I am a recent college graduate and actively looking for a job. I have a very strong interest in working for a company that focuses on specific types of medical devices; however, none of them seem to be hiring at the moment. Should I continue to search for my dream job? Or should I gain experience elsewhere and search again later?
As someone who has been through seven internship/job searches at different stages of my life, I understand how challenging job hunting is (and that’s without the element of COVID!). For college graduates especially, you want to put your new degree and years of education to use, but sometimes there isn’t that perfect trajectory into your dream career. I would blend your two ideas: Continue to search for your dream job while gaining experience.
Having real-life work experience is incredibly valuable. Regardless of the company, you’ll be able to learn what you like and don’t like doing, which further adds clarity to your interests, strengths, and areas of improvement. It builds your emotional intelligence and relationship-building skills as you work with different people and personalities. Holding a job also demonstrates your work ethic and dedication. Moreover, it helps pay the bills! If you are unable to land a full-time job, use that time to teach yourself new skills, take classes, or volunteer. SWE members have access to a large library of free online courses that offer great professional development. What you want to avoid is spending months pining for a dream job and not doing anything to build your resume and attract prospective employers.
Also consider the job responsibilities themselves. What may seem like your dream company now might not be five years down the road. Even if you aren’t working in the industry you thought you would, you might be able to enter a role that is equally as fulfilling. For example, I know many computer science majors who didn’t start working at a tech company. Instead, they went to work for nonprofits, financial institutions, and other businesses where their skills were still valuable. You also may have the ability to shape your role after building your credibility, and add in responsibilities that make it your perfect job.
Lastly, you are your own best advocate. No one is going to hand you a job on a silver platter. By actively looking for roles or networking with others in your desired industry, you have a higher chance of learning about your area of interest and landing the position you want. The most important thing is to get your foot in the door. After university, I started working at a company that I was thrilled about, but entered a role that was more reactive than I envisioned. I made the most of it and built my technical prowess and customer empathy. When I started job searching, I spent eight months having informational conversations with managers, going on first-round interviews, getting rejected, and picking myself up to try again. Eventually, I transitioned into a fulfilling and proactive role at the same company, where I have ownership over my projects and space to dedicate myself to product and team culture.
The job hunt can be grueling, but keep at it! In time, you’ll land in a role that you’re excited about at a company that values your contributions.
Interested in Learning More?
The SWE Advance Learning Center has a number of resources to support your job search and career development efforts. Please see:
Job Seeking for Engineers #1: Resume Writing
Job Seeking for Engineers #2: Cover Letter Writing
Job Seeking for Engineers #3: Interviewing
Career Planning for College Students: I Am About to Graduate – What on Earth Do I Do Now?
If you’re a collegian or young professional seeking advice on a personal or professional issue, please submit your question here: https://bit.ly/3ffqNTu.
Be on the lookout for an upcoming “Ask Alice” in the Voices and Views section of SWE Magazine.