Hackaday readers are a vast and varied bunch. Some of us would call ourselves engineers or are otherwise employed in some kind of technical role. Others may still be studying to gain the requisite qualifications and are perhaps wondering just how to complete that final leap into the realm of gainful employment. Well, this one’s for you.
What sort of job are you looking for?
You might be a straight, down the lines, petroleum engineering graduate who’s looking to land a job in the oil and gas industry. Conversely, you might be an arts student who’s picked up a few skills with electronics over the years and are keen to gain a position doing grand installation pieces for musuems or corporate clients.
There’s a broad spectrum of jobs out there that require high-level technical skills, and my first piece of advice is that you shouldn’t limit yourself. There are things you can do to keep your options open, even over a long career – these could pay dividends when you’re looking for a seachange.
Can You Do The Job?
One of the reasons people enter degree programs is that the piece of paper is, ideally, proof that you have a certain set of skills. You can show up to an interview looking for a chemical engineer and you can wave your paper around that says “Yes, I know how to do that!”
It’s a grand idea, but today the degrees you work so slavishly for are more about keeping your resume in the pile than anything else. Once you get to the interview, there are two main things you need to achieve. The first is to prove that you’re a decent human being who can get along with others and show up to work on a regular basis. This is common to all jobs. The second is to prove that you are capable of completing the work required and that you have the necessary skills to do so.
“How do I prove that? Surely that’s the whole point of the degree!” you might say. The degree is great at proving you have passed a lot of exams on theory, but doesn’t prove your experience. Alternatively, you can tell people you know how to analyse fluid flows and optimise assembly code until you’re blue in the face, but talk is cheap. You need to show people you can walk the walk.
The trick is to draw on your prior experiences to back up your story. If you tell me you can write HTML code and create a decent website, I might believe you or I might not. Backing that up with a certificate might help a little. However, if in the interview you can direct me to check out TarasAwesomeWebsite.com and I find a super-responsive, clean, well designed page and you can then walk me through the development process, then I am seeing first hand that you’ve got what it takes.
Once upon a time, I was a student studying Aerospace Engineering, and wasn’t paying too much attention to where life would take me after university. As my studies drew to a close, however, it was time to find some work experience to meet the graduation requirements. I’d worked a few jobs here and there in the retail sector, mostly stacking shelves and scanning tickets at the local stadium. Application after application went out and after months of applying, I had precisely zero interviews. In the end I had to beg the university to give me a summer project to fulfill the requirement and thankfully, I was able to graduate.
It was around about this time that I’d also become deeply involved in music. I didn’t want to graduate and head straight into a 40-hour-a-week desk job, and wanted to live the life of a musician for a year or two. But I was also keenly aware that a long sabbatical after my degree combined with minimal real world experience was not going to put my engineering career off to a strong start when my fledgling band inevitably sputtered and died. I needed some way of keeping my engineering skills fresh while I was spending my days writing depressing grunge songs.
My plan was simple. I would leverage my electronics skills and start a business designing and building guitar effects pedals on the side. I figured I’d learn more about electronics, as well as the skills necessary to produce a product in volume and bring it to market.
It was a bumpy road at first – I spent a great deal of time developing a digital effect pedal that never came to fruition, before falling back on a simple analog distortion pedal as my first product. I went into business, suffering all manner of problems with suppliers and fit and finish, eventually shipping product all over the world and completing two successful crowdfunding campaigns.
Two years out of university, I took stock of the situation. The band was falling apart, and I wasn’t making the sales I needed to live off my effects business. It was time to look for an engineering position.
At this point, my resume was starting to look thicker, and juicier. With my final year university project and running my own business to fill things out, suddenly I had a breadth of real-world engineering experience. The key thing to note here is that this wasn’t given to me, or something I got by luck. It didn’t require connections or knowing the right person to score an internship. All it took was investing some of the money from my night jobs to start a business. I did things incredibly slowly and almost never paid for express shipping, so my customers had to wait, but it meant that I scored all this experience for well under $2,000 invested. All it required was a steady income from my boring night job, and the dedication to grind away at design and marketing.
