In a previous article, “5 ways to improve embedded developer efficiency,” I mentioned that finding and hiring embedded software engineers in the embedded systems field has become nearly impossible. Several readers pointed out that young, talented engineers struggled to find positions while vacancies remain. This post will cover five tips to help any engineer land their dream engineering job.
Tip #1 – Constantly network
Networking is the best way to land an engineering position, whether straight out of college or a seasoned professional. In this world, it’s more about who you know than what you know. You can be the most brilliant embedded systems engineer to walk the planet. Still, if no one knows, you’ll be the most brilliant unemployed embedded systems engineer to walk the earth.
Learning about opportunities can be done through job boards and recruiters, but the best way to find opportunities is to talk to people. Connect with people on LinkedIn. Join online communities. Directly contact the companies you might be interested in and get to know the people that work there and run things. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but you never know where your next opportunity may come.
My engineering career started quite haphazardly. I focused on job boards, recruiters, etc. My first internship came about through the grapevine from my dad, who was networking with people at work. He talked to someone who knew someone, who knew someone looking for a summer intern. That internship lasted two years and the first three years of my full-time engineering career.
Tip #2 – Showcase your accomplishments
If you want to land your dream engineering position, you can humbly sit back and hope that someone notices your skillset. First, however, you must showcase your accomplishments. I’m not suggesting you do so in an arrogant manner. Instead, I suggest you keep track of your achievements and showcase them on the web and at job interviews. There are several ways to do this.
First, I’ve noticed that engineers who create hobby projects and build websites that show their engineered projects disappear from the job market extremely quickly. The website doesn’t have to be complex and professional looking; it just needs to be essential and show what you can do. For example, post pictures and videos about the project if you built an internet-connected weather station. Show the project working and include some of the design details. It doesn’t even hurt to post a blog about a problem you encountered and how you solved it. Just posting 2 – 3 quick projects can give an employer a taste of what you are capable of.
Next, leverage those projects in interviews. Before I started my consulting business, my record for receiving a job offer was 30 minutes after the interview. (Second place was 45 minutes). In every interview, I would take my laptop, a circuit board that I designed, schematics, and an example code that I wrote. At the start of the interview, I would put the circuit board or sometimes a fully assembled project on the table. No interviewer could ever resist asking about the project.
Once they asked, they were no longer in control of the interview. I was. I could give them a summary, show the device working, and discuss my problem and how I solved it. I often showed source code examples and discussed how I architected the system. The usual interview questions that everyone asks that don’t differentiate you from everyone else go out the window. The opportunity to show off what you can do and the value you can provide them can be a great hook.
Tip #3 – Put on a little pressure
If you have successfully showcased your accomplishments and the interview appears to be going well, there is an additional trick you can use to put a little pressure on the interviewer. I’ve often heard about young engineers going through several interviews and waiting months to hear if they have gotten the job. Don’t wait for the opportunity. Instead, make it very clear to the interviewer that you have other interviews scheduled or have had other successful discussions.
I’ve noticed that when hiring, companies will often be in no hurry to find the right person; however, if that candidate won’t be on the market long, they don’t have long to decide. There is enough pressure on you as the interviewee to show why you should get the position. Don’t ask desperate. Instead, let them know you are looking to close your position search within the next week or two. Putting the pressure on can help you understand if there is genuine interest in hiring you. If there is interest, you’ll get a request to give them a few days or whatever. If they stick to it, we have this process, yadda yadda, don’t put your hopes in it by waiting around.
Tip #4 – Be patient and adjust your expectations
Finding that first engineering position or your dream position will not happen overnight. Many young engineers leave school expecting to jump right into their dream job and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, it rarely happens… at first. When we first leave school, we think we know everything, but while we are book smart, we don’t have much practical, real-world experience. Getting that dream job often requires looking ahead and using several jobs as a stepping stone.
For example, when I started my engineering career, I didn’t start as an embedded software engineer or consultant. I started as an electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) engineer in the EMC laboratory. What did I do? I set up antennas and wrote reports for three years. Not my dream job, but it was a job. On the side, I worked on my master’s degree and honed my embedded system skills. It wasn’t until the next job that I even got to do embedded work.
Finding that first position or dream position takes patience. It may take several jobs to get the experience to get there. Don’t give up. Set your end goal in mind and identify the potential steps to get there. Odds are, you won’t get there in one step, but a career is built in steps, not giant leaps.
Tip #5 – Leverage career services
Sometimes, it can be hard to find the right position for you. Before starting my business, I used recruiters and position placement companies to help me discover career opportunities early in my career. When I was graduating from college, with just my two summers as an intern for experience, recruiters were very helpful in finding me potential employers. These career services companies could take my skills and experiences and match me up with companies looking for employees.
Working with career services companies can help you jump-start your career, or they can be looking for that dream position while you are with your current employer. Obviously, they get paid at some point, usually by the company they place you in. So, from that perspective, they can be a helpful resource to help you progress your career to the next level, no matter what that level may be.
We all have that engineering position that we dream about. That dream might just be landing a job to kick start our career, or it might be the position we’ve spent our whole career pursuing. I’ve found that when it comes to one’s career, you need to be proactive. No one controls whether you get the position of your dreams but you. It may take time, patience, and a lot of networking. If you don’t give up, before you know it, you’ll be right where you want to be.
What steps do you need to take today to help land your dream engineering positions?
|Jacob Beningo is an embedded software consultant who specializes in real-time, microcontroller-based systems. He actively promotes software best practices through numerous articles, blogs, and webinars on topics from software architecture design, embedded DevOps, and implementation techniques. Jacob has 20 years of experience in the field and holds three degrees including a Masters of Engineering from the University of Michigan.|
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