How to Get an Engineering Job
September 28, 2020
So you're about to earn your degree, you had a great internship, and you are preparing for your first "real" job. Where do you start? Here are four tips to help you find an engineering job you'll be proud to have on your resume.
Step 1: Take the Fundamentals of Engineering FE Exam
Students in their final year of a bachelor's program, as well as those who have already graduated from college, can take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. There are seven discipline-specific versions of the FE exam: FE Chemical, FE Civil, FE Electrical and Computer, FE Environmental, FE Industrial, FE Mechanical, and FE Other Disciplines. Passing the test shows potential employers that you are qualified to be an engineer and that you are serious about your career. It is the first step toward becoming a licensed engineer. After passing the FE exam, you are considered an “engineer-in-training.” Among the many candidates you’ll be competing against, this is a great way to differentiate yourself.
Step 2: Network with Peers and Executives
Remember those adjunct professors you loved? They were adjuncts because they had a job in engineering and taught (generally) at night because they wanted to share their real-world knowledge. Look them up, and see if there are job openings where they work. At the very least, ask them for a recommendation. Remember, a vast majority—in the 80 percent range according to some estimates—of jobs are not advertised. So it's up to you to network. Don't forget upperclassmen that are now out in the workforce; they may know of an opening either at their employer or potentially at a competitor or partner firm. Networking also helps you practice interpersonal skills, including talking to strangers. That's handy when you're selected for an interview and when starting a new job.
Thinking about taking the FE exam? Download the Preparing for the FE Exam eBook.
Step 3: Join Professional Organizations
The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) offers a list of NSPE State Societies located nationwide. Once you identify your local group, attend meetings and introduce yourself to the head of that chapter. Many associations are looking for young engineers and are willing to help those looking for a job. Most people genuinely want to help others get their career started. In addition, joining these types of groups will help build your skill set. That's important when first starting out, as well as many years down the road. Engineers must always be aware of and conversant in new developments in their chosen fields.
Step 4: Research Potential Employers
When applying for a job, your cover letter should reflect that you have some knowledge of the company. Once you are called for an interview, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that you've done your homework. Some things to know (and not ask the interviewer): How many employees do they have? Is the company international? Who are their closest competitors? Have there been any major management or staff changes recently? What major innovations, if any, is the company responsible for? What is the company's reputation, and who makes up the target market? It's unlikely you'll be "quizzed" on such information during an interview; however, by working some of those pieces of knowledge into your conversation, you'll project a positive first impression.
Looking for a job, whether your first or your fifth, can be very stressful. Reduce that stress by being more prepared than others who are vying for the same position. Solid preparation will make you more confident in your ability to project your best self...and offer potential employers the best engineer their money can buy.
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