I now had a flashy website thanks to Squarespace, and an amazing prop to take to interviews – a distortion pedal of my own design. I also had a great story to go with it – research online, through to a garage build and a crowdfunding launch combined with all the intricacies of running a business suddenly made me come across as a lot more experienced than I was two years before.
After a small handful of interviews, I scored a job working for a major automaker as a graduate engineer and all of a sudden, I’d cleared that first job hurdle. I was a real, working, employed engineer.
This was all thanks to the experience I now had, that I created entirely by myself. So often, people are turned down for jobs because they simply “don’t have the experience”. I would implore anyone in this position to make the experience yourself.
Overall, it comes down to this. Employers use interviews to try and determine if you’re capable of getting the job done. If you can show them you’ve already done it before, or something very similar, then you’re well on your way to landing the position. Real proof is worth a thousand pieces of paper, and if you do build something cool, it’s always a nice touch to hand the interviewer something you bootstrapped and built with your own two hands. It speaks volumes about your abilities as both an engineer, and a self starter.
I hope some of you out there find this useful, and I’d love to hear your tips for both gaining a technical role, and for building a strong career!
72 thoughts on “Why I Got The Job”
…”However, if in the interview you can direct me to check out TarasAwesomeWebsite.com”…
No, you should’ve had than in your CV, so that I could look at it beforehand. Interviewers aren’t mindreaders, have many other demands on their time, and the interview is usually just the last “best check everything they claim isn’t pathological lies” checksum. If you’re in the interview, you’ve only got the job to lose…
I disagree that if you are in an interview, you only have the job to lose. As someone who has interviewed many people, I have received tons of applications for open positions. If a candidate has gotten an interview with me it’s because there was something on their resume that intrigued me, but there was nothing guaranteeing them the job if they didn’t screw up the interview. The candidates that landed the job were the ones that were able to actually demonstrate their abilities and show enthusiasm for what it was that they were doing. I had one candidate that got the job literally because he brought in a binder of the printed out configuration of all of his home networking gear and servers and was able to show how and why he set things up the way that he did. That kind of stuff doesn’t have a place on a resume.
Just gotta say, that guy with the binder sounds cool as hell.
Binder guy sounds like my kinda BOFH.
Let me understand. You would bring a candidate in merely to satisfy your curiosity? That’s a pretty big waste of time for both parties. Did you also waste the time of your staff having them interview a candidate that you didn’t necessarily intend to make an offer to? Any HR person out tell you NOT to do that and for good reason.
You do know that a phone call or an informal meeting for coffee is the best practice in that case, yes?
Having also done interviews, and looked at stacks of applications/resumes, an applicant first needs to look good on paper. To get an interview they then have to have something (on paper) above what everyone else who looks good on paper has. Then in the interview they have to prove they are not a liar (had those), and *also* have that edge over everyone else who is fair dinkum.
I also look at employment history (positions held, and for how long). For example, I don’t mind a guy (girl) working for 6 months at a fast food joint – they know about work and schedules and dealing with people, but I don’t want someone who’s been there for 3 years. Likewise, I don’t want a “top” notch engineer who has only ever managed to hold a job for 9 months (obviously not good with co-workers, or just out to climb the ladder and is not interested in the job for anything more than a stepping stone).
As an employer, it is tough to pick the right person. There can be tens or hundreds of applicants for a single job, and sorting out the chaff so that one good applicant actually gets through the process soaks a huge amount of time. It often comes down to the application that peaks my interest (as well as meets the mandatories).
I had a resume that ended with “My favorite project was a flourescence spectrophotomerter with…. Ask me about it.” I was contract working in Silicon Valley and it got great response. Every time I interviewed they asked me about it and told me the line really caught their eye. I only reveal this now because I don’t need it anymore :-)
” I only reveal this now because I don’t need it anymore :-)”
So, I can use it now, right?
spectrophotomerter? Or – spectrophotometer?
