How to Get Your First Job as an Engineering Graduate
Getting that first full-time job as a graduate engineer can be tough. It can also be frustrating, particularly when you hear that Ireland needs more engineers. This is because many of the jobs that are available require experience, even though they are graduate jobs.
You do have options, though. Here are our tips for getting your first job as an engineering graduate.
Start as Soon as Possible
It is never too early to start work on getting your first job as an engineer. This doesn’t necessarily mean applying for jobs. You should, however, start the planning and preparation work as soon as you can. This includes getting experience, researching potential employers, being aware of what is happening in the industry, and preparing your CV.
Get as Much Experience as Possible
Getting experience is one of the trickiest parts of the process, but it is also essential.
The ideal option is to get a placement in a company that operates in the field of engineering you want to go into. A placement will give you the experience you need, plus you will get a clearer indication of what you want to do next.
If a formal work placement through your college course is not possible, you should still seek out work experience wherever you can. You should even apply for temporary jobs in your chosen field over the summer months – every bit of experience you can get, even if it is only a day, will help.
Remember, all the experience you have outside your studies will be of benefit too. This includes jobs that are not related to engineering or if you help run a sports club or local organisation.
After all, employers want more than just technical skills from the people they recruit. They also want communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamworking abilities, flexibility, and more. You can show experience of these skills in almost any job.
Tidy Up Your Social Media Profiles
Your social media profiles need to look professional. That doesn’t mean corporate, soulless, and stuffy profiles that are all about work. Instead, your profiles on social media should reflect your personality while also portraying someone trustworthy and employable.
Pay particular attention to your LinkedIn profile, setting one up if you don’t already have one, and optimising the page if you do.
Check Your Email Address
Do you still have an email address that you registered years ago but now doesn’t present a professional image of you as a potential employee? You’re not alone, but now is the time to get an email address that gives the right impression.
Don’t Just Target Your Ideal Job
When you start looking for graduate jobs to apply for, don’t just focus on your ideal job at your ideal company in your ideal industry. Being more flexible and open will increase the opportunities that are available.
Do Target Small and Mid-Sized Companies
Large companies offer benefits, but some of the most exciting technologies and projects can be found in Ireland’s small and mid-size companies. Often these companies are located outside Dublin.
In addition, you will be exposed to a range of different experiences when you work for a smaller company, giving you better opportunities to enhance your skills, work in different sectors, and more.
Speak to Your Lecturers in College
Your college lecturers will have contacts in the industry, so they will know the companies that are open to recruiting graduate engineers, particularly in the local area.
Speak to Your Contacts
Speak to people you know in the industries you hope to work in. This could be family, friends, acquaintances, or other connections. It is surprising how often these conversations can lead to the submission of an application form for a job you weren’t aware of. Even if they don’t, you might come away with helpful advice.
Go to Careers Fairs
Careers fairs allow you to find out about companies that recruit graduates, and they give you the opportunity to speak to these companies in person. You can also increase your network of contacts.
Tailor Your Application
When applying for a vacancy, make sure you tailor your application as much as possible. This will take you longer to complete, but it will also increase your chances of being called for an interview.
Finding out about the company can help. Also, make sure you include relevant keywords and phrases when completing your application, paying attention to the job description when doing so. Recruiters look for these keywords and phrases when filtering through applications, while some companies use automated systems. By tailoring your application, you are likely to have more success.
Prepare Well for Interviews
You should also spend time preparing for job interviews in advance. This includes researching the company to give you a better understanding of its products, services, customers, and the industries it is involved in. It can also be helpful to learn about the background of the company and to understand its ambitions.
Keep Going and Stay Positive
Finally, don’t give up. As with graduate positions in other industries, you may face rejection multiple times before you secure a job. It will be worth it in the end, though, so stay focused, stay positive, and keep going.
Bonus tip – keep an eye on our website for potential engineering graduate vacancies.
Expansion Plans Create Job Opportunities at SL Controls
At SL Controls, we are entering an exciting period in our development. We have continued to grow over recent years, including through the challenging lockdown periods of 2020/21, and we expect that growth trajectory to continue. To deliver on our future objectives, we are working on increasing our workforce. We are also looking at expansion both in Ireland and the US.
If you are interested in a challenging and rewarding career delivering systems integration and related Industry 4.0 solutions to some of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, visit our careers page to find out about the vacancies we are currently recruiting for.
