By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman
Some 77 percent of employers plan to hire recent college graduates this year, with Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering comprising two of the top five majors. However, even graduates with high GPAs need a well-thought-out job search strategy, because the characteristics that employers value, and the hunting process itself, have changed over the past few years.
Running an effective campaign that addresses a manager’s needs and expectations can mean the difference between landing that dream engineering job and settling for your second or third choice. To make sure you come out on top, review our timely tips before you hit the market.
Highlight Your Hands-On Experience
Graduating from an elite engineering program is certainly a feather in your cap. But these days, managers put more weight on experiences that apply classroom knowledge to real-world applications.
Evaluators view internships and participation in student projects, competitions, clubs, contract assignments and summer jobs as a preview of your capabilities, passion and future job performance. To showcase your potential, provide a summary of your projects near the top of your resume; then offer more detailed descriptions, graphics and photos in an addendum, website or portfolio.
Balance Hi-Tech with Hi-Touch
Although your engineering skills may get you a diploma, they won’t get you a job. Employers placed nine soft skills above technical skills in a list of the attributes they want to see in new graduates.
Be sure to balance your educational triumphs with examples of leadership, teamwork, work ethic and initiative in your resume, online profiles and answers to behavioral interview questions. And having a customer service orientation and rapport building skills are key, so by all means, showcase your personality, hobbies and the skills you acquired through customer-facing jobs.
Pay Attention to Generational Differences
Employers are making a concerted effort to tailor their communication practices, perks and culture toward the preferences of young STEM professionals. Even so, you need to be cognizant of generational differences and show respect for the way things have always been done when speaking with managers.
To make sure you don’t trip up, make your contributions the centerpiece of discussions and wait until the end of the hiring process to ask about things like PTO, job titles and opportunities for career advancement. Also, be willing to follow the firm’s communication practices and best practice documentation standards. Finally, email (or better yet handwrite) thank-you notes and connect via phone or in person whenever possible.
Make Networking a Priority
Even if you land an offer before graduation, having a robust professional network is an absolute necessity for long-term career success. Begin right away by connecting and requesting endorsements from your professors, colleagues and the managers at the companies where you interned. Then, continually build your network of contacts by asking for referrals and adding the professionals you meet at conferences, meetups and informational interviews.
Create a Robust Online Presence
Recent studies show that 90 percent of employers research candidates online before initiating contact. Developing a compelling brand and value proposition – and attracting new followers – by adding updates, projects, training and blog posts to your profiles and website can help you garner the attention of recruiters and engineering managers. Just be sure the “buzz” you create is positive, because, according to a recent survey, over one-third of companies have disqualified candidates based on something they found online.
Assemble a Support Team
There are many people in the engineering community who are willing to go the extra mile to help you find employment. All you have to do is ask. For instance, many engineers would be happy to provide coaching and advice to a new graduate. And building relationships with mentors is a great way to expand your network and secure informational interviews.
Ensure access to alumni directories, networking events, resume reviews and seminars by registering with your campus career center and alumni association. Finally, if you really want the inside scoop, an experienced recruiter can provide vital market intelligence, access to elusive engineering managers and unadvertised positions, valuable feedback and the chance to build your resume and your wallet through skill-enhancing contract engineering assignments.
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