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After flying through your engineering degree, the next step is to secure a good job. While those with high marks may expect to be able to cherry pick job offers, are top scores enough to impress employers?

Not necessarily.

Sure, having excelled in school can improve your chances of success when meeting potential employers, but academic success doesn’t automatically guarantee an offer of employment.

Employers are often looking for something more – the right attributes. Here are a few:

  • Are you able to operate under pressure?
  • Can you adjust to fast-moving situations?
  • Are you able to deal with situations honestly?
  • Are you driven to succeed?

Job interviews these days are not what they used to be. It’s no longer a matter of turning up and going through the motions of answering routine questions. Instead, you are most likely going to be put in real-life situations to see how you respond.

Resilient when challenged

We all face challenges in our jobs, but it’s important to not only manage those situations but overcome them. As an engineer, your world will be full of challenges.

But, as with all jobs, there are unexpected situations that can sometimes throw you off balance. At times, you may be caught by surprise and not immediately know how to deal with it or fix a particular problem.

So, in a job interview, the recruiter may test your resilience by asking you to describe a situation where you’ve been under extreme pressure and explain how you dealt with it.

Resilience not only shows that you are of strong character, it also shows that you want to learn, that you are ready and willing to work hard to find a solution. It shows that you are determined and want to grow professionally.

Adapting under pressure

Being able to adapt in pressure-cooker situations is also crucial to being able to manage your job as an engineer.

For engineers, there is no time to stand still. So, if you’re charting a path for entry into the world of engineering, you will need to be adaptable. Without this, success will be difficult.

Adaptability is not necessarily something you learn at school. It’s not something that comes automatically if you achieve top marks. But it is something that will be critical to your success as an engineer. In engineering, there are times when challenges may seem impossible to overcome, which is when you will be tested. It also presents an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to adapt under pressure, to challenge yourself.

In a job interview, you need to be prepared to face questions about how you dealt with a stressful situation, such as:

  • How would you describe the situation?
  • How did you adapt to achieve the best outcome?
  • Be ready to give the interviewee a sense of what you experienced so they can understand if you could cope with difficult situations in the role you have applied for.

Importance of honesty

As with many jobs, integrity is an important attribute for engineers. Not being upfront and honest can have major consequences.

Recruiters will be interested to quiz you about what you would do if you made an error or a mistake.

  • Would you be honest and open about it?
  • Would you report it?
  • If you made the mistake, what does your instinct tell you?

Are you passionate enough?

Of course, there’s one additional characteristic that could give you a leg up when meeting a hiring manager: Passion.

Passion can take on many forms. In an engineering role, passion could translate into taking the initiative and being a self-starter, instead of relying on someone to give you tasks or direct you.

It’s important that you can demonstrate this during an interview. So, ask yourself – are you passionate about being an engineer? And if your answer is yes, then you should also ask – why am I passionate about engineering? This should help guide you in making a decision that’s best for you.

So, do you have what it takes?

“A job can be very mundane if they don’t have the passion for it,” says Daniel Mak, R&D Operations Director, at Keysight Technologies.

“Passion here means taking the initiative to want to learn more, asking questions when they don’t understand … we want them to come to work motivated to contribute to solving our customers’ problems – this is a very important attribute that we like to see in our new hires.”

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