We will also be posting further vacancies over the coming months as our expansion plans continue. The roles will include:
- Validation Engineers
- CSV Engineers
- Software Quality Engineers
- Control Systems Engineers
- Control Systems Designers
- Project Managers
More details on our expansion and growth strategy are below.
SL Controls’ Expansion Plans Explained
Keith Moran, SL Controls CEO, said turnover at SL Controls in 2020 increased by 33 percent.
“This growth was largely fuelled by our expansion into the US, as well as growth in key market sectors,” Keith said. “Those sectors include life sciences and technologies as our customer base is dominated by international and Irish pharmaceutical, medical device, and technology product manufacturers.
“There is growth in our industry too. We provide systems integration solutions to manufacturing companies, so we operate at the cutting-edge of Industry 4.0 with technologies like robotic process automation, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), predictive analytics, and other solutions that form part of the Smart Factory of the future.
“There is a huge and growing appetite for these solutions as manufacturers digitally transform their operations to meet new and existing challenges and take advantage of a growing list of opportunities.”
New Jobs at SL Controls
Three years ago, about 50 people worked for SL Controls. Today that number is over90, representing an 80 percent increase in staff. This week, we announced the creation of 50 new jobs, a plan that will increase our workforce by a further 55 percent over the coming 18 months, bringing the total headcount to 140.
“Our people are crucial to our success here at SL Controls,” Keith said. “We have ambitious plans for the company in the future, so we need to grow our people, both in terms of the capabilities and responsibilities of our existing team, and by bringing new employees onboard.”
SL Controls currently has five office locations, four in Ireland and one in the US:
Keith said: “Our clients are mostly multinational corporations with manufacturing operations in Ireland, elsewhere in Europe, and the US. One area we have identified for possible expansion is Cork, as there is a strong cluster of pharma, MedTech, and technology manufacturers in that region.
“The US is also a significant market for SL Controls. Many of the multinationals we work for here in Ireland are headquartered in the US. We opened our first US office in 2020 and are now looking at other locations that we believe will improve the service we deliver, helping us achieve our company objectives.”
Working for SL Controls
Keith said all employees should be proud of the company’s growth to date as he looked forward to the next chapter in SL Control’s development.
He said: “This really is an exciting and ambitious time for us as a company, and I am delighted at the enthusiasm and commitment expressed by each member of the SL Controls team. We look forward to continuing working with our clients and partners over the coming years.
“What I would say to engineers considering a change of role is to look at what we offer here at SL Controls. The next chapter in your career could be with us as you help us write the next chapter in our development.”
What Is Live Well at SL – SL Controls’ Workplace Wellbeing Programme?
At SL Controls, we want all our employees to live well as we care about their health. That’s why we have put in place a structured workplace wellbeing programme called Live Well at SL.
Live Well at SL is a central part of the culture at SL Controls as it aligns with our values, such as promoting camaraderie and getting the right work/life balance. We are passionate about promoting workplace wellbeing, with active participation at all levels of the company. This has never been more relevant than it is now, with so much change and uncertainty in our daily lives.
Why Are Workplace Wellbeing Programmes Important?
Most of us try to live as healthily as possible. However, it can be challenging to live a healthy lifestyle if your employer’s only focus is on your performance and the performance of the business. After all, you shouldn’t have to pause living healthily for eight hours or so every day.
Forward-thinking and innovative employers across Ireland are recognising this fact in increasing numbers. After all, it is much easier to improve productivity and profitability when you have a happy and motivated workforce.
Wellbeing programmes can’t deliver this on their own, but they play an important role.
What Are the Benefits of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes?
There are several reasons why workplace wellbeing programmes are important. For employees, they develop an enhanced connection with the workplace as they can see their employer is genuinely interested in their wellbeing. This improved connection with their employer enhances job satisfaction.
Workplace wellbeing programmes can also help to reduce stress. The activities that are typically part of a workplace wellbeing programme also help employees get to know their colleagues better, and they can be effective virtually, as well as in person.
Plus, employees can also benefit from improved health and fitness levels as they take part in workplace wellbeing activities.
Workplace wellbeing programmes are also beneficial to businesses. These benefits include reduced staff turnover, lower sickness and absence rates, reduced risks, improved productivity, increased morale, and overall improvements in standards. All these benefits help enhance the level of service delivered to clients.
Live Well at SL
At SL Controls, we schedule our Live Well at SL programme annually by working with our Well-Being Champions to develop a calendar of events for the year ahead. We communicate the schedule of events regularly throughout the year. The different activities and initiatives include:
- Educational and awareness bulletins on topics such as Working from Home, Time Management, and Keeping Fit.
