Unlike Computer science where people are changing the world through apps like Uber and businesses like Amazon, Electrical Engineering is a boring sedate field prone to outsourcing and poor employment prospects. Most companies have their own unique processes and tools which makes it hard to transfer experience to other companies. It is a very competitive field that is undergoing consolidation – giants like Sun and DEC die regularly and the industry is headed towards large monolithic companies that can afford to fab on the latest processes.
So it is not surprising there is a surplus of newly minted EE graduates looking for employment. These new graduates are competing with experienced engineers for the same few spots. The problem with most resumes I see is that they are similar with little differentiation. I’ll gladly hire a new graduate over an experienced person if they can show they can go outside the box and learn fast. Here is a list I’ve compiled of common flaws I see in the new graduates I’ve interviewed.
Learn to code – Most EEs are not exposed to programming beyond introductory C and C++ or Java. Computers now are used in every aspect of design and test. We embed dynamic code in our test flows and processors are designed using HDLs like System Verilog. Actually learn a programming language and do a few projects with it. While dynamic languages are more popular – C, C++, Perl, Python all have similar concepts and knowing just one will help you solve most programming problems interviewers will throw at you.
Know what you put it on your resume – I see a lot of people throw things onto their resumes that they see in the job description. Don’t say you know Python or Perl if you have no experience in using it. If it is a language used on the job then you are guaranteed to be asked about it. Nothing makes an applicant look bad like not knowing the difference between a Python hash and list or C scope rules.
Grades matter – It is a sea of mediocrity out there. Everyone takes the same classes – Verilog, circuits, semiconductor physics – so we go to grades when we have to choose someone. Given the same courses and no experience, a person with a 3.7 GPA has a better chance of getting an interview than a 3.4 GPA. Some may say that grades don’t matter – they do matter when you have nothing else to differentiate you. A GPA tells us of the person’s capacity for learning and their aptitude.
Have an internship or hardware volunteer experience – Internship or volunteer experience makes you stand out. They tell us you have experience with working on an actual project, dealing with people, and meeting deadlines. I know internships are hard to get and having one tells me you you can get through another company’s hiring filters. That gives us more confidence in you.
Take outside classes – Another way to differentiate yourself is to take classes outside of school. Take classes on Coursera or other online MOOC. Coursework outside of school shows me you can take the initiative to learn on you own to fill in gaps in your knowledge. Of course I’m going to first call candidates that will go the extra mile to learn on their own.
Work on side projects – Always have a side project going on. A new graduate is pretty much an instant hire if they can show capacity to carry out a project on their own. Very few new graduates have the ability to do practical work right out of college. Show you can design and debug a moderately complex PCB. Put up a blog post and a video on Youtube. Bring it to an onsite interview you’ll impress any hiring manager.
It is a tough world out there for EEs, especially for new hires and older folks. Everyone is competing for the same few jobs and you have to do whatever you can to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Always be working on growing yourself and with luck you’ll be able to retirement a few years early with enough to live on before social security kicks in.