When I first decided to study engineering, it was born out of a fascination with aircraft and a desire to find out how machines, in general, worked. As I grew older, it got super specific, causing me to develop an affinity towards the aerospace industry and focus on the optimization of modern aircraft.
Turns out, it’s pretty hard to fly a plane, and it’s also very, very hard to make a plane that flies. Bring in Elon Musk’s reusable rocketships to the mix, and I’m pretty sure that I’m one of many engineers fascinated with all machines that fly.
But if you’re studying something like this, you need to understand it well…. or something will crash. And we definitely don’t want that. Textbook learning and preparing for exams is pretty standard for most degrees, and while engineering is not an exception, we do have to spend a certain amount of time in the lab.
What Do Engineering Students Do?
Some of us engineering students really like being a part of a research team developing some crazy, new machine. Others (well, this is a requirement, and we don’t really have a choice) are more interested in the more industrial side of things, and we end up taking part in many internships. A million different processes go into the production of even the simplest of air conditioners, and it’s a part of our curriculum to learn all this. Basically, in engineering, books can only do so much. We need industry (and research-based) experience to understand what is happening.
And where do we get this experience?
From factories and workshops and labs- which are not operating at full capacity thanks to the pandemic. It’s a struggle because, for most of us, we’re about to complete university. If you were a freshman at the beginning of the pandemic, you’re about to be a junior this fall. This is not a good thing for engineering students (or any students in particular) because this means that we’ve done nothing in the past year.
This also means that in an extremely competitive industry, a lot of us will have no internships. Most job recruiters want students to have at least a year’s experience. This is unreasonable, of course, but a few internships always seem to do the job as well. Furthermore, some companies have a specific set of skills that aren’t really taught to us and are very company-specific, so it’s probably a good idea to intern there first if you’re angling for a job.
But everything’s closed. We can’t work, and that’s a bit of a problem. But we can’t afford an empty resume, so what can be done? Turns out, quite a bit.
Get Your Certifications In Order
As future engineers, we take many courses aimed at programming, designing, and technical drawing. These are pretty handy skills, and the software we use are free as long as we’re students.
Did you know that even though we’ve studied AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and the whole gang, we’re not technically experts on the subject? In fact, your employers will probably ask you about any projects you’ve taken part in which used these tools. You probably won’t have a project under your belt, so you need to have a certification to prove to them that you know what you’re doing.
Plenty of people with non-engineering degrees end up having a career in the industry due to their experience and certificates verifying that they can use, for example, AutoCAD perfectly.
Certifications for the software we use are all available online. Even though some of them cost about $100 each, there’s a student discount available at some places as well. I recommend that you get the necessary certifications for some software. We’re studying online, so we basically have no transportation cost, so why not? Also, you can’t go wrong with a certification as you’ll end up studying and learning about more technical things not covered in the course.
Get A Remote Job!
Returning to the “experience wanted” aspect of job hunting, you can apply for a remote job as technical support. Again, you’re at home, and there’s nothing to do. Might as well earn some extra and experience from the comfort of home.
Also, because of the pandemic, there has been a surge in online remote jobs of a technical nature, and you can land yourself a virtual internship. I’ve spoken to many fellow engineering students, but no one seems to be looking for an internship. Everyone assumes that it needs to be done offline. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, because there are virtual internships available, you can do two simultaneously (like yours truly) if you can manage it. It’s pretty great for learning time management and beating boredom.
Get A Head Start On Your Senior Project
Your senior project can easily be the bane of your existence during your final semester. What better way to ensure that nothing goes wrong than by starting it early? I’m not saying that you should start building something or developing a blueprint. Just read up about it. I didn’t have any idea of what my senior project would be at the beginning of my second year. I just assumed that my advisor would have any ideas for me.
Fast forward to the present, I’m seriously considering graduating a semester late just so that I can give my senior project the time it needs. Basically, the lockdowns really prevented me from doing actual research at a lab, so I’ve got all this theoretical knowledge, but I have no idea how to implement it.
While we expect the world to open fully this fall, there is the looming threat of yet another wave and another lockdown. You don’t know when you’re going to end up being in an offline classroom/laboratory setting, so you might as well do some research while you’re home. Just so you can immediately get down to business once the world opens again.