Standing Out When Starting Out In an Engineering Career
If you’re an entry-level engineering professional, new graduate, or even starting over with a new career in engineering, you might be concerned about landing a job with little or no prior work experience.
Worry not! You’re right where you need to be. The good news is that you’re also in high demand.
We surveyed engineering hiring managers in Canada and the U.S. to discover top ways professionals can succeed in the hiring process and on the job.
Here’s what we discovered: 34 percent of engineering hiring managers are in fact looking for entry-level candidates with little to no experience, and 53 percent of respondents are looking to hire someone with up to three years of experience.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when starting out.
Amplify your experience
Internships, class projects, volunteer work, freelancing and even a part-time job are all ways to demonstrate your engineering experience, technical and soft skills—as well as a list of references.
In fact, working as a contract or temporary employee or interning within an organization are top ways to gain an advantage in the hiring process.
How to write a resumé with no prior work experience
Writing a resumé with no prior work experience doesn’t have to be a challenge—so long as you know what to highlight and what to put first.
Lead with your education. List any scholastic awards you’ve received, courses you’ve taken or projects you completed that are relevant to the position. If you have a good grade point average, belong to a professional organization, were on the Dean’s list, volunteered, or have military experience, don’t forget to also list these points.
Next comes experience. Use what you have. Read over the job description and pinpoint the top technical or soft skills required for the position. Once again, think of any classes, projects, past volunteering or leadership roles in any clubs or organizations in which you’ve demonstrated those skills.
Use actionable but brief sentences to demonstrate you have what the job requires. For example, if good communication skills are listed as a job requirement, you could cite your summer job as a national park guide and the time you volunteered as a teacher’s aide:
- 6/3/2016 -8/23/2016 National Park Guide.
Responsibilities: Answered visitor questions and communicated park rules effectively.
- 1/5/2015- 3/2/2015 Volunteer Teacher’s Aide.
Responsibilities: Assisted students by explaining and reinforcing classroom lessons.
Next comes skills. Create a technical profile that lists the job-specific skills, knowledge, languages, software, processes, industry theories and platforms you know.
Interviewing with no prior work experience
Engineering hiring managers place almost equal importance on so called “soft” skills as they do on technical skills and experience. The interview is the time to let your interpersonal skills shine.
When hiring engineers, managers are primarily seeking workers with good analytical, communication and complex problem solving skills. Having a sense of personal accountability, possessing the ability to work well in a team setting, and listening and comprehending well are also important skills. During the interview, you’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate these soft skills in the answers you give and in the way you conduct yourself.
- Prepare for the interview by researching the company and writing down several smart questions to ask ahead of time.
- Think through your top accomplishments, and prepare a few answers to common behavioural interview questions like, “Tell me about an instance in which you handled conflict?” or “How do you deal with the pressure of deadlines?”
These types of questions are the hiring manager’s way of gauging your interpersonal skills and your emotional intelligence.
Lastly – it may seem obvious, but don’t forget the basics. Arrive on time, leave your cell phone in the car and dress in your best professional attire.