7 Steps to Landing That First Job

Dec 3, 2012

by Tom Ricci ASME.org

Landing that first engineering job after graduation may be one of the most difficult things accomplished over the course of a career. Even though a fledgling engineer may have successfully completed internships, attended career fairs, and essentially done all of the right things college career counselors recommended to help find that job, it just might not be there after graduation.

However, there is some good news. A 2012 Student Employment Gap study conducted by Millennial Branding and Experience, Inc. revealed 87% of employers are going to hire more recent graduates this year, and of those, 34% of companies are recruiting engineering and computer information systems majors.

A 2012 Student Employment Gap study conducted by Millennial Branding and Experience, Inc. revealed 87% of employers are going to hire more recent graduates this year, and of those, 34% of companies are recruiting engineering and computer information systems majors.

In hiring recent college grads, Jennifer Floren, founder and former CEO of Experience, Inc. noted: "Of all the things employers look for when hiring entry-level talent, it's the so-called 'soft skills' that are valued most: communication, teamwork, flexibility, and positive attitude are by far the most sought-after skills. Employers understand that everything else can be taught, so they look for the most promising raw material to work with."

So now the job search begins. The first thing to note is that finding the right job is more than simply searching for postings online and emailing a resume. The job search is a process and often times a frustrating one. The process involves research, outreach, follow-up, and dogged determination.

Here are a few additional tips that might help recent graduates in searching for that first engineering job.

Keep Your Resume Up to Date

Your resume is a dynamic snapshot of your skills, experience, and professional objectives. It is important to keep it fresh. If you've learned a new software program, completed an educational course, or attended an applicable seminar during the time you've been searching for a job, be sure to add it to your resume. Depending upon the job you are applying for, you may need to adjust your resume so that your most relevant skills and experience are highlighted. It is imperative to tailor your resume for each job application.

Network with Colleagues, Family, and Friends

In job searching, "who you know" is truly important. Your business colleagues, family, and friends together know a lot of people. Make sure they all know you are looking for a job and ask for their help, especially referrals to others who may help. Do they have any business contacts that you could connect with to seek advice or gain a referral? Stay in touch with them every few weeks — out of sight is usually out of mind.

Tap into Your Alumni Association

Alumni are a good source of potential job opportunities and typically will go out of their way to help their fellow alumni. Stay active online and join your local chapter. Face-to-face interaction at Chapter meetings is a good way to network. Many alumni form social networking groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Join the groups and be visible. Introduce yourself to the group and state your job objectives and ask for help.

Work Part Time/Volunteer

What have you been doing since graduation? That question inevitably comes up during an interview. And while searching for a job is a job itself, it's better to demonstrate that you are active doing other things in addition to seeking a job. Take a part-time job. Even if it isn't in a related field of interest, it shows that you are energetic. And since you most likely have college loans to start repaying, no one would question the need to generate at least some income. Volunteering for charitable causes is also a good way to demonstrate your drive and enthusiasm. It is also another great way to meet new people and expand your network.

Identify Companies of Interest

Don't rely on a job falling in your lap. While you may be lucky enough to find an interesting job posting at a company you'd like to work for, it's more than likely that you'll have to proactively find a job opening at one of your companies of interest. There are many online resources to help you search, like monster.com and job-hunt.org. Use their tools to help you make a list of companies you would like to work for. Search social networking sites, like LinkedIn, for contacts within these organizations. Alert them to your interests and career objectives. Many will be willing to help or refer you to someone else who might help, and once again, you've expanded your network.

Expand Your Opportunities

Unfortunately, you might not be able to land your dream job the first time around. Expand your opportunities by searching companies and positions in adjacent industries. You might also consider contract or temporary opportunities. These will strengthen your experience and sometimes lead to full time positions at the end of the contract.

Don't Get Discouraged

Easier said than done, but prepare yourself that the job hunt will be a long and often tedious process. Set weekly objectives — i.e. number of applications sent, phone calls, company searches, etc. — and once you've accomplished your goals, take some time for yourself.

Tom Ricci is the owner of Ricci Communications.

Of all the things employers look for when hiring entry-level talent, it’s the so-called ‘soft skills’ that are valued most.Jennifer Floren, founder and former CEO, Experience, Inc.