If you’re working toward an engineering degree, give yourself a pat on the back – not only are you in a position to positively impact countless lives through your work, you’re also going into the third most in-demand industry in North America.
Naturally, this means that competition among employers to land top candidates – you and your peers – is fierce and there are lots of industries, companies and jobs to choose from.
“In the business and corporate world, how you communicate, adapt to situations, learn, and help lead change matter more than how much you retain from reading a text book.” —Benjamin Migneault, Team Leader: North American Conventional Operations, Talisman Energy
To land your dream engineering gig, set yourself up for success – and start doing it early.
Keep reading to find out how to “engineer your career” starting in first year and throughout your undergraduate degree, featuring tips from an Engineer-in-Training, a Team Leader and a Manager from Talisman Energy, a global upstream oil and gas company.
Merge your career goals with student life – it’s not all about your grades
“I rarely look at grades initially when I review potential staff,” says Benjamin Migneault, a Team Leader for Talisman Energy’s North American Conventional Operations.
Instead, he looks for the total package: school and work experience, academic achievements, involvement in community activities and sports, and extra-curricular interests. “In the business and corporate world, how you communicate, adapt to situations, learn, and help lead change matter more than how much you retain from reading a text book.”
But that doesn’t mean you should slack off, either. “Marks are important and can separate ‘similar’ people in the final stages of selection,” he says.
Choose a strategy for your career in first year
Strategy 1: Work in every possible industry before settling down
Galen Long, an Engineer-in-Training who came in through Talisman Energy’s student program, says he believes students should try out multiple industries to get a good feel for all of the work available in your particular realm of engineering. “Try two to three industries throughout the course of your internships/co-op/summer jobs, if possible.”
By your last placement, you should zero-in on your preferred industry and use your final term to grab a full-time position with your top choice.
Strategy 2: Develop a strong relationship with one company
On the other hand: “If you stay with the same company throughout your co-ops and internships, you’re more likely to develop strong connections and have a good shot at a full-time position post-grad,” Benjamin says.
Look for the right job for you, not just any job
Whether you’re looking for a co-op work term, a summer internship or an entry-level job, target opportunities that will give you meaningful experience, allow you to test out the industry and discover what works for you (and what doesn’t).
“All companies want employees who are results-driven, have strong work ethic, positive attitudes, good communication skills and a willingness to fit in with a team,” says long-time Talisman Energy Manager Garry Gatrell. At the end of the day, though, “It’s important to remember that it is your career, and the best job is one where you and the company both win.”
Consider your long-term career goals
Galen says the companies you’re applying to should enable you to work toward your long-term career goals. “Whether that might be management, technical expertise, a high degree of field exposure, etc., students should be clear on what kind of experiences and exposure they will get from their employment.”
“We re-hire high-performing students and encourage them to take different roles in each work term to gain exposure to new parts of the business.” —Garry Gatrell, Manager, Talisman Energy
Consider the line of work each company is engaged in and whether that suits your interests and aspirations. “Does working in, for example, a design firm (with little to no field exposure) suit the student, or does interacting with field workers, in person, rank as more important?”
Think about where you want to live
Location, location, location – some jobs might require you to temporarily relocate to a small town or remote job site for the first few years. If city-dwelling is more your cup of tea, redirect your job search accordingly.
A quick search of engineering jobs on TalentEgg shows opportunities in Regina, Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan; Calgary and northern Alberta; Lachine and Montreal, Quebec; all over Ontario; as well as in British Columbia, the North West Territories, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Shortlist your favourite jobs and companies
Think about what you like and what challenges you, and then create a shortlist of the companies and job descriptions that fit in with those interests. The best employers will provide access to mentoring, training and meaningful projects that will help students build their skills while contributing to the success of the company.
“Successful people never stop learning. They understand that there’s always another skill to improve upon, and they see that as an opportunity,” Garry says.
“At Talisman, we encourage all employees to own their career development and diversify their skills over time. We re-hire high-performing students and encourage them to take different roles in each work term to gain exposure to new parts of the business.”
Develop a network of industry contacts
Co-ops and internships are great for getting experience, Benjamin says, but creating a substantial network of industry contacts is what will help you stay there. “Most of the new grads I’ve hired have been people I’ve met through co-op work terms, career fairs, or via referrals.”
Then, taking the initiative to show your interest in a potential employer, whether in person or behind-the-scenes, might just get you the job over others. “Two of my last new grads found out I was the hiring manager and phoned me to ask if I had received their resumés,” he says. “I hadn’t, so they forwarded them to me directly. I ended up hiring them.”
Learn how to sell yourself to employers
Apply the abstract theories you’ve learned both in the classroom and through other experiential learning opportunities by creating a portfolio of projects, such as design sketches or written plans, which you can present to prospective employers to showcase your unique point-of-view and differentiate yourself from other candidates.
The key, Benjamin says, is to build a progressive resume by taking everything you’ve learned and experienced, and then crafting a story behind why you chose to pursue each path. “Stay in touch with the people you meet. Creating connections will get you in the door, but your story—and how you tell it—will get you the job.”
Do you share Talisman’s passion for energy? Click here to learn more about Talisman Energy and its co-op, internship and entry-level opportunities across Canada.