If you’re an engineer, learning doesn’t stop once you’ve graduated from university. No matter what level or how many years of experience you have, there are always new things to learn and latest practices to familiarise yourself with. For graduates in particular, the first 4-5 years out of university is where most of your learning will occur and where you’ll be putting your theory into practice. And from an employer’s perspective, hiring a graduate student can have some great advantages. Being able to support and nurture new talent, gives an organisation the opportunity to shape or mould their next generation of leaders as they choose and can generate their talent pipeline. Furthermore, in an industry like engineering, which is going to play a considerable role in the nation’s economic recovery post-pandemic, investing in graduate programs to equip and develop our future engineers is a great opportunity- not only to graduates themselves but the organisations they work for. For all the engineering graduates finishing their studies in 2020 and facing the daunting process of applying for jobs for the first time, I’ve collated some advice that can help you secure your first graduate role.
A great place to start is ensuring your professional branding is up-to-date and relevant to the position you are seeking. First impressions count, and within the professional space, a potential employer’s first impression of you will come down to your Linkedin profile (and any other social media accounts that might be relevant), your resume and your cover letter. Consequently, it’s integral that these first touch-points present you in the best light possible, allowing you to stand out from other candidates. To achieve this, you should firstly ensure that both your resume and profile is up-to-date with all of your relevant achievements, education and any work experience (internships can be a great example to put here if you’re applying for your first role).
Secondly, you need to ensure your skills, knowledge and interests listed on both your online profiles and resume align with the organisations and roles you are looking for. To ensure you’re catering to a company’s job requirements, it’s a good idea to make a checklist when applying for roles. Ask yourself the following questions: does my experience and knowledge correspond with what has been highlighted in the job description? For example, your part-time experience working at your local chicken shop won’t be necessary to include, but your experience with a particular engineering software mentioned in the advertisement is. Does the job advertisement mention anything about company culture and is this reflected in my own resume? For example, if a job advertisement states they are looking for a ‘team player who likes to collaborate’ but your resume mentions that you like to be ‘self-directed and independent’ in your work, the role might not be a good fit. It’s also important to remember that in the digital age we now live in, everyone has a digital footprint which your potential employers can easily trace. When applying for a role, think about your current profiles on Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If there’s anything you would feel uncomfortable about your potential boss seeing, take it down before applying for the role.
Once fine-tuning your online presence, a great next step is to build your professional network. As a recruiter for the engineering industry, I’m often approached by graduate engineers seeking assistance in securing their first engineering position out of university. Personally, I have always appreciated any grad student reaching out in a proactive manner. While many organisations have their own internal processes for hiring graduates, connecting with a recruiter– especially one that focuses on engineering placements- can be a great first step. Recruiters will always have the most-up-to-date information on job opportunities and market trends, as they regularly keep in contact with leading engineering companies. Therefore, even if they don’t have a position currently available to a graduate, they can provide general job seeking advice to help strengthen your resume and advise you on how to showcase your skillset and potential to prospective employers, which all helps gain that first job. Many universities are often key sponsors of these events, including Macquarie University, University of Melbourne, The University of Sydney, Queensland University of Technology and many more. If you’re looking to join a networking event, reaching out to your local University or Training Organisation, or even some of your own professors and career advisors, is a great jumping off point. Networking can seem intimidating, but it can be highly beneficial during a job search. Networking is essentially investing and fostering in potential relationships. When just starting in your career, building a strong professional network can provide a competitive edge, as it allows you to stay on top of the latest trends within your industry, meet prospective mentors, partners, and clients, develop your communication skills and most importantly, is a great resource to tap into if you require a job reference, gain insights into job leads and other valuable information.
A final recommendation in helping to secure your first job, especially within engineering, is to align yourself with your industry and join a professional association. Becoming affiliated with a professional industry association is that additional step in expanding your professional network as well as providing the opportunity to hone your skillset even more through training options. Some relevant Australian associations are Engineers Australia, Board of Professional Engineers Queensland and The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia. These associations are highly respected by those within the engineering industry, and consequently look great on a candidate’s resume.
I reached out to Xavier Treguer, the Student & Graduate Engagement Manager of Victoria at Engineers Australia to give his additional advice to new graduates:
Why is it beneficial for graduates to expand their professional network?
Graduate engineers, as they start embarking on the path to a successful career, want to make their mark and stand out. Sometimes, this means taking the lead and proactively building their career through learning, planning, and understanding key industry trends.
Building and expanding their network through becoming a member of an association like Engineers Australia can do just that - and much more – by providing this specific cohort with a vast range of tools, resources, and events relevant to their particular career stage, and designed to help them get ahead in their career. These include: access to a network of over 100,000 members working within the same industry, opportunities to join diverse groups and communities, information on the pathway to becoming a Chartered Engineer, Mentor platforms, exclusive online training modules, etc.
How can graduates find out about what graduate programs are available and when is the best time to start applying?
In certain cases, the best way for graduates to find out about graduate programs is directly via the websites of the organisations they’re interested in. In addition, regularly checking Engineers Australia’s Jobs Board, visiting specialised websites like GradAustralia, GradConnection, or attending career fairs such as Engineers Australia’s “Elevation” or AAGE’s “The Big Meet”.
Generally speaking, students are required to apply for a graduate programs either months or a year in advance in order to obtain a spot. Applications to graduate programs usually start in March, but can open as early as February, for jobs starting the following year. I would recommend penultimate student engineers to check intake dates of organisations they are interested in.
From your experience working at Engineers Australia, what’s the three best pieces of advice you can give graduate engineers?
For engineers, especially graduates wanting further jobseeker advice or to gain a better understanding on any of the information listed above, you can reach out to Kelly for a confidential chat:
Phone: 03 8535 3100
Linkedin: Kelly Power