Insights & Advice, Professional Development

Graduation: How to Get the Job You Really Want

by Mikaela Morelli Associate Engineer, Emergent BioSolutions

Summary: How to Get the Job You Really Want

Finding your passion and preparing for post-graduation are two important considerations when looking to secure a great job after university. Graduates often overlook easy-to-do tasks that can assist them with landing a job. It is important to get ahead and plan for life after graduation early. Here are a few key tips for applying for jobs, preparing for interviews, and making sure you receive that job offer!

Finding Your Passion

While pursing my degree, I was really involved in extracurricular activities, including societies, clubs, and design teams where I volunteered my time. Being social, making friends, joining groups, and going to different engineering events were key factors for me and helped me be successful. It was one of the reasons I enjoyed being in engineering. There are so many ways to get involved. I initially joined the engineering society and helped organize events for students. I also joined a few other societies, and a civil engineering team. I networked a lot, attending events such as wine and cheeses, conferences, and competitions. I now have many engineering connections across North America. I had some of my most favourite life experiences yet because of engineering.

I established and led the University of Manitoba Biomedical Engineering Design Team that applied design skills to create medical devices to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. We collaborated with healthcare professionals to design, test, and build devices. Our team won at both national and international engineering competitions. I was invited to speak on engineering panels and to present at conferences. It was after creating this team that I had realized that I had found my passion: biomedical engineering. I knew that I was in the right field – pursuing a career in a growing profession that makes a difference.

Applying for Jobs 

In my first year of engineering I applied to a couple engineering intern job postings but did not receive any offers. I did not have relevant job experience and I did not spend any time networking. In my second year of engineering I applied to over 30 intern jobs and was selected for 11 interviews. I attended some career fairs and spoke to a few employers. I was given 1 job offer and ended up working as a bioresource intern for a conservation district. The next summer I reached out to companies in Winnipeg via email and was hired as a biohazard monitor on the Bipole III transmission line. The following summer I signed up for the Co-op program, networked at multiple events, interviewed for 4 jobs and received 2 offers. I then accepted an offer for a project manager position at the Government of Nunavut. In my last year, I spoke directly to some engineering managers, I interviewed for 8 intern jobs and then received 5 job offers all at the same time. I received my last internship position at Emergent BioSolutions through the University Co-op program. My university internships and design team roles gave me engineering experience that I was able to add to my resume, as well as share in an interview setting.

Key Takeaways:

  • Build skills throughout your degree that you may not learn in class. For me it was joining a design team and learning hands on machine building and design. Make yourself hireable.
  • Employers are often more interested in what skills and experiences you have on your resume rather than your grade point average.
  • Practice your communication skills so that you are able to converse well and speak in public.
  • Co-op and internship programs offer many job opportunities that are only posted internally. While there is usually an extra cost to co-op programs, I found them very useful. However, if you can find an intern job in your first few years of university without the Co-op program, you can avoid that cost. Career fairs are also a great place to make connections and explore job opportunities.
  • I strongly encourage you to get job experience before you graduate. Almost every post-university professional job prefers you to have some sort of experience. On the other hand, companies will hire students with little to no experience for intern positions.
  • Find your passion. You will be much happier if you enjoy your profession and find what you do interesting and rewarding.
  • Try out different areas of work. I first worked in environmental engineering before realizing I was more interested in biomedical engineering.

Landing Your First Post-University Job

I graduated in the fall of 2019 and travelled for about 4 months afterward. Throughout the last semester of engineering, I had started looking for available positions and reaching out to contacts. I was planning on traveling until July and then afterwards hoping to start a full-time position. In March, my plans were changed due to COVID-19. I came home to quarantine and graduated online. A lot of potential jobs had disappeared, with limited opportunities available in the middle of a pandemic, even in the biomedical field. Luckily, a co-worker from my recent engineering internship mentioned that there was an engineer position open. I updated my resume on LinkedIn, applied, and was interviewed. I was so fortunate to be offered a position at Emergent BioSolutions as an engineer in the Manufacturing, Science and Technology department.

Key Takeaways:

  • Make sure you work hard during any co-ops and internships, as many people have been hired directly by the same company they interned for.
  • Put together a well-written cover letter and resume tailored to specific jobs. Look up job requirements and add in those keywords. Include measurable skills and experiences.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile. Almost all employers use this social media platform now, and if you use it properly you can be noticed by recruiters. More on the power of LinkedIn here.
  • Send out applications and start looking for positions months ahead of time. Reach out to your connections and contacts to see if they can refer you.
  • Find contacts at the company you applied for on LinkedIn and follow-up on your application with them. It is also very helpful to make connections with employees at companies you want to work at even if there is not a position posted.
  • If you are selected to interview, prepare for the general behavioural questions, look up information about the company and its current projects, and research the technical requirements for the job. Search for interview experiences on Glassdoor to see the types of questions people have been asked before. After the interview, send a follow-up thank you e-mail to those who interviewed you.
  • Do not be scared to take a break after graduation. I would recommend traveling if you have some money saved up and there isn’t a global pandemic. You worked hard to earn your degree, so celebrate that success.
Mikaela Morelli
About Mikaela Morelli

Mikaela Morelli is an Associate Engineer at Emergent BioSolutions. She enjoys the challenges of problem solving and managing projects in the Manufacturing, Science and Technology department. In the last years of her engineering degree, she founded the University of Manitoba Biomedical Engineering Team, where students applied design skills to create medical devices to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. Mikaela is an advocate for women in STEM and enjoys sharing her education and experiences. She is passionate about engineering and pursuing a career in a profession that makes a difference.

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