Engineering: A Beginner’s Guide

Work experience will impress graduate recruiters and can even help you with career decisions.
The gradsingapore Team
The gradsingapore Team
Engineering_a beginner's guide

Recruiters value work experience. Accordingly, an engineering placement is the gold standard – it not only shows that you have hands-on industry experience to complement your degree, but it also demonstrates your commitment to the sector and that you know what to expect when you start your graduate job. It’ll also help you get a feel of where you want to work, and indicate to employers that your decisions about where to apply are based on more than guesswork.

However, if you can’t manage an engineering placement or you‘ve left it too late, there’s no need to worry; work experience or part-time jobs in any environment – even if it’s in a different industry – can still help you develop the transferable skills needed, as well as give you some work experience. As such, they too, are well thought of by employers.

Engineering placements

Some degrees incorporate a year in the industry; if yours doesn’t, take the initiative and look into arranging one. Placements will give you a sense of what life as a graduate engineer is like, help you build skills that are relevant to graduate positions and give you the chance to build up a network of contacts.

A placement is also a great opportunity to get to know a firm better than by just reading company literature. This will give you a good basis from which to figure out whether it’s the sort of business you could work for on a long-term basis, and whether you feel the area of engineering and kind of role you’re considering are right for you.

It also gives employers a chance to get to know you better as an employee. Many recruiters like to hire students who perform well on their placements, and some may even offer sponsorships to help you complete your degree.

Small engineering companies

While small engineering employers may not run formal schemes, they can still be good sources of work experience. You could ask to shadow someone in an area or organisation that interests you for a couple of days, or look for paid, part-time work.

Go to your university’s careers service for advice and contacts, and check job boards on online portals.

Non-engineering experience

Many companies will happily consider your application for a graduate job even if you don’t have engineering work experience – as long as you have done something else worthwhile with your time that you can draw upon when discussing your background and skills. For instance:

  • Part-time work during university terms or vacations will help you develop interpersonal skills as well as the ability to work in a team. You may even be able to go a step further and come up with a suggestion or improvement that’ll help the business prosper.
  • Helping to run university clubs and societies also offers the opportunity to pick up skills, and you should provide examples of these. For instance, you may have led a team effectively, come up with innovative ideas and carried them through, solved problems, or organised events.
  • Charity work, volunteering and independent travel will also help you grow in ways employers may appreciate and give you something interesting to talk about in your applications and interview. Furthermore, having a range of interests shows you are a multidimensional person who is enthusiastic, motivated and likely to be an asset in the workplace.

What’s important is for you to use these as concrete examples of how you’ve developed skills useful for the graduate engineering job you’re applying for. After all, having these experiences on your resume isn’t enough if you don’t explain how they make you a good candidate for the job!

Tips for getting an engineering placement

  • Start figuring out where you can get work experience from your first year of study. Although most employers looking for placement students only take applications from the beginning of your second year, planning ahead is ideal.
  • Getting an industrial placement isn’t automatic, though employers will view your application favourably if you combine good academic results – first year results do matter! – with evidence of career commitment. Have something on your resume that’ll attract interest.
  • Career services centres on campus may be good starting points, but the more people who know you’re looking for an internship, the more help you can get. There’s always competition for advertised placements, so apply your networking skills if you’re on the lookout for alternatives.
  • If you really can only find a supermarket job, try to make the most of it by asking for additional responsibilities. Find out how the business operates and talk to your managers. That way, you might be able to get a bit of work experience in a more relevant job function.