How to Keep Yourself Viable in the Engineering Job Market

Like all job markets, engineering has its troubles.  Contrary to popular belief, having an engineering degree does not guarantee you a job.  Open positions in this sector can sometimes be few and far between, and when you’ve landed one, it’s a pretty even toss of whether it’s either for life or for a short production time.

This list of “to do’s” is geared toward engineers, but the advice is easily expanded to encompass other career paths.

So, how do you keep yourself marketable? The key is to be proactive, not retroactive.  If you’re retroactive, you’re missing opportunities to professionally connect, and you miss the time to accumulate new skills and develop materials, when that time could have been used searching out the right job for you, networking, and flourishing in your professional life.

The first step is to cultivate connections starting with your undergrad years, from your professors to your classmates, to recruiters at work fairs.  Those classmates are treading the same career path, and networking is key to opening future doors.  Those professors are established members of the engineering society and can have a wealth of knowledge that will lead to company contacts or help you advance in your skills.  Those recruiters are always nice to have in your back pocket.  Keep up those relationships, even when you’ve established yourself, and factor in the new contacts you make.  You should always have updated references on your resume to showcase current work developments.  You will always need references for job applications, and those references could one day be opportunities of finding a job through them.  Who you know will always be a contributing factor in finding a job.

And those companies you apply to? Quality will always triumph; gear your career path towards working at top-tier companies.  Also, keep in mind what industry you choose.  Stable industries are the foundation for stable jobs.  The industries may not be the ones that attract modern glamor of say, startups, but the sectors of government, health, and others rule when the venture capital runs out.

Like with any interview and job placement – be personable.  Engineering skills are what makes you qualified, but it’s those skills coupled with your ability to work well with people that gets you the job.  Adopt a strategic interviewing process; preparation drives success.  With that preparation, you see the payoff in your success rate, with your references (diligently cultivated), career portfolio (consistently updated), and carefully planning for the interview.

Preparation should be part of your professional foundation.  Having a portfolio and networking – these are external forces to use, but the internal focus of ‘never stop learning’ should be first.  This could be anything from going back to school, to taking specific courses to expand your skillset, to attending conventions, workshops, and keeping your finger on the pulse of engineering news.  It’s important to diversify yourself but to also have a special skillset.  That specific skillset, though, shouldn’t be so narrow that it ends up hindering you that you don’t try to learn anything else.  The job market is always evolving, and so will the skills needed to evolve with it.  Knowledge is always power, and immersing yourself in that knowledge will always keep you viable and allow you the ability to read the market.

This progressive drive can also propel you into other niches that further your professional career as you extend your personal one.  Social media may be the bane of our lives at times, but it is still a useful tool.  Creating a blog to discuss engineering properties, establishing yourself on credible sites to answer engineering questions, especially ones pertaining to your special skillset, and creating a base where you can direct your current or future management to in order to show examples of your expertise.  This, of course, opens ways to networking, but also shows to the hiring director that one: you know your stuff and can articulate it to be understandable; two: are able to interact well with others; and three: that you are taking the time to mature and develop. All these characteristics reflecting the attributes that companies are looking for in the best employees.

All of these tips can be boiled down to one takeaway: don’t be stagnant.  Learn, develop, and continue to create in your personal life, as well as your professional one, to culminate to where you want to be for a successful future.