Get yourself career ready

Feel ready for a career? You bet you do. But do you have the social skills, the job reference, the proof of teamwork, that employers want? They're in the news complaining that you don't have what it takes: prove them wrong here.

1. Work on your social skills

While technical ability and expertise are undoubtedly vital, it is equally important to come across as a well-rounded individual, equipped with the necessary interpersonal and soft skills that will come into play on a daily basis in the world of work. 

The collaborative demands of engineering today, with the emphasis on project management and liaising with different groups and parties, mean that being able to communicate and interact with people effectively, making yourself understood and working as part of a team, are crucial. 

Involvement in clubs and societies and taking on positions of responsibility such as on a club committee will help to make your CV stand out and convince prospective employers of your social effectiveness.

2. Stay motivated

All employers want potential recruits to display positivity and enthusiasm. So develop a flexible and can-do attitude and make it an intrinsic part of everything you do. Acting confidently and possessing high self-worth will help you to project a positive image, remain energized and, by extension, lead to enhanced communication and raised motivation.

3. Get volunteering 

For graduates who have only ever known the world of academia, doing some voluntary work can help to broaden your outlook, help you develop new skills and build confidence. 

According to a 2009 survey carried out by the independent charity, vinspired, which connects 16-25 year olds with volunteering opportunities, three-quarters of employers agree or strongly agree that volunteering can have a positive effect on an individual’s career progression. 

Nearly half believe that job candidates with volunteering experience are more motivated and that the three most important skills to be gained are team work, building confidence and communication. 

Please visit vinspired or the Do-it website to learn more about volunteering opportunities.   

4. Find a worthwhile work placement or internship 

In a report on preparing graduates for the world of work published last year, the CBI highlighted the importance of ‘employability’, which it defined as: “the attributes that help people respond to the changing demands of the workplace and contribute positively”. 

The employers’ body also identified work experience as one of the best ways to acquire skills such as self-management, team-working, customer awareness and problem-solving, and called on more employers to offer placements and internships to undergraduates. 

Find out whether your university has links with any companies or check out websites such as Rate My Placement and employment 4 students. Internships can run across holiday periods or there are year-long ones.  

5. Compete for student prizes and awards 

There is no shortage of industry-related competitions and challenges aimed at students and getting involved in these provides an opportunity to showcase your technical ability as well as sharpen your skills. Prizes can take the form of placements with major companies, such as BP’s Ultimate Field Trip. 

Even if you’re not a winner, they provide valuable project experience and will certainly arm you with additional valuable material to talk about in an interview that might just help to land you the job. 

Please view the IET website for a range of Awards and scholarships.

6. Plug into the industry 

Even if you aren’t working in the engineering industry yet, online networks allow you to tap into it and keep abreast of topics and issues, as well as hear about potential job offers. The more informed you appear at interviews the better, plus this level of knowledge demonstrates your enthusiasm for, and commitment to, the industry. 

Key ‘engineering’ into LinkedIn and it returns 10,850 groups and, while many won’t be relevant, you can easily refine your search so it is more aligned to your areas of interest.  

7. Secure a part-time job

Might be easier said than done in the current economic climate, but any real work experience, whether it’s in a pub or a garage, will likely equip you with some business awareness, an element of responsibility, a chance to develop your people skills, as well as, crucially, an employment reference.

8. Be a star of track and field 

Participating in sport and other team events not only demonstrates a commitment and a willingness to learn but could also help to develop crucial competencies like team-working and even leadership qualities dependent on specific roles.

9. Find out how the IET can help

The IET student pages can give advice and help on all these aspects of your development: take a look. 

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