Every year, around May/June, I will get a bunch of emails from younger engineers who found some of my mentoring material and are in a panic. They have recently graduated with their engineering degree, but have yet to secure a full time engineering position. If you find yourself in this position, I hope you find some of this advice helpful. You can also reach out to me via PM if you need some additional guidance.
#1 Focus on connections and not just online applications:
I seriously hate online applications. Sure, they are easy, but that is part of the problem. Employers get tons of applications and sift through them for the “perfect” candidate. They toss in requirements that are marginally required, but HR weeds you out since you don’t have them. If you want to get results, then you need to improve the QUALITY of your search. To do this, you need to network and make real connections with the people that actually make the decisions. Here are some things you can do right away to get your network moving:
- Improve your LinkedIn profile. Just having a LinkedIn profile is not enough. You want to make it engaging and include some details of your education, experience, and interests. Avoid pointless jargon and make it something personal. When you are building your network, make sure to include a personalized note and let someone know what it was that made you reach out to them and why you want to connect. Not doing this is like going up to a stranger and saying “Hey, wanna be my friend” while offering zero context.
- Join the local chapter of your engineering society. Forget the BS one that you had in college, you want the chapter in the city where you live that includes everyone from younger engineers to seasons professionals. Attend there events with the sole purpose of meeting other engineers. Don’t go in begging for jobs, but make the connections and let them know you are looking.
- Reach out to alumni. I can provide you with a list of 30+ types of people you should reach out to, but few are better consistently than alumni from your engineering school. There is an automatic connection with these people and they will often be very willing to lend a helping hand. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.
#2 Are you getting interviews, but not the job?
The first thing to keep in mind is that the one thing you have no control over is your competition for a position. No matter how well you present yourself and fit the position, it is possible that someone is even better than you in one of these metrics. However, if you consistently get interviews and nothing is coming from them, then the likely culprit is that you are presenting yourself poorly. If they are calling you in, then you have passed the general criteria. This is true an even greater degree if you get multiple interviews with each firm and still get no offer. If this is the case, then you need to work on improving the way you present yourself. Be critical and think about your interviews. . .
- Did you make a good first impression? According to several research studies, just 7 seconds is the length of time it takes someone to make a first impression of you. Are you dressed appropriately? Did you show up on time? Did you give a firm handshake, smile, and make eye contact? All of these factor into making a good first impression.
- When you answer questions, do you frame the answer towards the position? With every question, have in your mind that the question ends with “as it applies to this position”. For example, when they ask you about your experience, then you should describe some experience that would be needed for this position. As an employer, I don’t really care all that much about random experience that is irrelevant to the current opening. Being able to do this effectively means that you have to research the company and position, but it is well worth your time. Along the same lines, when they say “tell me about yourself” keep your answer in line with the position and also perhaps with how that history led you to engineering.
- Have you ever reached out to someone that turned you down and asked why? It can be tough to bring yourself to do this, but this is the only way to get the real answer. Tell them you appreciate their opinion and wanted to improve moving forward. If they can honestly share why they turned you down, then you can work on this area. Don’t be combative and be willing to accept some (potentially) harsh constructive criticism.
#3 Your job is now your job search
There is no sleeping in or bumming around for hours & days on end because you have the “freedom” of not having job. You want to take a few days off? Go ahead, but don’t let that linger on. You need to have a mindset that searching for a position is all you do day-in and day-out until you land something. Also, many of the students I mentor have found positive value in getting dressed and also performing the job search from a library or other out of the house environment.