All around the world graduate engineers are adding items of evidence to their portfolios for professional registration.
In our year or so of consulting through The Structural Exam, I want to point out two key factors which will help graduates at any stage of their Initial Professional Development.
Asking good quality questions
It is never too late to learn
My friends and colleagues will know me for pestering them and asking all sorts of questions – some which may seem absurdly basic given my education and experience. You should never feel embarrassed to ask as it demonstrates an understanding your own limits (ICE Attribute 4) and your willingness to learn. It is better to appear stupid now than be ignorant in the future.
Closed vs. open questions
Observe the difference in these two questions
What do you usually do to design the reinforcement at this joint?
Why do you usually design this joint's reinforcement this way?
The difference in the second question is that the respondent will need to argue and explain things until you understand the fundamental mechanics and processes behind the design. The first question may only give a relatively short but non-explanatory answer.
The key difference is that you need ask as many open questions as you can, where you will keep learning why things are done in the fashion they are. This way you can understand the quality of the decision or where there are areas for improvement. (See IStructE Core Objective 3.6 and ICE Attribute 3)
By asking good quality questions you (should) get good quality answers. You should start to observe the limits of the knowledge of your team members and even your mentor/manager. This is an explicit requirement of the Independent Judgement Attribute for the ICE and rather more implicit for the IStructE.
If you need further explanation on open vs. closed questions, please already read this page from Changing Minds
Documenting everything you do.
Balancing quality and quantity is the art of making good progress in your IPD. Every single day you spend working or thinking about engineering you should document it somehow.
Maybe you will use a log book or you will take photos. With hard drives having enormous capacity at cheap prices (This external 4 Terabyte hard drive costs £120 at the time of writing), you should be able to back up all your files or take several screenshots of your work every day.
Any time you do something which seems easy or trivial, try to step back and ask yourself whether you thought it was easy when you first started. Maybe it was not then, but because you think it is trivial today you do not think it is worth of being documented. In fact the opposite should apply. You have learned a skill which you should demonstrate to the professional institution, and you should also reflect on the process of how you learned it, and repeat or improve it if you can. See also our article on how you should write each item of evidence.
When the time comes to writing your quarterly reports or your final submission, you should have a huge database of evidence to pick from, and then it will be a case of choosing those of the best quality and demonstrates your capabilities.
The journey to professional registration is not quick, but can be significantly accelerated by combining the two factors mentioned. It is tempting to try and race against your colleagues and try to get Chartered first, but this goes against many of the principles of Initial and Continuous Professional Development.
Instead you should savour the process of learning and focus on quality over quantity. This will ultimately reward you with a better submission and greatly improve your odds of succeeding with your application.