- Practical activities and challenges that employees can participate in remotely or, when possible, in the workplace. An example of an internal activity is our Step Challenge. An example of an external activity is our Limerick team taking part in the company relay marathon challenge.
- Practical support such as our employee assistance programme, providing useful equipment such as water bottles and mindfulness cubes, as well as providing information on local events.
- General encouragement from peers as a result of taking part in the various wellbeing activities as well directly from management.
Body and Mind
In addition to Live Well at SL, SL Controls also has a programme that focuses on creating an open culture surrounding mental health in the workplace. It is called Think Well at SL and is a crucial element to our overall employee wellbeing strategy.
As with Live Well at SL, Think Well at SL includes awareness programmes, distribution of information, practical help and support, and fun activities that all employees can get involved in.
Workplace Wellbeing and You
You spend a lot of time working and with your work colleagues, either virtually or in person. It is just as important you live healthily during that time as any other, plus it is important that your employer cares about your wellbeing.
One of the ways we do this at SL Controls is by the Live Well at SL programme.
14 Tips for Becoming a Successful Engineer
There are lots of career pathways you can take to become a successful engineer, and there are multiple fields you can work in. Those pathways don’t have to be linear, making it possible to direct your career in the direction you want it to go. Whatever path you take, the following 14 tips will help.
1. Define Your Goals
Successful engineering projects don’t happen by chance – successful engineering careers don’t happen by chance either. Therefore, define where you would like to be as an engineer in the medium and long-term. You’re not making an unbreakable commitment when you do this, but it will help to keep you focused and moving forward. In addition, regularly review your progress to achieving your goals.
2. Commit Yourself to Continuous Professional Development
To keep up in a rapidly changing world and enhance your value to employers, you should engage in continuous professional development. In other words, you should acquire new skills with enthusiasm while being on a constant lookout for new professional development opportunities.
3. Constantly Work on Improving Your Problem-Solving Skills
Problem-solving is an essential skill in just about every field of engineering. It is also a skill that can be continuously improved. So, work on developing your problem-solving skills at each stage in your career.
4. Work on Improving Soft Skills
Many engineers focus their professional development efforts on improving their technical skills – learning SQL, for example. Don’t underestimate the importance of soft skills, however, such as organisational, teamwork, and presentation skills. You should also take time to acquire and improve essential skills like these.
One of the most important skills that fall into this category has already been mentioned – problem-solving skills. While all soft skills have their place, there are two more that deserve special attention by engineers:
- Communication skills – you will need to communicate with others at various levels throughout your career. This includes peers on your team, junior engineers as you become more senior, those in senior positions to you, clients who are not engineers, engineers who work for your company’s customers, and more. Therefore, it’s important to develop your communication skills.
- Collaboration skills – when everyone on the team works together, problems are solved faster, solutions are more effective, and quality is maintained. So, having good collaboration skills is important.
5. Focus on the Details
Details matter in engineering, so be meticulous in your attention to detail, whatever the task and whatever the project.
6. Learn from Mistakes
As an engineer, you will make mistakes, and you will fail. Mistakes are part of the process, particularly if you work with cutting edge technologies, processes, or systems. You should use these situations as an opportunity to learn, develop, and improve.
7. Understand Business
The people who make the decisions on the projects you work on will, more than likely, do so from a business perspective. As a result, they are more interested in return on investment than they are with the innovative approach you take to solving their problem. You don’t have to become a businessperson, of course, but it helps if you understand what makes decision-makers tick.
It can also help to work with different business teams when the opportunity arises – teams outside engineering. This experience will help you better understand the different requirements and perspectives of the business. It will also help others in the company to better understand the perspectives of engineers.
8. Embrace Change
Rapid advances in technologies and thinking mean nothing in engineering stands still, particularly if you’re involved in software engineering, automation engineering, and similar fields. You should embrace these rapid developments and never get stuck in an attitude of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”. Instead, always be flexible, so you’re ready to change.
9. Work Hard
This applies to every industry and job type, including engineering. You should take your inspiration from Thomas Edison, the great inventor. He said: “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”
10. Be Optimistic
Engineering is often about problem-solving, so it’s important to have a can-do, optimistic attitude. Of course, you need to be realistic too, but remaining optimistic when facing challenges will take you a long way.
