Top tips to get and keep a great job in engineering

Calling engineering graduates - are you looking for the perfect job, tailor-made for you, but don’t know where to start? Engineering jobs can get confusing with both opportunities and challenges – let's face it, there’s plenty of competition out there, but that should not intimidate you. To get that perfect employment opportunity, you must stand out from the crowd so take note of our game-changing tips and strategies to unlock your true potential in the competitive engineering job market.

Essential skills and qualities for engineering job seekers

To stand out you need to master technical skills as well as soft skills, get yourself some relevant experience and of course, bring a dollop of passion to whatever you set your heart on.

  • Be tech savvy. Keep up with the latest tech trends in your area of expertise. Being knowledgeable is your secret weapon. 
  • Problem solve. Your ability to think critically, analytically, identify problems and offer solutions is what you will need to steal the show. 
  • Pay attention to detail. In engineering, precision is the name of the game. The smallest error can result in financial mishaps, or worse, dangerous situations. Being an eagle-eyed engineer can save the day. 
  • Sharpen your coding and design skills. Necessary in many fields of engineering, being skilled at coding languages and a mastery of design tools will get you a foot in the door. 
  • Get hands-on experience: Theory's great, but there’s nothing that beats practical experience. Apply for internships, find a mentor, and actively seek temporary work. Get involved in hackathons, competitions and spend time on personal projects that show you have what it takes. 
  • Nail those soft skills. While technical skills are mandatory, we can’t emphasise enough the importance of soft skills. These include adaptability, communication, being a team player, leadership and time management. These soft skills might –together with drive, curiosity, and passion – get you across the line and into your dream job.

Opening the door to getting a great engineering job

First impressions matter. Your resume and covering letter give potential employers an idea of whether you could be a perfect fit. Work on compiling a clear and concise CV that showcases your achievements.

  • Tailor your content. One size doesn't fit all. Spend time and effort customising your CV and covering letter for each application.
  • Highlight your achievements and accomplishment through figures, facts and statistics. 
  • Include keywords. Many companies use applicant tracking systems. Scatter relevant keywords throughout. 
  • Create a clean design. Less is more and make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect. Use the same format and design through both your CV and covering letter.

Your online presence is important – it gives potential employers an insight into who you are, so take note of the following:

  • Create a powerful LinkedIn profile. Connect with professionals and join engineering groups. • Showcase your projects online. Use platforms like GitHub to showcase your projects. A well-organised portfolio can leave a lasting impression.
  • Use blogs to share insights about studying engineering and the latest trends. Make your voice heard.

Effective networking strategies can open doors:

  • Attend relevant events.
  • Practice your pitch to make a great first impression.
  • Build relationships by following up with your new connections.

Nailing the engineering job interview

Whatever you do, don’t wing it. Putting in the time preparing for an interview will pay dividends. Research the company, review common interview questions, and practice your answers. Remember, confidence is key. When it’s your turn to ask questions, make sure you have prepared thoughtful questions about the job and the company. It shows you're genuinely interested and that you have an enquiring mind.

Continuing education for long-term career growth in the engineering field

Once you’ve aced your interview and landed the job, don’t make the mistake of kicking back and relaxing. Engineering is a dynamic field, so keep on top of developments.

  • Set career goals and objectives, both long and short term. 
  • Research different engineering branches to identify and develop your passion. 
  • Consider pursuing advanced degrees or certificates to specialise in your chosen area of engineering and to boost credibility. 
  • Attend workshops, seminars and online courses to keep up with trends.

Maintaining a work-life balance in your engineering job

While it’s important to give it your all, bear in mind that burnout is real. Learn to nurture your own wellbeing by identifying stressors that sneak into your work life, and find ways to tackle them head-on.

  • Know your limits. Recognise when you're pushing yourself too hard. Occasionally working late at night is fine but it should not become a habit. Set boundaries. 
  • Manage your time. Prioritise tasks and set realistic deadlines to avoid last-minute rush. 
  • Unplug regularly. Disconnect from work emails and calls during your downtime. 
  • Pursue activities you love outside of work to recharge. 
  • Exercise regularly and eat nutritious meals. A healthy body supports a healthy mind.

Work is a part of life, not the whole picture. Finding balance might not be easy, but it's doable. So, whether you're into coding or construction, make sure to keep work stress in check and your life in harmony.

There is no magic bullet to securing and maintaining a top engineering job, but you can improve your chances and unlock your potential by following these insights and strategies and be as prepared as you possibly can be.

About The IIE’s Varsity College

The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) of which Varsity College is a brand, is South Africa’s largest registered and accredited private provider of higher education. At Varsity College we understand that no two students are the same or learn the same. That’s why we make sure a student’s education is shaped around them; how they like to learn, what they are passionate about, what makes them tick, and what makes them thrive. Our education by design approach allows students to grow into their best, and creates a space where they can live, learn and play – their way.