Fast-Tracking Yourself into a Lucrative Engineering and Technology Career

Almost all engineering and technology students get into jobs after graduating. But that is where the similarity ends. Most will get into run-of-the-mill graduate roles where the salary is, at best, average, and where career prospects are, at best, dull and unfulfilling. Some will only manage to scrap into jobs that don’t actually require a degree, and where the salary is painfully below the average graduate level salary. ­Only a few graduates ever manage to get onto the fast-track route to high-paying successful careers.

As an academic, my hope is that ALL my students should get into high-paying, fulfilling graduate roles. So I invited some of my colleagues in industry to give you some essential tips on how you can position yourselves for these roles. Here are their verbatim responses. Apart from highlighting key-points, I’ve refrained from the academic urge to summarise, theorise etc. Hopefully you get something from this.

IT Management & Business Graduate

Research & network – students should really consider the opportunities they want to pursue after university and align them to their degree & personal interests.

For example, a student who is passionate about getting into a Tech Giant such as Facebook should better understand Facebook’s position in the market, the key focus areas they want to expand in (for example Facebook for Business), what the company mission and vision is and use their social networks to attend as many Facebook events as possible.

Building your network and speaking to people on LinkedIn or at events is imperative!

IT Management & Business Graduate

I would say work on personal projects outside of uni to find what part of IT/Technology/Engineering you are most passionate about because these are very big areas. Whether it is making iPhone apps, Databases, websites, Bots or video games.

You’ll need to find what you are most excited about before you know what your ideal job is. During this process, try to also get experience (internships, industrial placements, summer placements, voluntary work, etc.. ) in any area. Any experience is good because if it’s something you don’t 100% enjoy, then it’ll make it clearer to you what you do want to do.

In terms of getting hired – Just make it easy for employers to hire you. You know what they would want to see on your CV (Solid degree + personal projects + work experience). And you know what kind of person they are looking for (Enthusiastic about the work + Good at problem solving + Personable). So put the odds in your favour by simply becoming what they want and give them no reason not to pick you.

IT Management & Business Graduate

I would say doing a summer internship as a developer would be great. I did an internship at blur Group at the Exeter science park. Although it was minimum wage the experience was great, I learnt a lot on the job.

Getting as much practical experience as possible is the key I believe. Even if it is doing personal projects or startup business whilst at uni.

Civil Engineering Graduate

In my field I have realized that everyone is looking for hands on experience even from the ones who are just leaving colleges. So it pays to go to in-service training if the curriculum allows it, if not, it means on vacations one should take time to find somewhere they can do apprenticeship if I may call it that.

Be familiar with the various technologies that are being used in your field. I remember when I left college all the design we were doing it from first principles, years later when I tried to get employment in the consulting field, what they needed was someone who can use the design software. Learning to use these tools early on will give you a head start.

Know where you want to be with your career from the onset. In civil engineering there are different disciplines and fields. Not knowing where you want to develop the rest of your career will lead you jumping from one field to the other and as such you tend to lose the chance of developing specific skills. However, it is also good to know a bit of everything that is happening in you field even though you have specialized in one area.

Find a good mentor early, and remember, experience is a good teacher.   Also registering with your professional body helps you to associate with like-minded peers and it is a good way of getting mentors in your field of study. It also helps you to keep abreast with the current development in your field.

Electrical Power Systems Graduate

My suggestion is based on my observation here in Nigeria. First, there is a need for creativity so as to adapt the technological skills learnt in the UK to the local environment. The conditions in different countries differ, while the theories we learn at university may hold through in all places, their application need a bit of creativity in order to sell well and adapt to needs in third world countries.

Secondly, engineers need to add on marketing skills these days to remain relevant and stay ahead of the competition. The jobs are not just easily available and you may need to go through the route of entrepreneurship & self-marketing to kick start your career.

There are many challenges in Africa requiring engineering skills and acumen for solution. However, the platform for being the solution won’t be given easily, so you might just need to ‘grab it’.

Chemical Engineering Graduate

  1. Seek career advice: attend career talks, make use of the university careers centre – to know where your degree can take you (which is not always immediately obvious, especially for engineering!).
  2. Get some work experience during your undergraduate degree – whether through internships or an industrial year out (I didn’t do this and it didn’t impact me, but things would have been much easier if I had).
  3. Know your strengths: figure out what you enjoy and are good at in your subjects at university – this can help you determine what you will enjoy as a career (e.g. Research, design, modelling).

Mechanical Engineering Graduate

I would say the most important thing to do is to start researching about careers and companies right from the first year at university.

And the second thing I would recommend is to make sure you complete a relevant summer internship every holiday during the four years and try to work in as many different industries as possible.

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