Internships are your first taste of the working world in many fields – and engineering jobs are no exception. Sure, there is this impression that employers use interns as cheap labor, but for engineering jobs, it is a valuable vetting process for potential hires. Most students are consumed with their engineering courses and bolstering their GPAs, but counselors say that the soft skills and human side of securing employment are often overlooked.
These days, leadership is important for engineering jobs. According to Kerri Boivin, director of the University of Michigan’s Engineering Resource Center, the best thing you can do is to get involved with student leadership groups. “When employers come to campus, they want to know who the student leaders are,” she explains. “Find a way to be on a committee that they can chair or lead, so they have that leadership experience,” she advises.
Also, social skills and personality are essential. The hungriest students tend to be the ones she sees walk out of the center with engineering jobs. The “go-getters” who come to the center really wanting that internship are the ones who wind up with three offers because employers sense that drive. For people who may not be so naturally outgoing and socially adept, there are workshops offered at schools that help build interviewing skills, communication techniques, business skills, rules of etiquette, and the art of selling oneself.
Lastly, people who are serious about engineering jobs and landing internships should pay attention to their appearance. While some companies may be casual, it’s important to learn what “business casual” or “formal” dress codes entail. They’ll need to have table manners, should they find themselves at a business lunch, and they’ll need to understand how to address their superiors in a respectful way. All these things may seem like crossing the T’s or dotting the I’s, but in the working world – whether you’re looking for business or engineering jobs – soft skills are differentiating the mediocre from the employable.