11. Identify Role Models and Mentors
You can learn a lot from role models and mentors to help you further develop your career. This could be the best engineer in the company you work for, for example. You can formalise the mentoring relationship, but it doesn’t have to be formal. Instead, you can simply talk to them, ask questions, work on teams or projects they are also involved with, etc. You can also seek inspiration from role models outside your company, including industry leaders. When doing this, don’t just look at the great engineering work they do, but also how they became successful.
12. Stay Flexible
Engineering is a very broad field with lots of opportunities. You should remain open-minded, therefore, about where your career will take you. In fact, you could be doing a job role in 10 years that doesn’t even exist today. Also, industries you may never have considered could present you with significant opportunities. One of the points above says you should define your goals, but you should remain flexible in their implementation.
13. Get the Right Work-Life Balance
Not everything in life is about work. In fact, work isn’t even the most important thing. We all know this, but it is all too easy to start prioritising work over other aspects of your life. There are occasions when this is unavoidable, such as when a project deadline is fast approaching. However, it is important to get the right overall work-life balance to be a successful engineer.
14. Focus on the Long-Term
You can become a good engineer in a relatively short period of time, but real success (i.e., achieving the goals you identified in the earlier point above) takes time. You should view it as a marathon, not a sprint.
Why In-House Training and Upskilling Are Important in Engineering
In engineering, technology doesn’t stand still. Something that is the future soon becomes the norm with new developments coming hot on its heels. You only have to look at the rapid development of Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory technologies to see how fast technology advances.
Keeping up with these changes through training and professional development is, therefore, crucial to your career. Working for a company that prioritises in-house training and upskilling should be your goal.
It’s not just technology, either, as there are other skills you can learn or improve to advance your engineering career. This could be anything from the latest manufacturing process theory to leadership skills to soft skills like improving how you communicate.
By diversifying your expertise, you can become involved in new projects that will add to your experience.
New Career Opportunities
One of the main benefits of upskilling is to open up new career opportunities. This could be in a managerial role, or it could be to become more specialised in a particular area. These are just two examples, however, as there are many career paths that engineers can take.
The best approach is to work with your company/manager to understand the areas where there are potential skills or resource gaps. This will be based on things like market needs, trends in your industry, and the requirements of the company you work for.
You then need to match these skills or resource gaps with the direction you want to take in your career. You will then have a clearer understanding of the skills you can learn, and the training courses you can enrol on.
Other Benefits of Upskilling
Some other benefits you will realise when you continuously upskill throughout your career include:
- Enhances satisfaction – this happens in a number of ways. You will have greater job satisfaction, for example, when you get the opportunity to take on new tasks and challenges. In addition, you will get a boost from how upskilling helps your career to progress. Upskilling also ensures your capabilities stay relevant to current market realities and customer expectations, and it can help prevent you from getting stuck in a rut.
- Improves knowledge – your knowledge in a specific field of work will improve, which will enhance your value and employability. If you are already in a job you like, improved knowledge will help make you more productive and will increase the contribution you can make to the projects you work on.
- Makes you more adaptable and agile – your employer will be able to assign you to a greater range of specific tasks and projects when you have skills it values.
- Gets you out of your comfort zone – this benefit should not be underestimated. Getting out of your comfort zone is a great way to push your preconceived limits and achieve something new in your career.
- Helps to future proof – with technology changing fast, you need to remain relevant. This means developing your skills to keep up with the changes.
- Discover something new – by upskilling, you may discover a passion you didn’t know you had. This can enhance your levels of personal satisfaction, but it may also put you on a new and rewarding career path that you never thought of before.
- Improve productivity – this is a benefit you more often find on an employers’ list, i.e., one of the benefits of having an in-house training policy is an increase in productivity in the business. Improving productivity is a benefit to you as an employee, too, as you will achieve more and will demonstrate to your employer you are ready for new challenges and responsibilities that will advance your career.
Benefits to Your Employer are Important Too
Employers need engineers with the right skills to win contracts from customers and then deliver on those contracts. By upskilling, you will help ensure your employer has the skills and capabilities it needs, which will improve the success of the company. This success is of benefit to you, too, not least in job security.
What You Should Look For
While you may understand the benefits of employer-led training and upskilling programmes, you need an employer who has this understanding also. This doesn’t mean you can’t upskill outside of the work environment in your own time. The ideal situation, however, is working for an employer that values the benefits of training and developing its in-house team.
