March 15, 2013
Bernie Siben, CPSM '00
By Bernie Siben, CPSM '00
My brother sent me a resume from a recent college graduate who is the son of one of his colleagues, along with the following request: "Would you look at the resume and comment? Also, because you deal with engineers all over the country, do you have any thoughts about who is hiring, or where engineers are being sought? He’s open to a move.”
Because my brother has been a very good brother to me, I took a close look at the resume. While it has some good qualities, I believe it reflects what most schools think is important and not what the business world thinks is important. So here are my thoughts.
I don’t really have a feel for who is currently hiring engineers, but here is my suggestion to find job leads:
Job candidates should also become a member (if they aren't already) of the local chapter of a professional organization (for example, civil engineers should join the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)). The local chapter will have meetings at least monthly, for a nominal sum. At these meetings, there will be educational programs that can be added to a resume, as well as networking opportunities that might turn up job leads that have not yet been published anywhere.
A resume is your academic and professional biography. Since neither your academic experience nor your professional experience is the same as anyone else’s, your story shouldn’t be the same as anyone else’s. Use your resume to DISCUSS your experience rather than just LISTING names, dates and places. In your high school history class, you figured out that such a recitation was boring. It is no less boring for the HR or technical person reviewing your resume.
Write your cover letter as if you were writing your biography. After an introductory paragraph in which you identify yourself as a recent graduate and your interest in the position for which you are applying, talk about what made you embark on an engineering education. Talk about the specific engineering classes you really liked and why. Talk about the project you worked on during a summer internship, even if you hated it and it made you rethink your engineering specialty. Tell the reader things that will make him or her want to speak with you on the phone or, better still, in person.
It is unfortunate that many engineering schools don’t think it’s important for an engineer to know how to write. But it’s a fact that engineers write all the time. They write engineering reports to describe the components and challenges of a project, they write letters clients and jurisdictional agencies, they write text for permit applications, and they write hand-out materials for public meetings, hearings and other uses.
However, while a resume is in large part about the details of your academic and professional history, and details are where engineers generally excel, telling the story in an engaging and compelling manner is equally as important as the details you are relating.
Bernie Siben, CPSM, is owner and principal consultant of The Siben Consult, LLC, in Austin, TX, which provides strategic and marketing services to architectural, engineering, construction and environmental firms across the United States. Contact him at (559) 901-9596 or [email protected]
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