Caveats About Your First Engineering Job

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If you're a recent EE, ME or CE grad, and you're considering what type of company to work for, there are a few things you should look into before you send out those resumes. Even in these tough times, you want your first job to be rewarding and something to look forward to each morning.

To keep that smile on your face, here are a few things to consider when going after that first position:

Think small. The bigger the company, the more likely you'll end up in a cubicle—it's tough to "think outside the box" when you're stuck in one 50 hours a week.

Eschew engineering consulting companies—Especially "departments" who focus principally on "Engineering." Once again, you'll end up in a "box."

Beware of certain job titles. Avoid titles that have “Design” or “Applications” in them. Instead, welcome job titles like "Field Service," "Sales, Maintenance," "Test," "Production," "Operations," "Quality," "Inspection," "Construction," "Development," or "Site." Jobs with these words in their titles are seldom cubicle bound.

Ask about travel. Traveling around to meet people educates you, adds variety, and makes the job more interesting.

Talk to the team. See if you can speak with your would-be coworkers in an informal setting and without supervision. If so, find out as much as you can about the work environment, corporate culture, managerial quirks, and overall mood.

Beware of Endless Reports. Some firms, especially larger ones, love reports. If you love engineering, but hate writing reports and other long treatises, the job will make you miserable. (Remember the TPS reports in the movie Office Space.)

My first job out of college was near an anechoic chamber where they tested and assembled satellites. It had its good and bad side. The bad: my desk was in the middle of a busy lab; the good: sound was instantly absorbed by these giant cones on the walls and ceilings.

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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.


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