Early-Career Engineers: Leveraging Your Student Status

networking positioning strategy Jul 06, 2021
Mel Butcher, Mel Butcher's Underdog Engineers Blog

In Tip #1, we talked about not limiting your job search and expanding it to other *types of organizations where engineers work. And in Tip #2, we discussed an easy trick for finding companies in your field that you might want to apply to.

For today's tip, I want to talk about One Way to Leverage Being a Student To Network with Professionals.

Recently, while presenting to an ASCE student chapter, I emphasized how critical strategic networking (i.e. relationship building with the right people) is to an engineer's job search.

Why?

It's simple. People like to hire people they

KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST.

When you're a student, the simplest way to get people to know you and like you in the industry is to be involved with the trade organization(s) for your interest or specialty. And then, don't just show up to one event; really engage. Volunteer for events, show up to events, introduce yourself to people you've never met.

You probably know that you should be doing this, but maybe you don't know how.

Maybe you feel as though until you earn your degree, you have nothing to offer.

That last one is completely WRONG.

No matter where you are in earning your degree, you can find a way to bring value to others.

That brings us to our tip. One way to leverage being a *student while you are networking is to use it (the fact that you are a student) as an "excuse" to talk to people.

Here's an example. Let's suppose you are an officer of your university's ASCE student chapter. Great. How might you use that to have a reason to talk to people at the regional ASCE luncheon or conference?

Try setting a real goal for yourself to engage the professionals in a way that also benefits the student chapter. When you're at a luncheon, conference, or networking event...

  • You could curiously inquire about the company the person works for. Do they like to support students? Great, would they like to sponsor one of the student chapter events?
  • You could be inquisitive about the other person and what they do and then find a way to invite them into the student chapter. Could they give a talk at a future event?
  • You could organize a career jump start event for your student chapter and then go out and find professionals that *you like and think are interesting and invite them to your event. Invite them to do mock interviews with the students. Invite them to do resume reviews. Do you see how much value that would create -- both for students and the professionals?

When you're still a student, you have a lot you can use within you to find a way to engage with professionals. As you do these things, people will come to know you and trust you. Then, when it comes time to find a job, you will already have advocates on your side.

And if you start this early enough, you will find that you also become a resource to the professionals you know locally. They will see you as someone who is connected to the students and as someone who can help *them connect to higher quality entry-level talent.

When you are early in your career, it can be easy to feel like you are the one who must ask for help and favors. This is true in some ways; no engineer can earn their professional license without practicing under the tutelage of other professional engineers for years, for instance. But, you can find ways to contribute when you decide to approach others with a mindset of -

How can I serve? How can I contribute? How might I help you?

So take your great ideas, your big heart, and show us what you can do! I'm cheering you on!

- Mel

If you find this content helpful, connect with me on LinkedIn to see more resources like this. And if you're a young engineer on the job hunt, get your hands on the Underdog Engineers Ultimate Resume Checklist FREE.

Doors close for the beta launch of the Underdog Engineers course on September 24, 2021. Use coupon code BETA for the best discount that will ever be offered. After the beta course, prices go to premium. 

Join Underdog Engineers

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.