University of California, Riverside

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

How To Succeed In The Entry Level Engineering Job Market

How To Succeed In The Entry Level Engineering Job Market

How To Succeed In The Entry Level Engineering Job Market

March 16, 2012 - 4:49 pm
Winston Chung Hall, 205/206

1.Get experience before you graduate

This is probably the single most important thing you can do for yourself, to make yourself marketable. When you graduate there is not a beautiful meadow with roses waiting for you. There is stiff competition from other more talented and experienced individuals. You need to do something to stand out. Volunteer and help out with your IEEE student chapter and their events like merit badge day.  I have no way of expressing how valuable this is. It is an easy choice between a college graduate with 2 internship experiences and one without…….


Think of this as almost a failsafe for being able to get a good  job when you get out of college and at a good starting salary. How many students who did a few internships have trouble finding a job after college? I don’t know myself, but I know it’s a lot less than those that didn’t do any internships at all. Do an internship for free even, you’ll be able to ask for a salary at some point once you prove yourself.


When you get to applying to internships make sure you make your resume is specific to that internship/company. Figure out what they do/make. Look up a youtube tutorial video on any software the company uses. Do a simple project in said software and figure out a way to list that on your resume in some fashion.



2.Network Network Network

If you don’t have a family member working at an engineering firm you need to be making contacts during your college careers. This includes going to networking events (like the ones hosted by Jun), talking to people. Ask them out for coffee for career advice, or dinner or the like. Job opportunities are from proper networking and less based on merit, though credentials are always important. Everyone can design a circuit, fuel cone, or filtrations system, what employers look for is also someone who’s going to be a “self starter” and a “worker”, and a “team player”. You can show a potential employer you have these attributes by networking well with them (or at least to some extent).


3.Ask the right questions

Einstein said that if he was given 5 minutes to solve a problem he would spend 3 reading the question and understanding the problem, 1 minute formulating a solution, and 1 minute writing. I find this to be true when working on a task or project. Take time to understand the bigger picture. “How does what I’m doing fit into the overall effort or product.” This will help in finding solutions and alternatives when challenges arise. Learning to ask the right questions at the right time will lend itself to finding the best solution. Good managers aren’t usually the most/best technical person. They use their technical skills combined with the ability to determine root causes and corrective actions, which is really learning to ask the right question. This goes hand in hand with “understanding the problem”. There are entire fields such as systems engineering, process engineering and so forth that are really focused on these underlying problems.


4.Never Give Up, Keep Going Up

If you’ve finished your Bachelor’s you can get a job or work on your M.S. With the poor job market it’s a very good idea to get your Master’s in any technical subject, this also gives you the opportunity to look for summer internships while having a degree on your resume to help you stand out. With internship experience, doors will open up for you after you finish your academic career (as mentioned).  When applying for jobs always relax and just try your hardest. Apply for a few hundred jobs when you’re ready to go into the job market. (Yes, at least a few hundred) Curtail resumes to each job description, you’ll get a lot more call backs. Make your resume a work of art and learn to speak to it well. Learn to relax and make jokes and side chat during the interview. Mention any hobbies you do with your hands or technical hobbies if you can work them into the conversation. When you get a job consider doing you M.S. part time. If you manager tries to dissuade you, he probably doesn’t have your best interests in mind in my humble opinion. If you don’t like your job/area keep applying and looking. Once you have 1 year of experience you can start applying everywhere and get to where you want to be.


5.Learn To Communicate Well

This may sound straightforward but I assure you it is not and is the most common problem within engineering and always an issue on every single large scale project. Learning to communicate precisely, succinctly, and with as little unnecessary information as possible will lead you to have a successful career in whatever field you venture into. You’ll notice your managers are short, accurate and ask the right questions. (Or at least the good ones.) Also, try to be as clear as possible when doing any documentation or correspondence.


6.Always Be Practical

I have a mindset that images that instead of building  the product for the company I’m really building it for myself in my garage. (if I was making billion dollar equipment in my garage.) It comes in handy when remembering that time costs money, the logistics of assembling things, “design for manufacturability”, and so forth. I find many successful people are just very practical and have a lot of common sense. My favorite poster has Spiderman saying “common sense, so rare it’s like a super power”. Great engineers know how to simplify issues by looking at a problem practically.


Sean Dowden

Systems Architecture Engineer – Panasonic Avionics




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