the American chemistry company, FMC Corporation Site Rønland, that produces plant protection products. These are her experiences from the first while.
“I had learnt a lot in the five years at university, and was looking forwards to using my knowledge. But it was also overwhelming, and I was honestly a bit scared when I had to start.
It all went fairly quickly, because it was only ten days from when I was hired to when I had to start. In that period, I had to move from Aalborg to Holstebro and get track of my life. I can remember that I was especially worried that I could not understand the dialect. Site Rønland is in between Harboøre and Thyborøn – out in the west. I probably also had butterflies in my stomach because I was worried I didn’t know enough. My position included a lot of responsibility, and I had no experience. But since then, my boss has told me that I knocked their socks off, and I also think it went fairly well.”
“My worries turned out to be correct. I did actually have a hard time understanding what a lot of people said, because it is not just the dialect that is different. They use some completely different expressions. Today, I no longer have difficulties understanding what my colleagues say. I have actually started to speak like them a bit. Up here, you say ‘quite’ about everything. So when you say ‘it is quite bad weather today’, it means ‘it is very bad weather today’. That took some time for me to get used to. There were two new production engineers that started at the same time, and there was a detailed starting program planned that made sure we got through the production. We were taken by the hand and introduced to all departments – even the departments we were not going to work in. This gave me an extensive knowledge of the entire factory.”
“I have very nice colleagues, but I am in a man’s world. There are about 230 people in the production and only three are women, so we stick together. It is lucky that we get along so well, when I don’t have so many shots. I think I behave a bit like a man in that company, and I am fine with that, because I don’t care for girly stuff. That is why I don’t think much about how all my colleagues are men.”
“Every day, I get up happy, and go to work. The shift from being a student to going to work has been really positive. Not that I was not happy about studying, but I was excited about getting into the real world. I needed it to matter what I did. And, here, it matters that I make the right decisions. It is vital for the plants to keep going. I like for people to call and ask for my help, because they appreciate it and say thanks. I did not experience that a lot at university, but it is awesome.”
The biggest surprise
“The biggest surprise was probably the level of responsibility. I had hoped to get a position with responsibility, but the level of responsibility I have gotten is high. There are so many that are dependent on me, and my decisions matter. It does not work for me to say ‘just try, and then we will see how it ends’. That never happens. It has also been a new experience to join an American company with a lot of formalities.”