I want to share my job hunting experiences and tell the truth behind the job hunt.
I’ve gained a lot of insight into job hunting after 2 and a half years. I want to share this insight and hopefully help you avoid my pitfalls. And if you’re a long-term job hunter, I want to provide some perspective on what the deal is and give you some concrete solutions.
My job hunting experience was pretty much non-existent until my junior year of college in Fall 2014. I went to a 2-year community college before transferring to a four-year engineering school for my junior and senior years. When I had my first interview, my peers already had 2 years of job/internship hunting experience and some even completed internships already. I was pretty far behind.
My first jobs were fast food employee, tutor at my college, and custodian at my old high school.
My first job interview was for a job at Burger King in April 2012. I saw the “Help Wanted” sign, spoke to the manager about working there, and I had an interview set up the next week.
The interview had no typical behavioral questions. The manager wanted to check that he wasn’t about to hire a convicted felon or a drug addict, or someone underage. I was none of those, and I was an 18-year old high school student at the time. I unsurprisingly got the job, then I quit four months later to focus on college and because I really just WANTED to quit.
Very few people stay in these jobs long-term, so there’s always openings available. The interview is mostly meant to check if you’re a convicted felon or a drug addict. As long as you aren’t in those two categories, you should have no issues getting these kinds of jobs. The interview might require you to wear anything more than a button-down shirt and slacks for the interview, or it asks for a resume. Don’t bother with this job. It gets so many applicants (somehow), that the store is using standard bullshit job hunter elimination techniques.
I personally think pizza delivery is the best, although most dangerous, option. Plus side, you get to drive and go to different places, but the other jobs require you to be at the restaurant for your shift. Down side, you could run into any number of dangerous people while delivering pizzas, you’re alone, and you’re carrying no weapons to defend yourself. High risk, high reward.
If you NEED a job for funds and aren’t having any luck, this option is open to you.
My next job was as a tutor in my community college tutoring center, where students can come to for free tutoring in their classes. I applied for the job after my first semester was completed.
The interview covered my intended major (mechanical engineering), classes that I got perfect grades in, and getting recommendation letters from professors I’ve taken classes with. I had a perfect 4.0 GPA and I’ve taken AP Calculus and AP Physics in high school. So, I got a tutoring job in math and physics subjects at the college. I did this job for the remainder of the time I attended that school, and I also did it during the summer between my sophomore and junior years, right before I started my first semester at the four year school.
At my tutoring center, one tutor was an alumni of the college and came back to tutor for awhile. It’s like being a substitute teacher, but you work with college students and much smaller numbers (1 to 6 for my experience) at a time.
If you’re still a student, this is a great part-time job. Teaching other people helps you reinforce those concepts in your mind and help you better understand them. I tutored calculus as a freshman and sophomore, and it became reinforced in my mind. Calculus came up again in a senior-level class, and I was ahead of everyone else in the class who’d mostly forgotten it.
The only downside is that you’ll mostly likely need to have TAKEN a class to tutor it, and you likely have to get a perfect or near-perfect final grade.
I had a job over the summer between my freshman and sophomore years as a custodian at my old high school. The interview had no behavioral questions. I was a recent graduate of the high school and I was attending a local community college. That was enough to get an offer.
The job involved moving heavy objects and furniture to and from rooms, cleaning desks and bathrooms, and disposing of old electronics. The job itself was very easy: start time of 7 am, end time of 3:30 pm, with lots of time off; the other guys and I used a classroom projector to watch YouTube videos all day.
You don’t do customer service. In fact, everyone’s going to try to avoid you. You’re indoors. The hours are usually not that long. And the guys I worked with were really great. If you’re in between jobs, custodian may not be the worst option. I liked my custodian job better than my fast food job.
My main goal after getting into engineering school was to land an internship. I applied to every internship even remotely related to my major through my school’s online job board, the school career fairs, and through leads from unsolicited emails sent out to the entire student body. I landed 5 interviews, and got zero offers. Since I was a junior, this was my first and last chance to find an engineering internship, and it looked like I failed. I also thought that without at least one internship, I would have almost no chance of getting a job after graduating.
But then, I landed an internship during finals week of Spring 2015 from an email lead! Sometime in the middle of the semester, an email was sent out to the entire student body about an internship at my school. I lucked out. I’m pretty sure only about 4 people applied for the internship. Everyone else had other internship commitments, making me the only available candidate.
The interview was scheduled right after my last final exam of the semester. On top of that, I was sick for all of finals week. My throat was so sore I was only able to whisper during the interview. I wore my suit to the final, then I headed straight for the interview and whispered my way to an offer!
There were thankfully no questions. My supervisor showed me the work area. He told me that I would work on 3D printing, and asked if I was interested. I whispered that I was, and I got an offer. I’m pretty sure they were screwed and had to accept the only guy who was available.
