Walden Environmental Engineering President and Founder, Joseph Heaney spoke to a group of co-op students at Hofstra University on October 20th about how to plan and execute a successful career. Heaney offered sound advice to aspiring engineers on how to tailor cover letters to the company they are applying for, insight on how employers view applicants, and how to start a job search. As an entrepreneur who built a successful company with a wide range of services; Heaney is committed to helping young engineers pursue fulfilling careers.
Looking for a job can be intimidating, but Heaney outlined what to consider when applying for a job. For example, you may want to further your education to advance your knowledge in an area of study. Alternatively, you may choose to work for a non-profit, the government, in industry, or in academia. Once you decide, consider the size of the company. A small company, such as Walden offers a unique experience with quick access to experts and a flexible schedule. Large companies typically offer the opportunity to travel and may dominate their market, promoting a focus on narrow tasks and assignments. You should also be mindful of where a company is located and the projects they are working on. Most importantly, you should find a job that best accommodates your skillset, knowledge, personality, and goals.
Applying for jobs is less discouraging when you have a solid network. Your network can range from your closest friends to recent alumni that you may not know. Your friends can offer you support, and alumni can offer you advice on how to improve the way you contact employers. When you reach out, have a list of questions to ask, look for guidance on how to approach your career after college, and come with the intention to learn, not necessarily to get a job. The key is a genuine approach.
When employers are hiring, they are looking for someone who stands out amid a sea of others. Though it may seem outdated, Heaney suggests showing up to your target company’s office, fully dressed in business attire, and handing in your resume with the intention of being interviewed that same day. As he recalls, there have only been three people in the 26-year history of Walden that took that approach. All of them were hired. Regardless of your initial approach, a warm cover letter and intentional follow-up are essential to making a lasting impression.
Goal setting is another fundamental step to planning your career, especially when you are offered more than one job. Opportunity cost is a reality for engineers starting their careers. When given two choices, accepting one opportunity will cost you the potential benefits of accepting the alternative. Compare your personal goals with the job and company to help you determine which path to take. Setting goals requires a thorough evaluation of your skillset, work ethic and assessment of where you’re at in comparison to where you would like to be as a professional.
As an incoming engineer, you are able to control the amount of care and effort you put into each task handed to you, but it is the burden of the employer to assign you meaningful tasks that you can learn from. As a future engineer, you must be curious. Ask questions to obtain as much information as possible about the project you’re working on and ask how to be a professional in your field then apply it to your daily life. The attentiveness of your employer will impact your experience, but in the beginning, you must learn that time does not equal to experience, instead, the time spent at your internship or full-time job should be based on self-advocating, seeking advice, and being fully present when given an assignment. This is what will lead to a transformative experience.
Overall, it will take a lot of time, genuine effort, and a network of people to help you plan and execute a successful career. Remember, your career is a small portion of your life. Your character, work ethic, and resilience are what matters most.