Is a deliberate spelling mistake part of the interview tactics? “Oh yes it’s a MERTER – ” [ insert joke about inventor who couldn’t spell ]
There’s no reason you can’t have it on your resume, too, absolutely.
I’d disagree that you’ve only got the job to lose in the interview, particularly in this awful day and age of having to pass 3 or more stages to get a job.
Great post! In my own experience, a degree is only a piece of paper and the only thing that it proves is that you were able to get a piece of paper. In my country (Mexico) it’s fairly easy to get a forged degree that it’s practically indistinguishable from the “real” thing. Even if you choose the “long path” of going through a university, you can still get good grades by bribing, personal connections or other ways… I’m glad that around the world some employers are starting to notice that the best way to prove that you’re fit for a job is your ability to actually do things, not what a piece of paper says.
In the US it varies from city to city and state to state, but it can be unlawful to call yourself an engineer without a license or board certification. You can get in trouble for giving advice on subjects normally in the domain of licensed engineers.
Don’t feel bad, people rarely get this one right. You have to have a license if and only if you’re designing things that are not suitable for interstate commerce. That’s why almost all civil engineers have engineering licenses (hard to move a bridge), and why they’re so rare in aerospace engineering (pretty much as “not bridge-like” as it gets). New Jersey tried to override that and would have required licenses for anyone designing anything, but AT&T (Bell Labs or Bellcore, can’t remember) fought them and beat them soundly. Cited the interstate commerce clause of the constitution and that engineers are licensed by states, not by the federal government.
Here in Texas there’s an exemption in the statutes that allows a regular employee of a manufacturer to call himself an engineer or engage in the practice of engineering if it is for the manufacturer’s product.
Constitutionally, I think it’s also correct that if the practice is considered interstate (or international) commerce, then the states don’t have jurisdiction to regulate.
Interesting perspective – always great to hear how things are in another part of the world!
The URL should make it obvious.
Most engineering internships, at least in the US, are paid though. Besides, this is talking about people who take internships after they graduate as opposed to while they are still in school (during summers and what-not).
We pay our interns, both those in college as well as high school graduates.My interns both have two weeks left, and then to Virginia Tech.
I personally think unpaid internships are a major scam, and worse, they’re highly unproductive. There’s not a lot of good experience gained by spending 12 weeks doing spreadsheets before you’re turfed back to the job queue.
” … but today the degrees you work so slavishly for are more about keeping your resume in the pile than anything else.” Some fields and companies may care where you went to school. However, in my experience, it’s more about what you’ve done over the past 3 years. i.e. Three years out of school and the degree is just to a check box on the requirements list.
In short, stay current and don’t let your skill set rust.
And whether you can be bonded, or certified as an engineer. You won’t be in the avionics group at Boeing without real schooling.
The hard part is not the interview, the hard part is getting past the idiots in HR so the resume lands on the desk of the person that actually matters.
Very true. It is one case where a good recruitment agent (and there are a few) can be valuable: knowing the hiring authority and bypassing the HR-drones.
Yeah, that’s why I’ve gotten screwed a couple of times– HR throwing out my resume because they see an unfinished degree and read no further. I only got my current job because I knew someone high up to send my resume to… who actually read it, and called me. Found out about HR rejecting my initial application a good while into my employment.
The point of the HR department is to act as filters, so every huckster can’t wrench their way into a salary by impressing that big guy up in the office, or through direct nepotism.
There’s plenty of “serial monogamists” in the working environment, who wiggle their way in past the HR department and then end up getting fired, or leave after a year because they’re unfit or unqualified for the job and need to find something else before they’re discovered. Those would be spotted by the HR department looking at their CV, but not by the person-who-matters who gets impressed by a smooth talking sociopath.
