When I graduated my main concern was trying to get my foot into any door.
I never had the experience needed to get the lowest engineering job. I would always read, 1 to 3 years experience needed for any position. Being a full time student never gave me the qualifications needed.
I was always panicked to find a job, with the crushing school debt looming over my head.
To top it off, I was up against thousands of competitors for that position at my school alone.
I would always say, "my experience is purely academic." Unfortunately, that was not enough.
Like most people, I was able to get my first job through a friend. After a year under my belt, I was able to get subsequent jobs.
That first year after graduation is stressful.
I took a decidely different approach by first becoming an electronics technician. By starting at the very bottom, I got to see what engineers did and how the circuits were put together. This experience enabled me to move toward Computer Engineering, where I could specialize in the Hardware/software interface level. I had seen that few people in the engineering field could navigate both disciplines with the same level of capability. Having this background and having progressed from just building circuits to designing, building and programming systems made my after graduation decisions very simple. My current company knew my capabilities and readily paid me a competitive salary because I was a "no" risk hire.
They had also paid for 2/3 of my college expenses while I went for my BS degree. Yes it took me seven years to go from my AS in electronics to my BS in Computer Engineering, but I had a solid job all the time and it was much easier for me to convince people of my value long before I graduated.
With my solid background, I had little difficulty in changing companies as by then I was well known in the engineering community and most companies in the area had someone on their staff who had worked with me and advised their bosses that I was a good hire.
So based upon my experience, I would suggest that you try to get into a company at a low level, either doing summer help or parttime entry level work. Once you are in, there are a lot of opportunities for you to exploit as you progress towards your degree.
There are plenty of grad schemes for electronic engineers in the UK, but not nearly as many as there are for civil and electrical, since there are so many big consultancies based in the UK. The main problem is that they don't really tend to have technical questions as part of the interview process. Since they tend to be graduate schemes rather than standard roles, the questions are often the generic "tell us about a time when...", coupled with a numerical reasoning test. For that reason, a lot of potentially great young engineers never get to show off what they can actually do when it comes to engineering because they fall at the first computerised hurdle. Saying that, the hardest online test I ever did was the BBC recruitment one for technical grads.
It's not surprising that a lot of engineering graduates end up in the financial sector here, since the wages are better, and engineers are highly valued for their logical reasoning skills. There is also the issue that if you specialise too much it becomes difficult to find a job that you're qualified for. There are only so many nano technology jobs on the market!
At the moment, it's more of a case of take what you can get, since the economy doesn't exactly make it easy to pick and choose. Comparatively, we're very lucky to have such a wide ranging degree, since our skills make us adaptable to a load of different jobs.
All, thanks for your comments here - really great points! I'm sure our student members will find this discussion helpful!
Do students have concerns about being able to find work in electronics engineering after gradutation? Many students seem to be taking on jobs after graduation not in their field just to pay the bills. Is this the case with you? Did you find a job in your field after graduation or did you take a job outside of the industry? Are there any engineering concentrations that you might not have explored if there were more jobs available?