When you are inexperienced and just starting out, how do you stand out? Hard work and focus.
When I was in the Navy, I was assigned to the USS Forrestal, specifically in the auxiliary engineering division.
The auxiliary engineering division (A division) had the fresh water evaporators, air conditioning and refrigeration, machine shop, catapults and arresting gears (for flight operations), compressors, auxiliary pumps and O2N2 (liquid oxygen and nitrogen) plants.
I was assigned to the A division or “A gang” and particularly to the compressor shop. I delved into mastering the ins and outs of both high pressure, low volume compressors as well as high volume, low pressure units. The latter provided the supply for the thousands of pneumatic tools deployed throughout the ship from complex piping and valve arrangements going to most work stations.
I threw myself into learning the equipment, volunteered to do the overhauls and maintenance. I found it interesting and I was surprised at how well I did considering that I really didn’t have a lot of interest in mechanics previous to the Navy.
But it was the O2N2 plant that fascinated me. These guys were liquifying air, separating out rare gases and harvesting pure liquid oxygen and nitrogen. The shops had compressors that were not normally maintained by the compressor shop.
One day there was a severe illness and someone was needed to fix a compressor in the aft O2N2 shop. I got the nod and diligently repaired the unit and got it operational. This got me into the mysterious plant. And though I was familiar with the top NCO as he was also in the A gang, this was the first time I got to talk to him at length.
I pestered him with questions about everything. He gave me schematics and the O2N2 school text book. I spent all my spare time studying those documents and visiting the plant to see the things that I was learning.
When a billet opened in the shop, the NCO got me transferred into the shop. I set to work studying all of the equipment and processes. I volunteered during my time off from my watch to come help the other shifts. I stared at the schematics during routine operations and experimented with tweaking the settings to increase production.
I gained a reputation for being able to have the highest output on my watch. This gave me a chance to be a shift lead NCO, which was pretty rare for someone as junior as me.
What lay behind this success:
1. Genuine interest
2. Hard work and study
3. Dedication to being the best
All of these things made me stand out over many that were senior to me.
Inexperienced folks, there is very little that cannot be accomplished with study, hard work and focus.