What did you learn in engineering?

Tips for a successful career start

You are an engineer and have spent years preparing for your career entry through training, internships and studies. Despite good job opportunities, the road to your first job is rocky and riddled with stumbling blocks. Ingenieur.de has the most important tips for a successful career start.

Traps lurk everywhere for young professionals.

Photo: panthermedia.net/pressefotograf

In this article you will read:

A career starter is someone who has not yet done the desired profession or a comparable job. The circle of young professionals is divided into 2 groups. On the one hand, there is the large group of engineers and computer scientists who recently graduated from university or technical college and want to sign the employment contract for their first job.

Download the applicant guide for engineers: How your career start will be successful

The second group are lateral entrants, i.e. people who have been working for a long time. You have completed retraining, further training or part-time studies and want to work as an engineer or computer scientist in the future. If you belong to this group, you usually have a lot of professional experience, but not in the professional field you are aiming for.

Learning to distinguish between must and can requirements

Despite the very good job prospects for engineers and IT specialists at the moment, this does not automatically mean that you, as a career starter, will practically have your first position. After all, you lack work experience to start your career. And this is required in most job advertisements alongside many other skills. One thing is clear: employers are always looking for the perfect candidate who has studied quickly, ideally has completed an apprenticeship beforehand and is fluent in 3 foreign languages.

And of course he should have 3 to 5 years of professional experience, if possible in the required area of ​​responsibility. Anyone who brings all of this with them and has completed their stations quickly will probably only be accused of lacking life experience.

For a successful career start, make yourself aware that the employer, like you, will always be looking for the perfect candidate. It remains to be seen whether there are actually applicants who have all of the required experience and skills. However, conversely, you should not underestimate job advertisements.

Therefore, differentiate between Must and can requirements. Because if you apply for jobs but do not even meet the mandatory requirements, you are only doing unnecessary work. Experience and competencies with the predicate “desirable” shouldn't deter you from applying. However, you should meet the following requirements for professional experience for a successful start and career start:

  • The job advertisement demandsFirst knowledge“: Even if you are a freshly qualified engineer or computer scientist fresh from university or technical college, in terms of professional experience you will certainly already have“ initial knowledge ”with you. For example, you have completed internships, worked as a student trainee, spent a semester abroad and / or volunteered. This means that you have already got to know work and company structures. You have worked with colleagues and superiors and you know what is important here.
  • The job advertisement demandsRelevant knowledge“: If the employer's job advertisement requires“ relevant knowledge ”, you should only apply as a career starter if you have already gained experience in this branch. For example, you have already completed internships in this field or worked as a student trainee. The employer expects that you, even as a career starter, will quickly familiarize yourself with your previous knowledge.
  • The job advertisement requires "sound knowledge": If the employer expects “sound knowledge” in certain areas of professional experience, then you have almost no chance as a career starter. Sound knowledge can only be demonstrated by those who have worked in this area for years. Well-founded professional experience from another area is of little use here if the required knowledge is not covered at the same time.

So it is not easy as a career starter. Nevertheless, one should not be deterred by such requirements for a successful career start. After all, as I said, you have usually already gained experience through internships, internship semesters and / or part-time jobs. In view of the current labor market situation, this is often sufficient for starting a career.

Alternative ways to start your career

If you do not want to or cannot go the classic route of direct entry - for whatever reason - there are alternative ways of entering the job:

Entry through an internship

You are doing an internship with your employer of choice or have already done an internship there during your studies. This will give you an insight into the desired field of work. At the same time, you get to know the company structure and can decide whether you are suitable for the employer, the type of job and the place of work. Those who prove themselves in such an internship leave a good impression and increase their chances as a career starter.

Find your internship today - on the internship exchange of ingenieur.de

Career entry through a job as a student trainee

This activity relates to the time during your studies. As part of a student traineeship, you will work alongside your studies for the employer of your choice. This job can, for example, result in the option of writing your own master's thesis in the company. Your results provide your potential employer with valuable information and insights. Career entry can result from this. After all, you already know the company well and have provided it with valuable service.

Starting a job as a trainee

Anyone who joins as part of a trainee program has already been successful as a career starter. The direct entry was successful and a large number of them will be offered an employment contract afterwards. However, the employment relationships are more often fixed-term contracts.

This is how you can find your first job as a young professional

Anyone looking for their first job as an engineer or computer scientist needs above all patience to start their career successfully. Despite very good job prospects, it can take up to a year to find the right job. After all, various prerequisites have to come together for a successful career start: You have to first find the job (s) in question and apply for it.

The actual application phase can last weeks to months and include introductory interviews, job interviews and job interviews. Success is not guaranteed here. If the company decides on another applicant shortly before its destination, the search begins again. So as a young professional you should allow for plenty of time.

Explore fields of work and employers during your studies

For a successful career start, as an engineer or computer scientist, you should start looking for suitable fields of work and employers before the end of your studies, depending on your focus. In this way, you will deal with the later job search and existing job opportunities at an early stage. Make yourself aware that during your studies you not only acquired professional qualifications, but also learned how to organize yourself (and others). You have also developed problem-solving strategies and can view challenges from different perspectives. So you are already able to place tasks in a larger context - beyond the technical level.

Those who want to or have to demonstrate “real” work experience as a career starter can gain this as described as a working student or as part of internships. This is also how you can find out what you like and what you don't. For the application phase, you should become aware of your own strengths and make them clear in the application documents and interviews. This also helps to distinguish suitable and unsuitable positions.

Career service for a successful career start

Even during your studies, you can take advantage of the advice and information offered by the career services at universities and technical colleges for a successful career start. They often have contacts with potential employers and act as a link between the university and the company. The Career Services can also give you practical tips for your application and answer questions about your employment contract or salary negotiations.

Career events or job fairs are another way of finding and / or contacting your dream employer. At events like these, you can find out more about companies and present yourself as promising candidates. In addition, you should expand your network at an early stage and continuously. Alumni networks can also be important for young professionals. “Networking” is primarily about maintaining contacts and not actively asking for favors or even a job. The first job should come out of this by itself, not by pushing for it.


Find out more about:

Trainee or direct entry?

The job interview

The first employment contract

The office etiquette - from A to Z

A contribution by:

  • Thomas Kresser