If these people manage to stick around in your company, it’s becuase they are given a fancy title, a stack of brochures and pushed out the door as glorified travelling salesmen / trade show presenters. Otherwise they end up hopping from company to company with ever-decreasing chances of getting hired again, until they turn themselves into “independent consultants” by mis-presenting their work history at the companies they visited.
It’s the “I screwed in a lightbulb at Ford, ask me anything about cars!” type of person who does that.
No the point of the HR department is the exact opposite. They WILL hire the most incompetent bum thats only ability is to talk bullshit to idiots.
It’s up to the final interview to filter things out and hope to God the entire HR department was on leave the day the real applications came in.
“point of the HR department is to act as filters”
You are overlooking the fact the most the people in the HR department are where all those English and Psych majors wound up; a woefully inadequate bunch to be screening people for technical skills.
Mostly HR handles payroll screw-ups, and write policy and training manuals. They give training seminars, but beware: the “how to interview job candidates” training we received one one morning sounded very questionable. Sure enough, after the lunch break (and a check with corporate HQ) several items in the training manual had to be deleted…since they were illegal.
Can you give me more information about the application process? I had 5 round interviews and I also had to write 11-page long electrical engineering test with calculations. After 2 years I already started forgetting university studies which I never use, I’m afraid if I apply to other company, maybe they ask something in the test which I forgot.
Refresh your memory! Run through the free FCCTestOnline and get your GROL. Brainstorm a project that you know will stretch your abilities and require you to research your problem areas.
Generally those tests have little relevance to the actual job you’ll be doing unless your job is grading tests.
I’d recommend looking to work somewhere that focuses more on the job to be done rather than a painful multi-stage recruitment process.
It is also possible and sufficient to gain experience while at university.
All you have to do is specify and implement a project, and be able to say why you did it that way and how you would do it better next time. The project should, preferably, not be part of the course, since that demonstrates that you are doing something that you love.
 Cf the ghastly unsupported assertions made by the contestants in “The Apprentice”.
When doing lab work in college, don’t just let one person do all the hands on and the other(s) just act as stenographer. I had a smart lab partner who did most of the hands on stuff, and later in semester, I wondered if I had really learned all the stuff I’d written down for him.
Years later in another college lab, I had a “partner” who just wanted someone knowledgeable to tell them what to write down on the report. Once, in the issue of “fairness” I had her do the lab experiment, and even with my coaching, she screwed it up so bad that my grade took a hit.
being something you built to to the interview, then they’ll ask you questions about that instead of something you might have exaggerated on your CV. Extra points if it’s related to the job you’re applying for. If not, build something specifically for the interview.
Great tip. I always liked to take my Grav-A with me!
I think it is a typo, but I like the idea of ‘being something you build’. A statement of agency over your progress, while admitting you are not likely the end product. Ben wins the most profound statement of the day award.
The ability to do something & see something through from beginning to end on your own is indeed a valuable thing; and the article is bang on that with today’s tools it’s never been more possible (or cheaper) to “make your own experience”.
Long as one picks a profession that one can fit into the “make your own experience”. The rest have to swing it on someone elses dime.
@ Lewin Day
Nice rant, but did you consider fooling some idiot in HR only gets you an entry level position.
Also, when I post a wish-list for employees — I am going to ignore an essay about their ego.
+ mostly relevant to large process-driven companies seeking loyal labor pools with a high debt burden
– date you… some startups that only want naive kids will exclude you — due to the perception of senior authority
(while industry experience is more valuable commercially, people want co-workers they relate with.)
+ important in bureaucratic institutions, and help prevent getting laid off during times of recession
– Often are meaningless in the context of CS/IT given by the time it is in print — its outdated already
I only ask you 3 short questions if you are in for an interview… not in any particular order…
Q1. One easy question any 2nd year student could answer
(weeds out the delusional)
Q2. One challenging question that has a wide range of answers to show us your actual skill
(weeds out the incompetent)
Q3. One impossible esoteric edge-case question… no one should be able to answer
(weeds out the unethical)
Q3 seems to upset people on HaD, but it shows my team several things about you:
i. A giant indignant ego that will become a problem in a high stress environment
ii. your work ethic, as you may have a friend that tried to game our HR system
iii. how you plan work-around a problem that is unsolvable…
you know every problem in school is cooked to have a right answer….
