We know times can be hard and academic jobs in short supply with senior professors settling into the most sought after positions. Moreover, cutbacks suffered by many universities impact their hiring and in the end, many PhD students end up either going for a PostDoc or looking to join the workforce. We previously spoke about the challenges of taking to the classic job market with higher study degrees and the need to correctly pitch your mechanical engineering PhD. Today, in the case of mechanical engineering, we will offer advice on how to sell your profile relying not on your research and its topic, but the assets it shows to a recruiter.
PhD students are called to use several tools to perform their research: simulation software and coding being the main ones. Highlighting your skills in manipulating codes and parts, performing different types of study cases and a willingness to learn is priceless in the eyes of a possible employer. An ability to adapt and use whatever tools the company have available is a practical way of presenting your flexibility and willingness to learn on the job. Potential employers will expect your studies to abide by a theoretical 0.5% error range but showcasing your other attributes will make you stand out from the rest.
Make sure to put emphasis on your ability to take several different sources, experiences, or tests and synthesize them into a concentrated technical brief that serves as a very useful technical report for your colleagues and peers. You are not a white cloak stuck between a computer and a traction machine all day, you work between different fractions, harness and communicate knowledge and results. Providing detailed proofs as to how a process works or an explanation why it doesn’t work can be priceless. Pointing out that you are published is nice but be careful how you pitch your mechanical engineering PhD as it won’t necessarily carry much sway with a recruiter?
Being able to zoom in/zoom out
One of the worries, confirmed by some PhD employees, about hiring a PhD student is their preoccupation with minor aspects, or one step within a whole process, and obsessing over it to get to the core. This can be highly frustrating to co-workers eager to get on with their work or to the student who realises the question will take longer than an hour to dig through and it will probably need more explanation. By all means pitch your mechanical engineering PhD in a manner which opens employment doors for you but also show flexibility and an appreciation of your colleagues.
You have to make sure you speak of your flexibility in zooming in and zooming out when it comes to intellectual pursuits. You are able to see the bigger picture, understand the main parts and work with whatever technique you are called to use. You can look into said technique later in your own time or when the clock is not ticking on productivity. However, an ability to focus on one aspect and thoroughly look into it is an asset which shows you can be disciplined but there is a time and a place for this. You do not want to infuriate your project manager who is focused on productivity, or your colleagues who may interpret your behaviour in a different way.
Open minded about the culture
Holders of a PhD often think of themselves as carved up scientists, but coming to a company and working for the industrial world for the first time requires you to be as flexible as water. Recruiters won’t take a chance on someone seeking to establish their own environment in one that has already existed for some time and works well. It may seem obvious but there are few things that can give away such attitude on a conscious level before even getting into the office. Stating granitic facts about how you work and operate is one of them. Instead, ask about the ”family’s culture” in the office and show a willingness to belong, to be flexible and adhere to the existing workplace. It doesn’t mean you lose yourself in the mass, but rather integrate and learn new skills. Look to pitch your mechanical engineering PhD as a starting point for a long term career in industry.
Be flexible when it comes to wages
Depending on how bad you want the job, you will have to set up your expectations: some companies have fixed salary ranges depending on experience and will not count your internships, if you had any, as a qualifying time. They might cut you some slack and you can negotiate your initial salary but don’t raise your hopes too much – instead concentrate on the long game.
You will most likely not get what you think you truly deserve in terms of wages within a classic job hunting setting. If the company has negotiable salary scales, look into the market for the average wage for a similar position and prepare to defend every additional sum you require above the average. Speak in ranges though, don’t talk in fixed numbers, and don’t set your salary range to the bare minimum – start high and negotiate down. If they really want you, they might call you back after further discussion to explain why they can’t offer your optimal income. The truth is that once you are able to show your value to the company, after an initial trial period, they will either be forced to pay the appropriate rate or risk losing you.
In truth you should probably look to pitch your mechanical engineering PhD as a stepping stone to a successful career as opposed to a qualification which places you above some of your colleagues.