Engineer Career Advice on Switching Careers, Getting a Job, and Gaining Experience
I usually look through your website for inspiration, and I was wondering if you have any words that can be directed at me.I recently got terminated at a call-center job–in my write-up, the corporation told me that I was losing them money because I was giving out too many good will adjustments for customers.
I think that although that’s a great learning experience for me to stop being a push over and feeling sorry for other people, I’m pretty upset that I lost a job and that the ax came down so abruptly.
I’m actually an electrical engineer and am finishing up my degree this semester.
How can I make myself more marketable for engineering firms?
I have never had a previous engineering job (just random call-center jobs) but I’ve worked as a researcher for my professor and have some coding skills, as well as reputable academic publications.
Would going to engineering firms in person be a good idea (vs. sending a resume via the website) or would that be considered a nuisance?
Should I ask for skills-based volunteering opportunities?
I polled a few engineers I know and got their following responses:
I work for a government owned power company and applied through a graduate program (which they have stopped due to the economic climate of the industry in our area of the country). If I hadn’t applied this way, and with 7 years experience now, I would suggest looking at graduate programs at big firms/companies.
As a hiring manager, I’m looking as much at current skills and how I can train and develop someone. And a huge part of interviews is ensuring you get someone with the right behaviours (coming to work every day, working hard, asking questions, independently thinking, seeking to improve processes etc).
The manager who hired me straight out university told me years ago, he recruited for ‘potential’.
A GREAT FRIEND
Is an engineer.
My advice would be to make the last semester and summer count. Here’s how I recommend getting started.
She already has some experience in coding, and being published is a pretty big deal (I think, so kudos to her), and she should build on those experiences.
Did she enjoy those experiences and did those give her any insight on what she wants to pursue after graduation? If so, she may already have a head start.
Does she know what she wants to get into – programming, design, consulting, research, etc.?
At this point she should have an idea of what topics she enjoyed.
If she can identify that, then she can focus getting experience in that field, through working with a prof, focusing her projects, volunteer at a lab/extra curricular activity, a summer intern program, etc. Look into industry associations she can join.
Usually membership fees for students are really low (take advantage!), you get to attend the events and make some connections.
If there are certain individuals’ careers or research they really admire, reach out and ask them for coffee. Some people may say no, but you have nothing to lose. If she is aware of a relationship between those individuals and people she knows (i.e., her profs), try building in those connections.
Schools usually have resume workshops and inteview/ job prep work shops. Find out what they are and go to as many as she can.
These are great resources and very expensive after university. I think it’s even worth it to pay for the service to have someone look over your resume and give feedback. Again, this is a very expensive service after university (although her school may offer this service to alumni as well).
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a friend/acquaintance tell me they’ve been looking for months – but when I read their resume, I think I understand why.
Finally, I think a carefully crafted cover letter tailored specially to the job she is interested can make a big difference, depending on who is hiring.
Keep it concise and job specific. If she doesn’t have time, then don’t even bother.
A generic cover letter is worse than a no cover letter. I wouldn’t suggest going to a firm to meet in person without doing her research and reaching out first. She may be imposing on their time, if she just drops into their office.
Emily from Urban Departures is an engineer by day and daydreamer by night, she aspires to bring beauty into the lives of everyone around her and lives in Toronto, Canada.
Look at graduate programs at big firms/companies.
Those programs do not expect any technical experience, just those transferable skills. When I first started, I definitely was not hired for my technical skills but my potential.
I’m a Computer Engineer by education – Computer Science plus Electrical Engineering. I’ve always stayed closer to the software side during my career, but as an Electrical Engineer who can code, you and I are just two different sides on the same EE – CS scale.
First, a few caveats: I’m American, and I haven’t been job searching for a long time. However, I’ve now been on both sides of the table, and I’d love to give a few thoughts.
It’s too late to get an electrical engineering internship at this point (at least before you graduate), but the key is usually to make your resume stick out in some way. You’ve got published research – you should play it up on your resume, and find a way to bring it up in any interviews you go to. Fact is, you should have your technical knowledge down, but once you get through that screen, you want to have a topic that you’re comfortable with and people will remember. Relevant, too, would be if you’ve worked on any hardware projects – especially in hardware, if you have something you can bring to an interview that you can speak passionately about – you’d stick out.
Since you’re still in school, your best move would be to take advantage of any of the programs your school puts on. Resume help, contacts with recruiters at firms, the job database, and any career fairs – drop your resume off and talk for a few minutes instead of just walking away, that will help you stick out. Don’t be shy about applying to a lot of companies – it’s a numbers game to get to the phone screen since early on your resume will probably be scanned quickly by a non-engineer. Once you get to the phone screen you can let your talent really shine through – and using your university’s resources can help you get to phone screens faster.