1. Be Respectful: Be on time… as people’s time is valuable… also trust that any place that is asking for “5 interviews” & “10 pages of tests” is not a place you want to work. This is also a major ethical conduct indicator…
2. Be Reliable: Answer your phone, and follow through on what you promised. I don’t want to spend $25k training you to have you jump ship for a larger company in 6 months. Millennials are a nightmare to plan a project around — save your PC BS for someone who isn’t paying you to solve a problem. If you can’t hold a job longer than 2 years, than I am going to be looking at you very closely as a possible problem employee (giant ego usually means other mental problems… in a bad way).
3. Be competent: If your coding is shit (chances are it is for grads, and will take 1-2 years of production to not stink) than expect ridicule and abuse by your peers. You may think this is terrible, but it is better than being around sycophants trying you get you fired. Most people have some anxiety about their job, but the frauds that scammed their way though life are always going to have a bad time — and will get fired anyway in a month or two.
4. Beware: I hired you to fill a need, you are important, and we have a vested interest in seeing you succeed.
If you are a thief, liar, creep, or imbecile… I want you gone, and will position you to get removed from our facility. Chances are your coworkers hate your behavior already. Also, if you ever broke into other peoples stuff uninvited — you are not getting into the front door of our facility, as you are not a researcher… you’re just an a**hole I don’t want to know about.
Also, if you are preoccupied with money from wages, than you should have gone into finance instead of technology — you will be given a chance to hang yourselves here… so answer the question carefully.
5. Ask questions: If you don’t know something and can’t find your own answer — than ask.
As a student/intern, it is our responsibility to help you become stronger.
Trust that your perspectives will change when it is your money/time people are wasting.
I will counter your warning not to be preoccupied with money from wages with the corporate tendency to seek excellent and well motivated employees for much less than equally excellent wages. There tends to be quite a mismatch between the employee sought and the compensation offered. Companies seek highly motivated and experienced employees for entry level pay. As the saying goes: pay peanuts, get monkeys. If you look for someone exceptional, you will need to do better than offer a cubicle and utterly average compensation. And yes, those well motivated people are likely to be more easily enticed by other matters than money. For instance, they often value opportunities to develop themselves more than plain money. However, their enthusiasm should not be used as an excuse to not pay them fairly. In reality, you rarely see a company advertisement that says ‘average worker sought for average pay’.
Worse still, most companies flat out refuse to mention any actual number or range before having one or two interviews, only to reveal the fairly meagre pay they are willing to offer when things are getting serious. Even if money is not the defining factor, which it is not for many, it would be good to know you are in the same ballpark. If you have a mortgage to pay or kids to feed, some offers are just not feasible. Someone is going to commit a large portion of his available time to your company, so the least you could do it commit to a ballpark number. Some companies even have the nerve to ask for a pay check from your previous employer for review, obviously with the intention to only offer an incremental increase in pay and nothing more. Obviously, those are the companies you need to stop talking to immediately.
Lastly: putting people in groups like ‘millennials’ is an unproductive practice. Too often false antitheses are created, with this generation versus that one. There are shoddy individuals in every generation and pretending a whole generation is broken is obviously silly. Meanwhile, as a society we are all in the same boat and have to make it together. That would be a whole lot easier if we stopped pointing fingers at each other’s generation, social group or whatever and got on with it.
Tl;dr: don’t be motivated by money, do make sure you get a fair amount of money for what you do and make sure you get things done – whatever historic period your mom decided to get laid in.
Keep in mind we are bidding against large companies for talent, and if you were employed through a staffing service — you are already getting >15% less than the person in the next cubical.
