Finding Your Entry-Level Engineering Opportunity

Engineering students have for decades enjoyed an almost automatic revolving door from university into an engineering position with a hiring employer.

However, while that myth continues to pervade school and program choices for prospective engineering students, the actual job market reality is starting to change. In short, things have become a lot more competitive.

Additionally, the positions open have begun to appear farther and farther away, sometimes out of reach for some applicants who can’t just pick up and go to any region. That means that entry-level engineering positions locally and regionally are becoming harder to get.

Add in the fact that there is more talent available, competition has been ramping up supply and reducing demand. All of these aspects are starting to change age-old strategies for finding entry-level engineering opportunities.

A Massive Wave of Applicants Annually

Some 70,000 students leave the halls of universities across the country and enter the job market looking for all types of engineering positions specifically. That doesn’t include the millions more competing for jobs in general. Additionally, the market has grown with international capability and talent from overseas as well. So, instead of being a big fish in a small pond, now many engineering students are finding themselves in a very big ocean with related implications.

Strategies have to change; so here are some tips on how to find entry-level engineering job options in today’s market.

Addressing Work-Life Balance

In the old days, engineers just worked, and life came second. Most worked long hours, paid their dues in offices and teams, and then were promoted to leads and eventually project managers or division chiefs. 12 and 14-hour days were common, and so were weekend overtime hours on salary (i.e. no extra pay). That said, the career income was high and people lived well. Engineers might not have spent much time with their kids growing up, but they did see their sons and daughters get into top universities as well. Today, recruits coming into the field have different priorities. Some balancing of wants is going to be needed.

While nobody of their own choice wants to go back to the old demands, new engineering candidates do need to be willing to deal with long schedules at first to win their positions and career promotions. The field is too crowded with options for people to make unreasonable demands from employers. They will simply hire someone else.

Work Flexibility, to a Point

While the idea of remote work came into vogue with the recent pandemic, there is still an expectation to connect and work in-person, at least part of the week. Careers are more than just completing assignments; they are also about networking, which happens best in person, not on recordable texts, emails, or videos.

Seeking Promotions

Ideally, candidates should be looking for positions with a career track and upward mobility, not dead-end project assignments or contract phase work. Being trapped in a dead-end role can have long-term negative implications, especially if an engineer is not seen as a rising star in the first half of a career. Favoritism for valued employees happens all the time, so those who stay in the shadows rarely move out of them. Gaining visibility happens with apprenticeships, added certifications, leadership and management training, and seeking additional education support where made available. The more a candidate offers, the more he will be retained and likely to be promoted.

Work With a Recruiter

A professional guide who spends time in engineering labor markets and networks with hiring officers has a lot to offer, especially for a new entry engineer or one looking for a new opportunity. Their advice can make a huge difference in reshaping one’s presentation and becoming far more attractive to hiring companies. Don’t waste that kind of opportunity if you’ve been struggling otherwise to be seen, hired, or promoted already. Most higher-level career positions are landed through networking and recruitment, not cold-calling or resume drops. Get the inside curve instead with a recruiter and save a lot of angst that can be better spent on growing.