Speaking with classmates and other young engineers that are looking to land an engineering job has brought up a very common question: “How did you find your first job?” It’s a tough question to answer because it isn’t just one thing. After months of filling out applications and hearing nothing back, I decided to take a step back and evaluate what I was doing wrong. Through this reevaluation, I was able to reinvent myself in several ways to give myself an edge over other applicants.
1. Cast a Wide Net
After graduating, almost every engineer will have their dream job laid out and want to immediately focus on that. While a dream job is a great long-term goal to have, it should not be your only goal. In the short term, your focus should be on securing an entry-level position.
With this in mind, don’t just apply for one specific title or company. Use job search websites or LinkedIn’s jobs page to find companies and positions that match your skill set. Cast a wide net and apply for any job you satisfy the requirements for and think would be interesting. You very well may find yourself happily employed in an industry you previously didn’t even know existed.
2. Build Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to job hunting and a strong profile is a cornerstone. LinkedIn does a great job of suggesting where to add information to make your profile stronger. Adding a summary, detailed descriptions of your work experience, an appropriate headshot, and all your relevant skills are all crucial elements to a standout profile.
There is also an option in LinkedIn to open yourself up to contact from recruiters and career coaches. Doing this, along with actively posting and sharing articles, lead to me receiving around 1-2 calls a week from recruiters. LinkedIn is also an incredibly useful networking tool. Follow relevant hashtags and request to join groups to meet, connect, and network with other, like-minded engineers.
3. Cater Your Resume and Cover Letter for Each Application
An extremely quick and easy way to make your application stand out against the rest is to customize it. So many people will use one extremely generic and broad resume and cover letter for every application. Unfortunately, nowadays, this won’t even get you through the first phase of the application process. Especially with large companies that receive hundreds of applications for a single position, a specifically designed computer software will run through each application and scan for keywords. If an inadequate number of keywords are found, your application is discarded without ever even coming in contact with a human.
The thing is, these keywords aren’t a secret. They are all neatly and conveniently listed in the job posting as recommended skills or requirements. Personalize each resume and cover letter you submit to highlight the skills you have in common with the job listing.
4. Use Your College as a Resource
Most students graduate and leave behind one of the most valuable job searching resources they have without even knowing it. Career services is a resource with a plethora of information to offer completely free of charge! You can schedule a meeting to go through and improve your resume or schedule a mock interview to practice answering questions. However, there is so much more information available to you if you know where to look. In most cases, career services will keep records of companies that have hired students in the past. Usually, they’ll also keep the contact information of recruiters or representatives that have built a working relationship with the school.
Use this resource to get in contact with people in the engineering discipline(s) you are interested in. Even if it does not immediately lead to an opportunity, it is extremely important to network and make connections to land an engineering job.
5. Attend Career Fairs
Career fairs are a great way to connect and network with a wide range of employers in an extremely time efficient manner. In just a few hours you will have had the opportunity to lay the groundwork of a solid professional relationship with easily over a dozen potential employers. In most cases, colleges and universities host annual career fairs with local employers that have hired students in the past. If your campus does not host a career fair, suggest trying to start one to your career services office. However, a lot of major cities will host public career fairs with hundreds of employers at a time.
6. Attend Networking Events
Joining engineering organizations like ASME, IEEE, or ASCE have benefits ranging way further than a membership card and a free t-shirt. Joining one of these organizations connects you nationwide with professional engineers in every conceivable industry. All of these organizations host networking events nationwide. Look for one in your area and try to make some new professional connections. You never know where you will find new potential opportunities.
7. Stay Organized
After applying for a few dozen positions, it is extremely easy to lose track of where you have applied and when. Create an excel document to keep track of each application and key information about each listing. Be sure to include the position title, job reference number, the date you applied on, and any contact info you can find on the job poster to follow up. Not only does this keep all of the information in one place, but it allows you to stay organized while applying for new positions.
8. Don’t Be Discouraged By Rejection
Unfortunately, the reality of searching for an entry-level position, especially in engineering, is that rejection is extremely common. In some cases, you may simply never hear back at all. Don’t let this rejection discourage you from continuing to apply to positions. In my own experience, as time went on without any successful leads, I saw the number of applications I was completing sharply decline. To counter this I set a recurring alarm to set aside time to look for new postings and apply for 3-5 new positions each week. Being able to stay focused motivated is key to achieving your goal of securing an entry level engineering job.
Check out these great articles: