College student asks about how to gain experience

posted in: Job Doc Blog | 0

Q: I am an engineering student graduating in two years.  All the job postings I see are for entry-level engineers ask for experience.  How is a student supposed to gain all of this experience while committed to studying and getting good grades?  Shouldn’t entry-level mean entry-level?

A: Congratulations on earning good grades!  I can understand your confusion.  Shouldn’t entry-level mean limited experience?  Well, sort of.

Employers expect even entry-level employees to have some work-related and practical experience.  How is that possible?

  1. Most students participate in some type of job-related internship during their undergraduate career. Typically, it is during the school year, but sometimes it might be during the summer months.  A student can gain valuable technical experience, particularly in engineering.  A student can also learn how a professional work environment operates.  Of course, each workplace has their own individual norms, but understanding how an office operates can be useful.
  2. Summer or part-time jobs can often yield relevant experience.  Even if the role is not an ideal long-term career choice, it may offer experience in a target industry.  The name of a well-established employer on your resume can make a recruiter stop and look at your resume more closely.  Consider connecting with a temporary placement firm.  They often have short-term gigs which might offer you some opportunities to build your resume.
  3. Many students volunteer at organizations, where they can build skills and professional contacts as well.
  4. Student organizations. Most colleges have hundreds of student organizations.  You can gain leadership and event management experience.
  5. Career services. Contact your college’s career services office.  Local employers will often list opportunities with career services.
  6. Personal and professional contacts. Start building contacts now.  Almost daily, you are interacting with professors.  These professors may know of opportunities within their network.
  7. Put up a shingle. Start working as a freelancer.  Build a website.  Offer blogging services.

There are many ways to gain experience.  Truthfully most employers are expecting some experience at the end of a four-year degree program.

Happy Labor Day to all workers in the US.  Do you know when the first Labor Day was celebrated?  In New York City on September, 5, 1882.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.