Top 4 job-hunting tips

Finding a job in engineering takes skill, focus, and persistence.

By Rebecca Delaney, PE, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Chicago March 22, 2017

Finding a job in today’s job market can be challenging, especially for new graduates. Here are some key tips to follow for putting your best foot forward when job hunting within the engineering industry:

Be concise

Have a 2-minute speech ready highlighting the value you would bring to the firm—think of it as an executive summary of your resume. Ask yourself questions including:

  • How do your passions align with the firm’s core values?
  • How have you demonstrated your strong work ethic?
  • Did a recent job or experience further affirm your interest in this career?

Avoid long, drawn-out explanations where the recruiter is forced to interrupt and hurry you along. A concise summary of your experience and what you’ve learned is a great foundation for the interview.

Be interested

When you love something, learning is not limited to the classroom. There is nothing more uninspiring than someone who wants to be an engineer because he or she didn’t know what else to be, or because someone told them that they should be. Companies want to hire the next generation of leaders who can not only grow into management roles, but also can provide crucial thought leadership. Prove you have a vision by speaking on the topics that interest you most.

If you are passionate about a topic, elaborate on what inspires you about it. For example, a woman I interviewed who loved roller coasters joined her university’s roller coaster enthusiast club, studied the physics of rides, and ultimately landed a job designing amusement park rides.

The engineering industry changes quickly, and there’s a need to stay abreast of news and debates both in the field and in general. Updated energy code amendments, the Paris Agreement, and debates over the value of integrated project delivery are just a few examples of important topics to be knowledgeable about. Additionally, following companies that you’re interested in as well as thought leaders on various social media channels is a great way to stay in the know.

Be focused

As a new graduate, you may be familiar with a few big-name companies in the industry. However, it is best to focus your search so it suits your specific interests based on size, industry niche, location, etc.

For example, I remember speaking with a candidate and realizing his passions were in façade design. When I recommended a few firms that specialized in façade design, he admitted he didn’t know such firms existed.

The best way to discover these firms is by conducting online searches and researching what is available. Top firms often produce a range of engaging content, such as white papers, op-eds, and videos you can look into.

Also, ask your professors, mentors, and alumni for recommendations and review lists of companies that recruit at your college.

Be persistent

Job hunting is not for the faint of heart. For most, rejection letters will be a part of the journey, but they must not deter you from your goal. Look frequently and apply often.

For example, I mentored a woman who recently graduated and wanted to find a job in the United States. Her visa-sponsorship requirements made her job hunt even more challenging, and she endured a number of rescinded offers once her visa status was understood. After applying for two or three jobs a day for 6 months, she landed an offer from a firm willing to sponsor her. Her peers who were not as persistent also weren’t as successful in reaching their goals.

Additionally, be sure to attend job fairs. Network with industry professionals at conferences, seminars, and networking events. Join local chapters of professional associations, such as ASHRAE, U.S. Green Building Council, and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Following these tips will help you succeed in interviews and separate you from other applicants. Employers look for applicants who are poised and engaged in their future career.

Rebecca Delaney is the mechanical team leader at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s sustainable engineering studio. She is a hiring manager and engineer recognized for her industry leadership in mentoring students and sharing her passion of engineering around the globe.