With 5,000 engineering students at the OU, and a third of these studying to change careers, here’s some advice on gaining experience in the sector from careers adviser Catrin Davies.
2. Join the club
Professional Engineering institutions are great at offering ways you can learn more about the industry, without student membership being too costly to sign up to. The Institute for Mechanical Engineers offers visits to members’ offices, and engineering employers offer Insight Days, where you can visit an engineering company and learn more about the industry. Many of these organisations also offer networking opportunities, and arrange site visits so you can see a power plant or assembly line in action.
3. Go online and collaborate!
There are so many opportunities if you are interested in being involved in online projects, from a NASA citizen science project for the International Space Station, to open source coding projects on Github. Many of these are small projects designed for those doing it for the first time, and it’s a great way to improve online skills and gain experience.
4. Educate yourself for FREE
The online social learning platform, FutureLearn, offers lots of courses in engineering, such as engineering mechanics, nuclear power, robotics, and smart cities. Completing short courses such as these will help you to get up to speed in rapidly changing fields, and consider how your skills could be applied in growth areas.
5. Opportunities on your doorstep
Don’t feel anxious about looking close to home for connections. What about speaking to your colleagues about whether they have any links to Engineers? Requesting a 40 minute information interview is a small ask, and might, if things go well, be expanded to work experience. What about family and friends; could they suggest possible contacts for you?
6. Network with OU students at residential schools
The OU residential schools can be a great way to network. With two-thirds of our engineering students already in the industry, you can speak to them about what how their careers have developed and find out what looks different in their specialism.
7. Link up on LinkedIn
The OU has a network of 180,000 alumni and students on LinkedIn, a great platform for networking. Search “Engineer” and your town in the group, and see what alumni and students in your local area are already in the industry. You will be able to look at their career path and which local employers already have graduates from the OU working for them. It could also provide you with some good inspiration and leads for networking.
8. Take a look at Twitter
Follow companies and sector magazines you’re interested in on Twitter. Lots of employers are recruiting individuals they have built relationships with online, as it is a great way to demonstrate that you are able to conduct yourself professionally in a digital age.
9. Small businesses are the big bosses
Many people think of only large organisations for work experience, but don’t underestimate small firms. Often, you can gain a broader experience in these businesses as it is easier to access many different aspects of the company. As a fast-growing sector of the economy, small businesses could offer potential for new roles.
10. We’re here to help you
For up to three years after you’ve graduated, you can access the OU Careers and Employability Services. We have a job vacancy service, and you can talk to the team at events, on our forums, by phone and by Skype, and on webinars. We are here to help, whether you are uncertain which direction you might choose next, or have clear-cut plans you want to action.
For more information:
- Engineering at The Open University
- Engineering courses
- Follow the OU’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Faculty on Twitter