On average, we screen out 400 applicants per position…
I ultimately allocate the budgets, and make the rules that work for our teams — you would not be the first tone police to make the mistake of trying manage a superior.
“A philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there. A theologian is the man who finds it.”
― H.L. Mencken
It appears the most competent supervisors are willing to accept input from those above (if applicable) and below them in the organisation. Not only does accepting criticism allow you to improve yourself, but it also helps employees feel connected to and responsible for the company. Nothing breeds an uninterested drone like the feeling their input is irrelevant. Obviously, if your employees never have useful input, hire different ones.
People adept at finding imaginary black cats need not apply.
Your “Q3” interview technique is something my dad often talks about from work. He is a technician in a “Human Patient Simulation Lab,” where residents in med school are tested using a mannequin that is full of electronics used to simulate a human body. One of the mannequins I was shown breathed in oxygen and breathed out CO2 (obviously, it was hooked up to O2/CO2/N2 lines to simulate it’s exhaled breathe, while the electronics in the dummy tested the incoming air for poisonous gas and oxygen content), had pupils that would dilate and constrict in response to incoming light and any medical conditions, had a heartbeat and could be hooked up to EKG or could be defibrillated, and was hooked up to a Linux server that could be set up to control all of its physiological features based on a simulated baseline human with any number of additional medical conditions.
They have simulations every once in a while where the patient is going to die, and there is absolutely nothing at all the students will be able to do about it. On one hand, it is partially meant to teach them that people are going to die and that doctors are not gods. But, on the other hand, it tests their attention to things outside of medicine. They may slip a DNR (do not resuscitate) order into the patient’s paperwork and watch to see if the residents panic and attempt to intubate or defibrillate the patient. A big part of being a doctor is “Not Getting Sued,” so they try to teach them to pay attention to not only the medicine, but the legal aspects of their practice. There have even been scenarios where a patient is allergic to a medication, and that fact and the fact that a nurse had administered it will be in the chart along with the DNR order. Do you resuscitate the patient to avoid allowing the hospital to be sued for malpractice, or do you choose to be sued for disregarding the DNR?
Not only is it a teaching moment, but it gives the doctors observing the scenarios an idea of what type of personality the resident has and whether they need to be steered in some other direction.
A friend of my brother was studying to be a psychiatrist. He was doing quite well course-wise, but his advisor steered him into medicine. He couldn’t keep a straight face while listening to “patients” telling him their problems!
I love the hyper-contextual approach to medicine, there. It’s not just simulating the biology, it’s simulating the real-world decisions you have to make. So damn cool!
I’ve never landed a technical role by “fooling someone in HR” – only by cutting the mustard in serious discussion with the hiring engineers.
The nature of the relationship between companies and (potential) employees is changing.
@LOL, you should read this.
Great article, thank you!
Getting really good at CAD is a great way to get a job at a startup. I’m an EE student but my job (internship) right now is 80% CAD. I’ve made myself indispensable by being the only one on staff who can make concept art. And I never had a class on it, I just taught myself by noodling around.
That’s using your noodle!
I got an interview at a product development company based on my resumé. When the recruiter called me, he told me to bring something to show them if I could. Built a HDD POV display in the 3 days left before the interview. Landed the job.
+1 for being a badass
Are head hunters still a thing? I had a fantastic head hunter when I was doing contract work. He always had at least three possible jobs lined up when I finished one. Find a good head hunter.
That seems like it would be invaluable to a contractor! Did you pay for this service?
Show and tell has got me two jobs. It does two things: 1. It demonstrates that you can accomplish something. 2. It gives the interviewer something to remember you by.
Also another point: Don’t be a jerk. If someone has some aptitude, is honest, and willing to learn, then they can be useful. If someone’s a douche bag, I don’t really care if they are awesome at their job, I don’t want them here. In my experience, people who are painful to get along with usually aren’t great at their job anyway. Not sure why that works out, but it’s been my experience after 11 or so years of work. Probably because people who are smart enough to do a good job are also smart enough to figure out how to behave professionally.
