Ever wondered what sets apart the Engineering graduates who quickly secure relevant employment to the ones who initially struggle?
Chiefly, the successful graduates give themselves the best chance of securing work in their preferred field by exemplifying a good understanding of what employers want to see in an Engineering graduate.
And in this sense, it’s important to remember how there will be many candidates applying for jobs who possess the same level of experience as you, so with this in mind here are our essential tips to boosting your employability as a graduate Engineer whilst at university.
Secure the 'right' type of work placement and internship opportunities
A common theme among the fresh Engineers that we place is the majority of them have gained experience in their field outside of a university setting prior to graduation.
Employers want concrete proof that you’re able to apply the skills you learn in practice and securing a work placement that matches your chosen career path is integral to this. Our clients will often ask to see candidates who have completed an industrial placement and you’ll find structured work experience will be welcomed universally by prospective employers.
Keep in close contact with your careers and employability team and utilise this facility as much as possible as they have extensive experience of helping students find suitable work experience, whether it’s a placement year or vacation work.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box in your approach too. In our experience the feedback we receive from students tells us it’s harder to secure a placement at high profile engineering organisations due to the sheer amount of enquiries they tend to receive.
Of course, it’s well worth pursuing work experience opportunities at larger companies but be careful not to neglect organisations who perhaps have smaller marketing budgets and aren’t as well known.
SMEs will be less bombarded by graduates and you may have more luck with them if you’re looking for short-term internships during vacation time. The best way to introduce yourself would be to email your CV with a covering letter explaining your interest in a given company.
Once you’ve secured a placement make sure you keep in close contact with employers when you return to your studies. Maintaining a rapport with decision makers inside an organisation keeps you in their mind for when it comes to taking up their graduate intake. You’ll find LinkedIn is an ideal platform to do this.
It’s also import that you familiarise yourself with people at all levels of an organisation. Who knows where they’ll be in the future, so casting a wider net when you network is crucial.
Exhibit your passion for your chosen field through extra-curricular activities
Whilst possessing relevant work experience is a big tick on the checklist of Engineering graduate employers, a way to give yourself that added ‘wow-factor’ as a candidate is to gear your extra-curricular activities and hobbies towards the field of work you want to get into.
Is there a particular module that you have excelled in during university? Why not see if there’s any related student competitions that are worth entering? For instance, the ICE organise the Emerging Engineers Award and previous winners have utilised their experience to launch a career in their chosen field.
Building upon this, think about what area of engineering are you most passionate about. Why not devise your own research project and study aspects of a subject that might not be covered within your degree curriculum? Doing this will not only show employers that you’re extremely passionate about your field but will also demonstrate an attitude of continuous self-improvement.
These are attributes that are highly coveted by graduate employers and there’s no limit to where pursuing your interests outside of university can take you. For instance, the Engineer magazine profiled Patrick Cottam, a Mechanical Engineering student whose participation in the Schools Aerospace Challenge led him to a highly obscure internship with a ballooning pioneer.
This experience set Patrick apart from many graduates and he’s now working on the development of an innovative energy technology revolving around bizarre solar chimneys. Patrick’s story exhibits how being adventurous with your spare time could pay off in the future and even if it doesn’t, the time you spend will still be rewarding as essentially all you’re doing is following your interests – it’s win-win.
Lay the foundations for later on in your career
Many of the job adverts you’ll come across when you start your graduate job search will include seemingly vague specifications such as “willingness to learn new skills on the job” and “looking to attain Chartered Status”.
You could be forgiven for thinking that recruiters will take requirements such as these for granted. After all, you’ll be a recent graduate from an engineering degree course – of course, you’re going to be willing to learn new skills and be open to the idea of attaining Chartered Status.
The key is being able to provide evidence that this is the case to prospective employers, especially within such a competitive job market. The Engineering Council’s website is a great place to start if you’re interested in finding out more about gaining further certifications.
Getting started on working towards qualifications will not only make it easier for yor to progress within Engineering later in your career but will also help to convey your hunger to add value to a company through ongoing personal improvement.
In this sense, you need to exhibit how you are an investment that will reap dividends for an organisation and not just a graduate looking for a means to an end.