Five Steps for Landing Your Entry-Level Consulting Engineer Job
By Sheri Woo, PE, SHN Marketing Coordinator
We can’t all have awesome non-existent jobs like Barney Stinson, but your future is bright.
On the plus side, the average growth rate of the civil engineering profession is 8% (average for all occupations is 7%), and the median pay was $82,000 in 2014 (median for all workers was $35,500). But yes, getting that first job is hard, with the unemployment rate for recent engineering grads at 6.5%, according to 2011-12 data. So if you’re looking for work in the private sector, here are some tips that you might not hear at the campus Career Center.
Use Google to find consulting firms in geographic areas you want to live. Do your research and ask yourself, “What is the company’s culture, who are their clients, and what kinds of projects do they work on?” Then envision yourself at that company. When we interview people, we want to know why they think they are a good fit with our company. If the company’s website says there are open entry-level positions, great, but you are far from done once you have applied.
Use every relationship you have to get introductions to people in consulting firms that you’re interested in. The obvious people to ask are your professors and your internship supervisors, but don’t forget family and friends. Start attending professional meetings and conferences to meet people too. You want personal contacts (phone and email) and business cards.
When you have met some professionals and/or gotten their contact information, troll social media to find out more about them. Why? You want to be as comfortable as you can when contacting them, and identifying common interests will help you realize that these folks are just people too, and some years ago, they were in exactly your position, looking for that first job.
Make first contact! DO CALL, do not just email. Sure, he or she might be busy the first time you call. Ask when would be a good time to call back, to talk for five or ten minutes. Do not text or Facetime or IM, because those are high frequency, low content quality communications, which is exactly opposite of what you need. Even in our small firm, your contact may not know if entry-level jobs are opening up, so it’s okay to ask for the contact info of the department head and the human resources director. Recruiting promising engineers (that’s you!) is part of their job.
Be friendly but persistent. True story: for my first engineering job, I knew the engineers were extremely busy from a friend who worked at the same company but a different division. They were so busy that they couldn’t find time to advertise for help, let alone make time for interviews. It took three weekly phone calls, a cover letter and resume, and finally with nothing to lose, a gently snarky note that said “Thank you for your time. I think we might have been a good fit, and it’s unfortunate that we’ll never know.” I was working within the week.