Except for all those jerks who are famous and turn out results that people pay millions for.
Those jerks were not employees, but startup founders that hired others.
Definitely. Plus it’s fun – “Look at this cool thing I did!”
“2. It gives the interviewer something to remember you by.”
In the 1960’s when they were doing the casting call for musicians for a new television show called “The Monkees”,
One of the guys auditioning wondered how could he “stand out” among the hundreds of people auditioning. So, he wore a stocking cap into the interview…
(The rest is history…)
Got to see them in concert during their 1986 reunion tour…
I found that the breadth of skills are extremely important, at least in the field of robotics.
Having someone that is able to diagnose and fix a mechanical problem, wield a soldering iron, and be able to write software from firmware to GUI, will probably be a much more valuable asset to the company than someone with a narrower skill set, regardless of your university degree or grades.
Be sure to wear your hacker mentality with pride, and don’t undersell your skills playing with an Arduino, just because you don’t have a formal education.
Oh, definitely. I’ll be writing in future about how some of my edge-case skills saved the day in a completely unrelated role.
I’ve found that it’s extremely valuable as an intern to become the guy at the office that people bring their weird problems to. Even if it’s just everyday problems “the door broke” or “How do I find this file in the server.”
That sounds like an effective way to make one’s self useful. In my experience though you don’t want to be the person who can’t get any real work done because all the old-timers can’t figure out how to do a pivot table in Excel and thus hassle you every ten minutes for help.
This is good at any point, and was my standard for success: If I could become the go-to guy for my specialty in less than a year, i knew i was in the right sort of job. If I was just another fish in the pond, I sort of knew that the fit wasn’t great.
My current problem is conveying the breadth of the skills in my skillset within and outside of the company. Usually, the position I currently hold is somewhat limited, but due to a stroke of luck I ended up in a place where the work is much more diverse and involved than it would usually be. This has allowed me to gain a lot of experience outside of what would normally be the case for this position and also made for a much more fun job. The issue is that I have to explain this every time, that this explaining takes some work and that I never get the feeling I have fully conveyed the state of affairs. HR has indicated to be very happy with my work, but also proposed a ‘next step’ that would obviously a step back. I would just like to move to a position that challenges me again and allows me to develop my skills further.
Of course, there could be a mismatch between what I think of myself and what the rest of the world sees, but my colleagues, who are best informed about what I actually do, seem to agree with me.
I don’t think you even need deep algebra or DE skills anymore for most engineering fields.
I’ve also had a sabbatical, and it was quite difficult to find a job afterwards. Nonetheless, it’s what I wanted to do so no regrets.
There are a few tips I can recommend:
– Keep a blog where you write down what you do. It will show your future employer what you’ve been working on.
– Spend a lot of time on your resume, making it look professional.
– Your cover letter is also extremely important. Mine included an example of how I solved a problem, demonstrating how I think.
– Set up a system to keep track of your job applications. I had a directory for each one, containing all the correspondence, and a pdf version of the job description I had applied for.
Also, I think in the end it comes down to finding someone who sees something in you. Don’t take it personal if you get declined over and over, just continue applying. I got immediate declined for jobs I thought I was perfect for, and got interviews from companies I never thought to hear back from.
One more thought: there are these jobs where you have to fill in form after form on a portal site. You can spend an entire afternoon filling in forms, while sending your resume and cover letter takes one minute. To me that was very frustrating. In the end, I either skipped those applications or was very quick and sloppy filling in the form. Really, how much time do you want to spend on one application? Some are ok, but I’ve had one where I was asked about everything, e.g.: “what is your experience using a mouse”? I then had to choose between none, novice, intermediate or expert, and got the opportunity to elaborate in a text box. That was the point when I chose not to apply there. I did send them my resume, telling them that I had passed their intelligence test by not finishing the questionnaire. Never heard back from them.
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