Theory is seldom the same as practice, so engineering internships are an excellent way to see what the life of an engineer is really like. The experience you gain will help you make informed career decisions after you graduate, and provide you with something you can use to impress recruiters. So how do you go about finding an internship that matches your goals and then successfully apply for it?
Recruiters think highly of graduates with relevant field experience. An engineering placement is particularly valued – it shows that you have practical experience, in addition to the theoretical grounding provided by your degree, and shows that you’re committed to an engineering career. It also demonstrates that you’ve made an informed choice about where you want to work.
The good news is that many leading engineering companies in Australia offer work experience or internships to student engineers. It’s in their best interest to attract and retain talented graduates, so you’ll find that many firms make a concerted effort to reach out to engineering students through on-campus advertising and careers fairs. Attending these events offers a valuable opportunity to make a strong first impression and ask questions of people who have worked at firms you might be interested in.
Of course, nothing beats initiative, so it’s a good idea to start early by researching firms aligned with your interests and academic expertise. You can start your search on the GradAustralia website, or reach out directly to any firms that have piqued your interest. To make a strong application, you might find it helpful to read our guides on writing a standout resume and preparing for engineering interviews.
Some degrees are structured such that work experience is a mandatory module. However, if your degree isn’t like this, don’t despair - you may be able to organise a placement that fits within your academic calendar. For example, summer internships can last for up to three months. Alternatively, you can look for organisations that offer more convenient placements during the Easter break.
Placements will allow you to experience the life of a graduate engineer first hand, while also helping you to develop your skills and network with other professionals. This is an invaluable opportunity - for, as Wallace Steven wrote, there’s a critical difference between ‘ideas about the thing and the thing itself’. To know if the engineering life is for you, you’re going to have to give it shot.
First of all, take a deep breath - you’re going to be fine. Engineering internships are helpful, but there are plenty of other ways to show that you’re the type of committed and talented graduate who will make a positive contribution to your future workplace. It’s possible to pick up some more low-key work experience, or boost your employability through activities that have nothing to do with engineering.
There are options available for people who don’t have time to complete full internships or who aren’t successful at applying for them. You can even use your success at arranging an alternative as promising evidence of your determination to succeed in engineering with or without an industry placement. Here are some ideas to get you started:
There’s more to succeeding in engineering than specific industry experience. Firms are also attracted to interesting and enthusiastic graduates who have demonstrated the generic skills required to succeed in any career - and there are a variety of ways you can do this. Here are just a few: