My career so far
It all started with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences in Bonn after my high school graduation in 2016. As I became more and more aware of the importance of the environment during my studies, I then decided to take a master’s degree in environmental sciences in Frankfurt. After arriving in the state of Hessen I looked for a job as a working student and looked at some companies and job offers on the internet. Finally, I ended up with job advertisements from TÜV Rheinland Energy GmbH in Mainz-Hechtsheim and Cologne. However, they were only looking for fully trained employees. As a student I did not quite match this. But on the career website of TÜV Rheinland I quickly found the field of speculative applications. And lo and behold – a job interview in Mainz followed and I was hired.
Starting my job as a working student
At first I was a bit uncertain whether I was really suitable, because although I was very interested in the subject area and the basics were taught during my studies, I could hardly show any practical experience in this exact area. This was also the reason why I was looking for a student trainee job. Besides the chance to gain insight into a large company, I wanted to broaden my horizon and learn new things. I immediately noticed the very pleasant working atmosphere in the office and when working on equipment. Despite corona measures and wearing a mask. My questions are handled with understanding and the colleagues always explain a lot to me.
Am I suitable to perceive odours on site? Smells of N-butanol and hydrogen sulfide (highly diluted of course) on the olfactometer. Where else do you do something like that?
Braving your own fears
Apart from trips to Cologne to the laboratory, I mainly support colleagues working in Hessen, as two people always have to carry out jobs there. These appointments often last only one day. However, it often happens that we have to drive further away and an overnight stay in a hotel is necessary. In any case, you should be aware of this in advance. I personally find a quiet evening just for myself or a social evening with colleagues a welcome change from everyday life.
Sometimes, the plants are pretty high up. Unfortunately I am afraid of heights, which is why I cannot always go along. But I have also climbed ladders which I would not have thought myself capable of before. Sometimes you just have to try it out and you even may exceed your limits at times.
But there are also facilities where I am allowed to stay on the ground or where I am spared as a second person to climb up. The important thing is that I can always say “no”. But it is also important that I mention my fear of heights, because otherwise it would not work on the plants. When they say: “We have to climb a lift 20m high and then move safely to another platform” – I’d rather just stay on the ground.
Working student job in environmental sciences – getting involved
In general, I get a phone call at least one week before, but sometimes also very spontaneously, asking if I have time and want to come along. In the end the decision is still mine. At the moment my work consists mainly of carrying things and handing things on. Sometimes I just watch and get explained what’s going on or I just have to wait for a moment. But there always have been tasks where I was needed and which would not have worked without a second person. Therefore I never feel like a mere observer. In the long run, there is also the possibility to get familiar with the data analysis and the more often I go along, the more I can do and support independently. As it always is.
Here you can see a typical measurement setup.
As a woman among men
Finally, I would like to mention the low rate of women in my department. As far as I know, the situation in Cologne is no different for environmental measurement technology. In Mainz there is only one other woman working besides me. I don’t really mind too much, but I still think it’s a pity. As far as I know, there are really too few female applicants here. So go ahead – change that! Sometimes suitcases and equipment are a bit heavier, but I get everything lifted and I’m certainly not muscular. Besides, you can always put the suitcases down or one of the colleagues will take over the job of carrying them. In principle, you should be able to tackle the job and a fear of dirt would be counterproductive. I would be very happy about more female support.
Giving feedback correctly in the job
Formulating salary expectations correctly