SL Controls is a good example. Our team includes engineers with diverse skills and backgrounds – this is essential to the delivery of our services. We have a well-developed in-house training programme in place, however, to ensure all members of the team have specific skills we know are important to the success of our projects.
Your employer can’t do everything, though. You need commitment, a willingness to learn, and a hunger for moving forward. It can help to keep in mind a quote from the great Albert Einstein:
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
11 Tips for Your Engineering CV
Writing a compelling CV will help you land the ideal engineering job – one that pays well, that challenges you, that presents opportunities for career progression, and that strikes the right work-life balance. How do you write a great engineering CV, though? Here are 11 tips:
1. Make Your Engineering CV Relevant
Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for as engineering roles are varied, even within disciplines. By tailoring your CV, you can show you have knowledge of the industry as well as highlighting specific skills and experience that will be beneficial to the role.
Tailoring your engineering CV could be something as simple as re-arranging the information to make certain points more visible. For example, if you are applying for a Control Systems Engineer position, you should make sure you give weight to your control systems experience. Also, you could replace part of your summary at the top of the CV with points that are control systems specific.
2. Ensure It Is Easy for Recruiters to Read
Your engineering CV should be as easy to read as possible. The aim is to ensure recruiters reading your CV can quickly and easily identify the most important information.
So, state your engineering skills and experience explicitly. You can do this by highlighting projects you’ve worked on, responsibilities you’ve had, and tasks you’ve performed.
3. Focus on the Most Important Points First
Focus a lot of your efforts on the beginning part of the CV as first impressions count. This is the section before your work and education history, where you highlight your main skills and experience, creating a short profile.
You can go into more detail later in the CV but make sure you list the most important and relevant points in this section. For example, you should include points tailored to the role you are applying for.
4. Use Relevant Engineering Words and Phrases
You should include specific engineering skills keywords in your engineering CV. You can do this in a list or throughout the content as you describe roles and achievements. Below are examples of the types of keyword you should include:
- Your technical skills
- Your software skills
- Programming languages you know
- Your hardware knowledge
- Your systems knowledge
- Processes you have experience with
- Frameworks you have experience with
- Compliance experience
Highlighting your industry experience through the words you use is also important, especially if the job prefers or requires specific experience.
5. Include Achievements
Remember, responsibilities are important, but achievements are crucial. Also, achievements provide evidence for your skills and knowledge. After all, it is easy to create a list of all the things you can do. The more impactful information will be evidence of how you have used your knowledge and skills. Therefore, focus on achievements as much as possible.
6. Highlight Your Soft Skills
Focusing on achievements will also highlight your interpersonal skills. This includes things like communication skills, leadership abilities, and teamwork skills. These are known as soft skills, and they are different from the hard skills you have as an Engineer.
Don’t underestimate the importance of soft skills. Interpersonal skills, in particular, let the potential employer visualise the roles and duties you can perform, not just the technical capabilities you have.
7. Keep It Concise
Your CV should include detail, but don’t be repetitive and make sure you write succinctly. It is important you strike the right balance between presenting an accurate picture of your experience and capabilities while not going overboard.
The more concise and comprehensive you can make the CV, the better. If you stray into a third page, you probably need to cut back a bit to two pages.
8. Include a Project Page
If you have experience on multiple projects over several years, you may find it difficult to include everything important in two pages.
In this situation, you should include the main and most recent projects on your CV and then add a third additional page that contains a project list. This list should have the name of the project, the employer/client, a brief, one-sentence summary/description of what you did, and the outcomes achieved.
9. Replace Paragraphs of Text with Bullet Points
Use bullet points instead of paragraphs as much as possible, as bullet-point lists are easier to read.
10. Include Non-Engineering Achievements
Include your achievements and experience outside engineering. This is particularly important if you are a new graduate without much engineering work experience.
Volunteer work, sporting achievements, or participation in community organisations can help the employer better understand who you are.
11. Check, Check, and Check Again
Check for and remove all mistakes. Of course, mistake-free CVs are necessary for all types of jobs, but the nature of engineering work makes it even more important that you pay attention to the details and check for errors. This means proofreading the CV.
After you proofread it, you should then get someone else to proofread it again to spot mistakes you may have missed.
Another proofreading technique is to leave the CV for a few hours before you proofread it again. Also, temporarily changing the text’s font to something completely different can help you spot mistakes you may have missed.
Keeping Your Engineering CV Up to Date
Your engineering CV is about selling you as a professional engineer. It should be a fluid document that you amend and customise for each role you apply for.