Any internship worth your time is going to be paid. Legally, a company has to pay you during an internship because you’re doing work for them. An unpaid internship is sketchy, possibly illegal, and it likely won’t teach any marketable skills or provide any decent job connections. You’ll likely be free labor for the company, running around filling out paperwork and getting people coffee.
In my opinion, you’re better off spending the summer working a part-time (or full-time) job and completing projects on your own time than doing an unpaid internship. You’ll actually get money, and the projects will be make you more marketable and refine your engineering skills. On top of that, real-world work experience (jobs outside of a college campus) and engineering projects are the top 2 criteria most companies look for in interns, so this path will likely lead to an internship.
I started applying to about 20 jobs a day after graduation. It technically worked. I got a job about 2 weeks after the graduation ceremony. It was a five-month contract position from August 1st until the end of December. 2 hours after applying, I set up a Skype interview a few days later with the hiring manager. I got an offer the day after the interview. Everyone I worked with had a similar experience.
One was for a ball bearing manufacturer near where I lived. I did a very brief phone interview, then went in for an in-person interview. I found out 3000 people applied for that one position. Five people, including me, made it to the interview stage because we lived close enough to commute. No offer.
A second interview was over WebEx video chat with three people. They could see me, but I couldn’t see them. This is the only time a company pulled something like this. I didn’t get an offer. This was actually one of the WORST interviews I ever did. I was sweating bullets and stuttering more than any other point in my life.
The third interview required me to drive 2 and a half hours away from my home. Of the 3 guys I interviewed with, only one seemed to give a shit and ask questions. The 2nd guy asked me one question about other interviews I had. The 3rd guy rubbed the back of his neck and said I had a lot of good qualifications in an uncomfortable voice. Also no offer.
I actually think that they already intended to fill the position with someone else, and they only interviewed me just in case that other person rejected the offer. I guess that person accepted, but they already set up my interview and decided to waste all of my time and their time instead of just telling me that the interview is off.
On top of that, the most intense rainfall I’ve ever seen in my life happened while I was driving back home on the interstate. Everyone on the road was driving less than 20 mph. A drive that should have taken less than 2.5 hours took over 4.
I applied to hundreds of different positions. I reached out to six recruiters (blog post on working with recruiters coming soon). The best I could do was setup one phone interview in the middle of December that didn’t lead to an offer.
By the start of 2017, I had refined my job hunting skills, like resume crafting, applying properly, and interviewing. In January alone, I had a Skype interview, 3 phone interviews, 4 in-person interviews, and I landed 2 job offers.
No one will tell you the REAL reason why you get rejected from a job offer after an interview or why your resume was rejected. In fact, they may not get ahold of you to let you know that you were rejected at all, let alone tell you the reason why!
Reason #1: The chosen candidate was a referral from an employee of the company. The higher ranked the employee is, the much more likely the referral will be hired. If the CEO or an executive refers someone, the only way the candidate wouldn’t get an offer is if they commit a felony and/or physically assault the interviewer. The referral is often a friend or family member.
Reason #2: An intern wasn’t sure about accepting a full time offer from the company. The company wanted to post a job opening and interview a few candidates just in case the intern rejected the offer. The intern must have accepted the offer.
Reason #3: Companies sometimes interview candidates without hiring anyone. They do this since it gives the HR people something to do. It also reassures the company that they can easily find people to fill jobs if and when they actually NEED to. Also, companies are looking to hire H-1B visa foreign workers over a highly competent and qualified American employee since the company can legally pay them less. (Here’s a related video).
Reason #4: Companies post a job opening online, but neglect to take it down after they find a suitable candidate. Which brings me to:
If a company is ACTUALLY looking to fill a job opening, they may just choose the first candidate who applies; early bird gets the worm.
Now, all of these reasons except #4 are slightly unethical and could get the company in deep shit with the Better Business Bureau. THAT’S the reason why companies never tell you the truth.
There’s no way around it: the job hunt is a GRIND. I’ve tried to provide as much help as I can, but it’s still going to have a lot of factors out of your control. It’s going to take time, a lot of effort, and luck. One last tip:
Large, established engineering companies have very rigid job selection processes and a giant pool of candidates who have done internships for them. Sorry to say it, but you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning and gaining superpowers than getting hired at those kinds of companies.
In contrast, start-ups are far less picky about choosing candidates. A strong collection of completed projects and a results-oriented attitude will outweigh your lack of internship experience.
If that doesn’t work, you could also look into making your own start-up or self-employment. Can’t help you there unfortunately. Outside my area of expertise (right now).
All right, that’s the end! I hope this is helpful to you, and if not, I hope it was at least interesting. Comment down below with your thoughts and your own job hunting experiences, and if you haven’t already, sign up for my free newsletter to stay up to date on the latest content.
All the best,
(Thumbnail Image found on publicdomainvectors.org)