Best ways to get engineering work experience with your engineering graduate degree

Best ways to get engineering work experience with your engineering degree

Jacintha Verdegaal

You’re working hard to earn your engineering degree and you can almost see the finish line. Everybody’s talking about this ‘war on talent’ so getting a job should be a piece of cake, right? Unfortunately, even though your graduate degree has prepared you for a beautiful engineering career, getting your first engineering job is not that easy. Employers are not just interested in what you know, but also want to see proof of engineering work experience. Are you ready to put that knowledge into practice?

What work experience do you need as an engineer?

When it comes to work experience, there are two types of skills you’ll be developing. Your technical or engineering skills and non-technical, more soft skills. Check out our post on the 10 most important soft skills for engineers.

Don’t underestimate the importance of these soft skills. They can be the deciding factor whether you’ll land your dream job or future promotion. So when getting engineering work experience is difficult, accepting an opportunity that lets you develop relevant soft skills can still be useful.

Finding an engineering job with no experience

But of course in the end you want to find a job where you can do what your engineering degree prepared you for. You want to be an engineer! And for that you’ll need to find opportunities where you can get engineering work experience. So here are some tips to help you get there.

Engineering traineeship

There are not many interesting jobs where having no experience is actually a requirement, but an engineering traineeship is one of them. Many corporates offer them as an opportunity to work with different departments in your first years, grow your network and develop your skills. Coaching and mentorship is usually part of the program. At the end of your traineeship you’ll often be offered a permanent contract and you continue working in the role that fits you best.

Because these companies only want to invest in engineers they expect to hire at the end of the traineeship, the selection process can be intense as is the competition. But if your goal is to work for a large corporate, this is the best way to start your career with them.

Temporary engineering jobs

An engineering temp job might not be your dream job, but work experience is work experience. Even if they’re not full-time jobs, if they’re related to the field you want to work in, you can gain valuable experience and develop your skills.

A temp job can also be a way to pay the bills until you find something better, but try to focus on learning something that translates to your future engineering job. Maybe you already have a temp job today where you could ask for more responsibility related to engineering.

Freelancing

Another way to get engineering work experience is freelancing. Because every client will be different you gain a lot of valuable experience in a short amount of time. Plus you might discover that being your own boss and having the freedom to work when and how you want is something you really like.

However, as every experienced freelancer will tell you, having a strong network is important in order to get freelancing assignments. So how do you start freelancing when you don’t have that network yet?

Engineering tasks via on-demand talent platforms

On-demand talent platforms are perfect when you want to put your engineering degree to good use, but don’t have an impressive resume to show yet. Platforms like Tasker match engineering tasks with people that have the right skills to execute that task. And many of those skills you already developed while getting your engineering graduate degree. So while employers might not be able to look beyond your lack of engineering work experience, you will be able to get this chance through Tasker.

This way you can quickly develop your skills and get selected for more challenging opportunities with every task you deliver successfully.

Find mentors

A tried and tested method to get work experience is by finding someone who can introduce you. Have a close look at the people you know, check their LinkedIn profile for example and see who could help you out with a first introduction. If they’re in a role you dream of having one day, ask if they’d consider to be your mentor.

If no-one in your personal network stands out, then look up your university alumni. They’ve been where you are today. They know how important it is for someone to give you that first chance. Ask if you could shadow them to get a feel of the work they’re doing. If you impress them it might lead to a real job opportunity.

Internships

Internships are not a long-term solution, but they do demonstrate that you’re committed to doing the work to succeed. You wouldn’t be the first to receive a job offer at the end of an internship. Be clear about your ambitions and take on everything you can to get that engineering work experience. In an ideal situation you would want to do your internship before you graduate. But even after you graduate it can be a short-term investment from your side to get the experience you need.

When should you start looking for engineering work experience?

The sooner you start thinking about getting engineering work experience the better. When you wait until after you’ve graduated you’ll be competing with people who are also looking for their first job, but who already have some experience to show for.

Make sure to know what the deadlines for recruiters are. Especially with traineeship programs there are specific times when you can apply. Check out your university’s career center to help you find interesting companies that hire graduates.

But it’s up to you to find opportunities where you can get that work experience. so look into internships, temp jobs that are related to engineering, maybe some volunteer work and of course tasks for high-tech companies via platforms like Tasker. Before you know it, employers will be lining up to hire you!

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