We caught up with Engineering student, Rabib Alam, to discuss the benefits of finding summer employment that relates to your degree and what advice he would give to first year students.
While in University, were you able to find summer employment that was related to your degree?
Coming from a specialized academic background such as Petroleum Engineering, I was eyeing job openings in the oil and gas industry ever since my first semester. Finally, after having gained a diversity of extra-curricular experiences that entailed part-time on-campus work, student group leadership involvement and finally a summer internship with the University itself, all of this during my first year, I felt I was ready to apply for the Engineering Student Summer Internships that many of the big oil and gas companies were advertising. Fall (September to October) is often times the peak recruiting season for these companies, so I used my free time in summer prior to that to research these companies more effectively to be able to target my work search better. As fall came, I had applied to over 6 different companies, mostly for Field Engineering Student positions and after having waited patiently, yet, with a tad bit of nervousness, I finally received a couple of interview calls. Both interviewers were impressed by my diversity of experiences and appreciated how I balanced commitments despite having to go through the hell-fire that Engineering first year is. Encana Corporation, a Calgary based integrated energy company, offered me a 4 month Field Operations Engineering Position, which set the right momentum for my career growth ever since.
What was the value of looking for related work early in your degree as oppose to finding a position once you had graduated?
Experiential learning activities like Internships, part-time work, student group involvement give your university experience a greater meaning. If you’re able to find work earlier on, you would be able to gain simple, yet meaningful transferable skills such as effective communication skills, both verbal and written, organization, teamwork and sound work ethics. These are sometimes classified as soft-skills that regardless of the industry you’re pursuing work for, are extremely valuable employability traits. Therefore, when you gain these skills earlier on during your university years, you’re making the transition into your desired work-place a lot smoother. Additionally, most companies hire new graduates for new-graduate training positions which usually last 1-3 years for employers. Since it does cost employers time, money and effort, it makes more sense for them to hire students with more experience and the desired soft-skills over students who have only graduated with a degree in hand. Additionally, the workplaces are getting more and more competitive each day, and in order to not just survive but be an achiever, students need to stand out from the crowd; the earlier it’s done, the better. On a final note, I will share a link to an article written by an Industry mentor I personally look up to a lot for all the right things she has to say about the student recruitment world.
If you were to pass on a piece of advice to first year engineers regarding employment, what would it be?
The first year of engineering schedule doesn’t bring back the sweetest memories, and I am sure all others who have gone through it don’t feel too differently. Yet, during the weekends, evenings, or even scheduled breaks, try doing something meaningful. U of A offers job shadow week programs that run during both the Fall and Winter reading week break. You could use that time to pair up with an Engineering Industry professional and shadow them at their own workplace! Not only are you making useful connections, but you’re getting a good sense of what engineering specialization you would want to choose going forward. Additionally, no campus recruiter expects engineering students to have relevant industry experience, especially for summer or co-op jobs. However, they do expect you to have other experiences be it through student group involvement or through your weekend part-time job. At the end of the day, they would be assessing you based on what you have done mostly outside of class and not be too vested in knowing how well you prepared prior to your Math 101 Final.