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How to Jumpstart a Career in Electrical Engineering

Electrical engineer working on a mobile device

Electrical engineers like to tinker. Hand them an electrical or electronic device, then watch them take it apart and put it back together again. They’ll fiddle with it, mess with it, see how it works and notice the compromises in the design. And if it’s broken, they’ll fix it. Even if it isn’t broken, they’ll make it better.

They often realize before they get to high school that they’re good at math and interested in technology. This leads them to their career of choice.

If this happened to you and made you an electrical engineer, you’re in luck. Because the endless supply of connected devices that we use in modern society can provide you with lifelong job security — if you play your cards right.

“Electrical engineers are in high demand right now,” says Zac Paeth, an Aerotek senior professional account recruiting manager based out of Schaumburg, Illinois. “Engineers as a whole, I find, like to tinker. In today’s market, more and more products depend on electronics for various reasons. Engineers like to work on the hottest new thing out there. In a time of innovation, there’s a lot of cool stuff to choose from.”

So, how can electrical engineers find the jobs they really want and get to work on cutting-edge, cool projects whether you’re new to the game, or a seasoned veteran? Here’s what Paeth, a 12-year Aerotek veteran, had to say in response to our questions:

Are advanced degrees required, or is a four-year engineering degree all you need?

A four-year engineering degree is the only “absolute must” for a candidate, Paeth said. But he added that it’s really valuable for new engineering graduates to have the practical experience from an internship under their belts.

“That’s the most underrated thing,” he stressed. “I think engineers don’t typically know the value of having an internship when you’re trying to get your first job. In an internship, you’ll get that experience in the corporate world, and you’ll actually be solving problems outside of an educational setting.”

Can you describe your ideal candidate for an electrical engineering position?

“The best candidate is going to have a four-year degree and an internship,” Paeth said. “They should have some kind of practical, actual knowledge of how to work on either a circuit component-level system or some kind of hardware or automation — or they’ve done some kind of development work with a product.”

For an electrical engineer, what are the advantages of working contract positions?

“In a lot of cases, it’s your chance to try out an employer,” Paeth said.

At many companies, contract employees can work toward becoming permanent employees. And working on a contract basis can give them more time to grow into that role while retaining control of your career

“It gives them a little bit more time to embed themselves in that culture,” Paeth explained.

Why partner with a recruiting and staffing company like Aerotek?

For one thing, you can get hired a lot faster.

“Job searching on your own can be obnoxious. You fill out an application, send it off into a black hole and you never know if they’ve actually looked at it,” Paeth said. “We can be the communication bridge that you need. We can target the same companies that you’re going for — but we can get you in a lot quicker and easier.”

With such high demand for electrical engineers, our clients are always in need of talent. We’re constantly learning about new job openings, some that aren’t yet posted. Working with a recruiter can give you access to jobs as they’re available.

What else can Aerotek do for electrical engineers?

Let’s start with preparation for job interviews!

Paeth coaches job applicants to answer interview questions using the STAR method — “situation, task, action, result.” When you’re asked for an example of your work, describe the situation, explain the task you had to complete, go over the specific actions you took and sum up the result of your work.

“I wish every electrical engineer knew the STAR method. That’s the big missing piece in a lot of cases and would help people a lot in interviews,” Paeth said. “If somebody can answer those questions, they’re going to give really good, detailed examples for an interviewer to get a really good bite into that and have a lot of meat on that bone.”

Why don’t some applicants get hired? “They don’t ask questions during the interview,” Paeth explained. “Or they aren’t able to really break down and articulate their experience.” This is when the STAR method comes into play.

In today’s job market for electrical engineers, who has more power — the companies or the job candidates?

“It varies a lot. It depends on the individual market,” said Paeth, who travels all over the country as part of his recruiting and staffing efforts. In some regions, employers have more leverage in negotiations. In other places, the power shifts to job candidates.

Here’s one thing that Paeth is seeing across the U.S.: electrical engineers with a clear vision of exactly what kind of work they want to be doing professionally. Paeth can offer up countless examples, like the guy who grew up on a farm working on tractors, then launched an engineering career with a farming equipment manufacturer. In developing a solid career plan with Aerotek, we help shift the leverage back to you.

“You see more and more people who have a specific kind of destiny in mind for themselves,” Paeth said. “They’re like, ‘Hey, this is the path I want to follow. Can you kind of help me down this path?’”

Paeth concluded: “That’s one of the fun parts of what we do.”

Curious about what career path you can follow? Visit our job board to search job postings. Create a free career account today to customize your search based on your skills and interests. Upload your resume and consider contacting an expert career advisor. Our recruiters are available to provide advice that you can use and direct you to the right opportunity for you, including those not posted publicly.