Every year a quarter of million students graduate from engineering and technology programs in the USA to soon find themselves in a never-ending maze of engineering job search.
Education is important because it is the only treasure that no one can take away from you. Engineering students work hard to achieve good grades and pass every technical exam bestowed upon them, and all that hard work must pay off. However, why is it so hard to get a job if you are just a fresh engineering graduate?
Graduation is the fruit of every student’s hard work, and it is the sweetest moment for every parent knowing that their child had achieved another milestone in their lives. Though it sucks more and more as days pass by when we are still looking for ways we can get more interviews. Every day we wake up and jump onto the computer, or even worse, we wake up with our phones in hand, checking online job ad alerts.
Although it is a feeling of fulfillment, life does not stop when you graduate. I know when I graduated back in 2007 with a B.Tech degree in electronics engineering, I kept battling with myself that I should get a few months off to enjoy what I did not have time to do while in school getting over exams. However, that was just not realistic.
The next step for me was to find a job and start making money. So many people know that every beginning is not easy, it takes a lot of patience, perseverance, and hard work to achieve what you want in life and building a career starts the day after you graduate.
STEP 1: Begin Early - There’s no such thing as premature evaluation
It is indeed helpful to start early to crack the job search code and land a job. Utilizing the time you have in college will efficiently maximize your ability to build up a good CV/Resume. This, of course, involves getting good academic grades, taking part in extra-curricular activities, and carrying out some co-op or internship work experiences.
On your first year of university, it is best to think and work out what you want your CV to look like. So by the time you are ready to apply for a job and get experience, it is all ready and set up. I know this is not easy and that the first year is made of general courses; so instead of thinking about what classes you are taking, think of whom you would like to become.
Then consult with someone who currently has that position in a company you admire so that can learn from their career growth. I love LinkedIn for this exact reason. LinkedIn is a great information acquisition and data gathering tool, and I use it every day to connect with professionals in industries I am interested in so that I can learn from them and ask questions I need to be answered.
People will help you as best as they can, as long as you approach them the right way and build valuable relationships before asking them for information, not favors, only information. Never ask someone to tell you if there’s hiring. Instead, ask “what would it take to become a successful engineer at your company.” This approach will position you as an engineer who is not desperate for just having a job and is more interested in developing a sustainable career.
STEP 2: Gain Experience or Fall in Love
Experience is crucial in landing a job. It is one of the top requirements that companies are looking for. So what the hell are we supposed to do when we graduate and don’t have any experience?
Most university courses include on the job training that often leads to a permanent job. They also have an advantage for you to do better when you get back to the university. On the job training helps develop one’s academic and personal skills, as an engineer you will better understand how the theories are applied. It also helps students make decisions about which career path to choose.
However, not everyone is sufficiently skilled before entering the real world. It is measured that about half of engineering applicants lack practical experience. So does that work to your advantage or not? Yes, indeed it does. Do companies hire new grads every year or not? Yes, indeed they do. Do all new hires have co-op or internship experience? Heck no they don't. So what are you missing in your formula?
You are not talking to the right people, which is often because you are not pursuing that conversation hard enough. Alternatively, you are working hard to build your network, but you are talking to the wrong people. Without a target and a clear reason why you chose that target, people will not take you seriously.
We all know that companies look for those vital experiences before they hire someone. That is why it is important for new grad engineers to ask employers how things work and what will significantly contribute to the success of an engineer in their team.
You have got be in love with the companies you are targeting, head over heels, totally fascinated by what they do and why they do it. When you can tell them why you want to be a member of their family, you will grab their attention and gain their interest enough so that they agree to speak and meet with you.
STEP 3: Be Specific & Stay Focused
Be eager and brave to apply for companies you have been eyeing for, but don’t take the shotgun approach, instead be a sharpshooter. Select a specific target and remain focused. Do not take your eyes off of it and do all that you are capable of to learn everything about them, their product & services, and their clients.
Make as many connections as you possibly can through LinkedIn and do not be afraid to try new methods and being open to new strategies and tactics. I coach and train many engineers on ways they can successfully connect with senior engineers and industry influencers. Yes, this will push you to step out of your comfort zone. However, remember that ‘Nothing worth having comes easy.'
You are often told, or you hear that “You should keep your options open”… however, experience has proven me otherwise. Open options cause confusion, lack focus and prevent you from being selective. Why would someone want to hire you because you ‘just want a job’? Why would I even hire you if I find out that you would take the first employment offer and not the right one?
Here’s more BS advice: “Don’t just focus on one specific industry because you might miss an opportunity that is already in front of you”.
Here’s another: "The big companies hire the most people, and it’s the fastest way to get hired" – That is NOT true. There are more small to medium size businesses. WRONG – Big companies are responsible for massive layoffs, aren’t they? According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy, small businesses have generated 64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
STEP 4: Do NOT Personalize Your Applications or Update Your Resume for Each Position
It’s common advice that you should modify your resume and tailor it towards a specific job description before you submit it. And everyone does that. Then why don’t people easily get interviews using this method?
I’ve always believed that anything that’s worth having will not come easily; and that it's the long roads that will always lead to glorious destinations. I don’t know if you believe in these philosophies, but they’re certainly true. You've got a decision to make and something new to believe in.
Generations ago when there were no Internet or phone and no standard hiring procedure, people were still hired every day and started new jobs. The foundational principles were based on doing your research to find the right organization where you like their products or services.
Then moving forward to identify the right decision makers proactively, and getting in front of that person to tell them who you are, why you’re interested in them, and what you can do in order to positively impact the organization’s bottom line or improve the quality of their products or services.
So why did we forgot about principles and life’s facts after adopting technology?
An authentic resume clearly describes who you are and what values you offer while you’re performing at your best. You need to move away from starting your job search from Google and randomly looking for an open job and then thinking if you would match that job's requirements. You will have much more success when you begin to identify the right industry, sub-industry, products and services, which will lead you to a group of companies who specialize in that sector.
At this point you have a targeted list of companies that you have direct experience with or you are extremely interested in (in love with), meaning that a career (not just a job) will result in your long-term success and happiness.
All you need to do at this point is to directly communicate with hiring managers (LinkedIn is the tool I use to teach job seekers how to do this) so that you can tell hiring manager how important your skills are for them or how interested (in love) you are with their products.
Remember that great companies hire for attitude and will teach you skills.
About The Contributing Author:
Nader Mowlaee is an Electronics Engineers who chose a career in Engineering Recruitment and Career Coaching. Nader helps Engineers through a step by step process to help them create the career they love and earn a salary they deserve. Nader is inspired by Motivating Confidence in Job Seekers and helping engineers reach their career goals fast.