It is that time of the year again, the time when most freshly graduated students (young mechanical engineers) are looking for their first position. Few will have secured a position before graduating and many will think of taking some time out away from everything before diving into the job market. It is therefore good to keep in mind that, when it comes to engineering, the hiring process is unique to the profession. This is the reason why by September entry level positions are either scarce, allegedly starting as unpaid internships or just not good enough – the best positions have already been filled.
We are here to give you an insight into this market and the trends in hiring because at the end of the day, however competitive the market is, there are new positions out there. As many or as few as they are, excellent entry level job openings still exist but you need to be sharp to be able to get one.
How do young mechanical engineers get started
I got my first internship during a mechanics club presentation to visiting industrials, my second came through an investigation I was performing as part of my final year project. I got my third internship from the same company, they paid me for this one, and then they offered me a full time job. However, things were not that straight forward and I learned some vital lessons for the future.
When I declined the employment offer, and put forward some recommendations, they politely agreed to take my fellow classmates into consideration and even granted a couple of interviews. However, despite the fact they needed someone they didn’t hire any of them. When I spoke with the head of the engineering department he told me something I hadn’t realised throughout my engineering cursus : “If I wanted a clerk working in the office, I will hire someone through an office process. I need a great design engineer, and if I am to hire one, I want to hire them within the environment I want them to work in.” – makes great sense!
Internships are vital
In my view there is not enough emphasis put on the importance of internships in a resume, indeed, many students have scholar projects instead of internships and don’t even realise the rookie mistake they are making. The truth is, beyond internships you need to be engaged in extracurricular activities involving mechanical engineering in general and specifically your career choice within a particular field.
If internships get you through the employment door, it’s your unbridled passion that will get you the internship you need. According to recent statistics from SpaceX and Google, most interns come from competitions, club project exhibitions, engineering challenges or they were actively involved in them. Many get offered internships while competing in race cars and plane prototypes, through professors discussing their projects or mentors having had a practical example of their engineering skills. Ultimately, of this pool around 50-60% get hired at an entry level post – these are the ones most trusted due to their resume and the fact they will be used to the working culture and environment by then.
Going that extra mile
It is unfortunately something often looked down upon by a lot of students: some argue the cursus is heavy as it is, that they can’t afford to spend time on extra-curricular activities, let alone ones as mentally demanding as mechanical engineering. Others bet everything they have on either their internships, their extra degree or new certification. Consequently, it is understandable how these people can end up applying for employment through job fairs or firing off letters throughout the summer to companies they barely know. You really do need to live and breathe mechanical engineering in the early years because your passion needs to shine through to potential employers. If you see mechanical engineering as just another job you are probably wasting your time, you need to have a genuine interest, a drive to push back the envelope and offer the top employers something different, something unique and something they can develop yet further. Young mechanical engineers, it is time to stand up and be counted!
At the end of the day, employers are looking for young mechanical engineers whose passion is already proven, quantified, given out in the world with no guarantees – in simple terms a rough diamond they can polish up. Get out there, push yourself to the front and remember the old adage, the harder you work the luckier you get. Don’t be the one waiting for that lucky break which never comes.