Recent engineering graduates have an impressive knowledge of their field, but they don’t always have a handle on all the job skills they need to succeed. The heavy-duty curriculum in STEM coursework leaves little room for classes that teach business acument. If you’re a newly minted engineer who’s focused more on academics than internships, brush up on these core job skills and shine.
Know Your Market
New graduates sometimes look at average wages for their chosen field and want to start there, but averages don’t reflect actual income, especially if you work in a region that tends toward lower incomes across industry lines. While you shouldn’t take a position that offers fast-food wages or doesn’t cover your rent, be realistic about your value on the open market and realize that no one starts in the middle. For many new engineers, it’s better to take a job that pays a bit less, get some resume-friendly experience and move on quickly. This strategy lets you get a foot on the ladder while acknowledging that you don’t plan to stay on that rung for long.
Work on Interpersonal Skills
With the exception of a few collaborative projects throughout your academic career, you probably haven’t had to spend much time with co-workers. That’s a major culture shift for new graduates whose prior work and school experiences may not have put them into close contact with team members. Depending on where and how you work, you might spend more time with your fellow engineers than you do with your family, so brushing up on social skills is key to a happy and productive work environment. Get to know everyone, not just your fellow engineers; you never know when your new acquaintance in marketing or your friend in HR can give you the inside scoop on a new opening that would be a great fit for you.
Watch and Learn
No matter how well your education prepared you for the bulk of your work, learning some tasks takes on-the-job training. Veteran engineers who have been with the company longer have discovered ways to streamline their work flow, and by watching them, you can benefit from that knowledge too. Listening to what senior engineers have to teach you is an excellent way to prepare yourself for being one of them in a few years, so be open to what others have to say. By watching how others work, you’ll also feel more confident following their lead.
Another major culture shift recent graduates who enter the work force undergo is with project management. If you’ve spent years being responsible only for your own performance, it’s understandable to feel some unease when your work now affects how others do their jobs. The pressure can lead you to step away from too much responsibility, but without taking that leap, you can’t grow professionally. Go ahead and apply for that new position that opened up, take a leadership role on a new project or volunteer to be the point of contact for other departments.
Your education doesn’t end at graduation. Keeping current on the latest software tools, read up on news in your field and avail yourself of the industry journals almost every workplace subscribes to. If you have the chance to earn additional certifications through your job, take advantage of it. You never regret knowing more, so look for opportunities to learn wherever you can find them.