everything you need to know to find your first engineering job

Congratulations, you’ve passed all your tests and certifications, and received your degree in engineering! Now what? How do you transform that degree into the well-paying job you were promised was waiting for you at the end? Luckily, applying for your first engineering job is a lot like applying for any other job, you just have a little less experience!

The good news: most employers understand that your potential is as important (if not more important) than experience when filling entry-level engineering jobs. If you’re not sure how to start your engineering career, Randstad Engineering has a few suggestions!

find your first engineering jobs

become an engineer-in-training (EIT)

In Canada, to become a professional engineer (P.Eng) you need to be licensed by your provincial association. Becoming an Engineer-in-Training is the first step to being licensed as a professional engineer. To use the title of Engineer-in-Training, you need to complete the academic requirements and apply for membership in your province. Since you’ve graduated and have obtained your engineering degree, you simply have to apply to your provincial association!  

After gaining 4 years of engineering experience as an EIT (including at least 1 year in Canada), you’ll be able to apply for a Professional Engineer designation. Both P.Eng and EIT designations are in demand in Canada and can help substantiate your engineering experience.

refresh your resume

Looking for your first full-time engineering job? Now is the perfect time to give your resume a scrubbing. Your student resume isn’t going to cut it anymore. Get rid of any side gigs and part-time jobs unrelated to engineering. Instead, focus on your engineering skills, the software you’ve worked with, and engineering projects you’ve worked on, even if they were coursework. The key is highlighting relevant engineering experience.

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build an engineering portfolio

Engineering is a broad career path. Sometimes that leads to engineers who are unsure how to define themselves. A portfolio can help you explain who you are and sell your strengths to potential employers. It’s also more detailed than your resume, which makes it a great tool for new engineers to sell their skills to potential employers.

What should you include in your engineering portfolio?

  • A short bio that focuses on your strengths, education, and certifications
  • A copy of your engineering-focused resume
  • Detailed information about your coursework, internships, and projects you’ve worked on
  • References or letters of recommendation from people you’ve worked with (if you’re fresh out of school, professors are a great option to build credibility)
  • Examples of projects you’ve worked on, or other demonstrations of your skills. This is your chance to be creative. Do you have a YouTube video of a project coming together? Have you built models or prototypes you can show off (photos will do)? Anything that showcases your engineering skills in action will add weight to your portfolio.

Ideally, all components of your portfolio should be digital. Though it’s certainly handy to have a physical portfolio to take to interviews, make sure you have a version you can email to hiring managers and attach to your LinkedIn profile. Having multiple formats makes it easy for potential employers to review.

build your network

Sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know that will help you land an interview with a company you love. The key is to get your foot in the door. Once you’re in the door, you have a chance to dazzle hiring managers with your passion and engineering knowledge!

If you’re fresh out of school, you might be thinking: what network? I don’t know any engineers in a position to help me out. Actually, you do! Consider these places where you can connect with engineers who have the knowledge and experience to help:

your alumni network

Your alumni network is a great place to start building your engineering contacts. Most universities and colleges will have an association you can join. The great thing about alumni networks is they connect you with people already working in your industry, who may be in a position to help you find a job, connect you with colleagues who can, or provide references. Sometimes alumni associations also have mentorship programs you can join to be paired with experienced alumni in your field.

professors and classmates

Don’t underestimate the value of building relationships through your school. Professors often work in the field prior to, or outside of their teaching duties, and may be able to offer advice on where to look for jobs. They’ve also seen countless other students graduate and know what’s helped previous classes find post-graduation employment. They also make great references, as do classmates who you’ve worked with on projects.

professional associations

In Canada, each province has a professional association that engineers can join. In addition to government-regulated associations, many fields have additional associations worth joining. For instance, as civil engineers, you may find local associations in your field that are more targeted to your interests and career goals. Often these associations have resources to help members network or find jobs.

social media

Social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) can be a useful tool for connecting with other engineering professionals in your field. Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are home to discussion groups you can join to meet other engineering professionals, share articles, resources and news, and find a job.

recruitment agencies

Recruitment agencies have tools, resources, and connections you can use to get started on the right path, especially if you’ve new to your field. They can help you fine-tune your resume and interview skills, and because they have established relationships with a variety companies, may be able to help you get your foot in the door at companies you’re interested in. Look for recruiting firms that specialize in engineering – like Randstad Engineering – to ensure you’re working with an organization that has relevant connections with companies you want to work for.

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work on your soft skills

As a fresh face in the industry, it’s often your soft skills that set you apart from other entry-level candidates with similar skill sets. Brush up on your interview skills, communication, teamwork, positive attitude, etc. Employers understand that a lot of skills can be taught. But they’re looking for someone with promising raw materials who they can help grow into the role.

focus on companies you’re interested in

One of the biggest mistakes we see among entry-level job seekers is that they mass apply to any job that’s even remotely related to their field. Don’t do this. Mass applying to hundreds of jobs with a boilerplate resume is not the way to stand out and find a job you love. Entry-level job seekers sometimes worry they’re not experienced enough to get the job they want. Avoid approaching your job search this way. Spend a little more effort on each application, but focus on a handful of companies or roles you’re really passionate about. Your genuine interest will shine through. Recruiters and hiring managers appreciate candidates who are enthusiastic about the role at hand.

don’t get discouraged

Looking for your first job (or any job, if we’re perfectly honest!) is tough. It takes time and a whole lot of effort to find the perfect fit. It might seem like you’re pouring endless time and resources into a black pit of despair, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As an engineer, you’re entering an in-demand field. Just keep at it. You will find the right job eventually!