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Screwed up my engineering degree

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  • Jan 28th, 2015 3:07 pm
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[OP]
Newbie
Jan 20, 2015
6 posts
1 upvote
Madden, AB

Screwed up my engineering degree

Hello RFD community,

I've dug quite a hole for myself, and I'm not sure how to get out of it. In 2014, I received my Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Calgary. Haha. I was a loser who didn't want to move out from his parents'. Right, so the issue is, I skipped out on my internship/coop experience PLUS I lacked general work experience. I didn't indulge in social interactions particularly much; rather than going to events/parties, I studied. All I've got to show for my four years is a near-4.0 GPA, but just that is useless these days. You know what they say: "it's not what you know, it's who you know."

Predictably, I am having an impossible time finding a position - engineering or otherwise. Doesn't help that there's a glut in the engineering job market, what with the flood of new grads every year. I'm yearning for that engineering job to the extent that I'm even willing to do unpaid work for it. There aren't opportunities like that of course, since being unpaid usually means you have little accountability. I'm trying to be active and get all the help I could get (networking events, info sessions, job fairs, career counselors, asking/talking to acquaintances), but no cigar so far. The "2-year expiration" for a new engineering degree is fast approaching, so I have to do something quick. I'm finding it very unlikely that I'll secure an engineering job in the next year.

What can I do?

I am considering (actually, already applied) going back to school for a MSc. But, just researching and writing a thesis isn't really going to help my lack of work experience. I'm also a bit burned out, especially compounded by disappointment and uncertainty in the future.

I'm desperate to the point where I'm willing to start all over so that I can have a better chance at a job - either taking another engineering degree (most likely petroleum engineering), or, go to SAIT for a Power Engineering diploma. Then again, with the low oil prices these days, outlook don't look great either. Power Engineering also looks to be very saturated from all the promises of easy bucks right out of school.

I'm not sure what I can do to be a productive member of society.

TD;DR: I did quite well in my studies, but I failed university. University is supposed to prepare you for your future, but I let too many opportunities by.
78 replies
Jr. Member
Apr 27, 2011
114 posts
12 upvotes
I was in a similar position a few years ago, except I had low grades and lots of campus extra curiculars. Also no good work experience; just labor, restaurant, etc. Here are a few things that worked for me:

-Spend lots of time at my universities career center. It was and still is free for alumni at my school. I took full advantage.
-Take jobs, even if they suck, while working towards are more 'career' type job. I did all kinds of crappy jobs. It was better than staying around the house.
-Realize that you will be more successful job searching with a very specific goal in mind, rather than thinking 'I'll do anything'. This took me a while to figure out, and eventually I had 2-3 different resumes at all times for the niches I was targeting.
-Keep working at it. I did the above for 9 months before things worked out for me.

If you want to be productive short term, do volunteering. You could probably start tomorrow.

I doubt that more school will solve your problems. You aren't lacking education or grades. There should be a market for EE. What would change after another degree?

I think your best fall back will be teaching English overseas. It will get you working and get you experience.
Banned
User avatar
Nov 12, 2013
927 posts
208 upvotes
Iceland
Go back for a 1 year masters in engineering.
"Between my salary and the office supplies I pilfer, I'm making 6 figures."
Medicine1T4 wrote: oh that's just a username............... im in grade 12
Deal Addict
Oct 19, 2006
1877 posts
122 upvotes
Doing the full MASc is one solution since you already have a good GPA. Here's why that might be a good path to take:

1) It will get you more experiences. In a research master you aren't taking that many courses, you are expected to start thinking and finding things out yourself. Which are valuable skills and it's in many ways similar to real world work.

Personally my own abilities to absorb a huge amount of code in a short period of time and figure out what's going on came from spending those 3 years hacking the mess of a simulator my prof wrote. And eventually one of the jobs I landed was in the area of my research. I wouldn't have gotten that interview if I didn't have that background.

Grad school's full of politics. Important skills to pick up.

2) It gives you a chance to get more industry contacts. Profs typically have industry contacts to get funding for research etc. Working with a prof with good connections can be quite rewarding in the job market afterwards.

3) Master degree holders are fewer than Bachelor holders. Stands out more in your resume. A lot of EE jobs now a days wants people to have a master degree. I know I prefer to hire such people myself.

People fresh out of undergrad are just really green, tends to ask a lot of questions and can't be relied upon to figure things out on their own. Undergrad programs just don't teach (most) people to think, it's all spoon fed. Grad students who did well in research based programs had to think, they had to do their own research. They already have a huge advantage over those who only knew how to accept what's taught.

4) Gives you 2 to 3 years to socialize and meet people who can help you find jobs. The last few jobs I had all in one way or another came from friends or acquaintances I met in grad school.
Banned
User avatar
Jun 22, 2012
4737 posts
708 upvotes
Shhanada
Enginefruit wrote: Hello RFD community,

I've dug quite a hole for myself, and I'm not sure how to get out of it. In 2014, I received my Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Calgary. Haha. I was a loser who didn't want to move out from his parents'. Right, so the issue is, I skipped out on my internship/coop experience PLUS I lacked general work experience. I didn't indulge in social interactions particularly much; rather than going to events/parties, I studied. All I've got to show for my four years is a near-4.0 GPA, but just that is useless these days. You know what they say: "it's not what you know, it's who you know."

Predictably, I am having an impossible time finding a position - engineering or otherwise. Doesn't help that there's a glut in the engineering job market, what with the flood of new grads every year. I'm yearning for that engineering job to the extent that I'm even willing to do unpaid work for it. There aren't opportunities like that of course, since being unpaid usually means you have little accountability. I'm trying to be active and get all the help I could get (networking events, info sessions, job fairs, career counselors, asking/talking to acquaintances), but no cigar so far. The "2-year expiration" for a new engineering degree is fast approaching, so I have to do something quick. I'm finding it very unlikely that I'll secure an engineering job in the next year.

What can I do?

I am considering (actually, already applied) going back to school for a MSc. But, just researching and writing a thesis isn't really going to help my lack of work experience. I'm also a bit burned out, especially compounded by disappointment and uncertainty in the future.

I'm desperate to the point where I'm willing to start all over so that I can have a better chance at a job - either taking another engineering degree (most likely petroleum engineering), or, go to SAIT for a Power Engineering diploma. Then again, with the low oil prices these days, outlook don't look great either. Power Engineering also looks to be very saturated from all the promises of easy bucks right out of school.

I'm not sure what I can do to be a productive member of society.

TD;DR: I did quite well in my studies, but I failed university. University is supposed to prepare you for your future, but I let too many opportunities by.
I don't quite understand when you say you "failed university". Do you mean that you failed in the sense that you didn't integrate and immediately roll into the work world or pursue a situation where you could earn professional designation?

I was initially going to recommend trying to snag a job that would normally go to someone with a certificate. Then you sort of suggested it yourself. Those are usually practical programs, set up to funnel people into jobs more directly and it would kind of reset your situation. You should be able to understand the material no problem, which will give you some extra capacity to work on your personal skills and job prospects.

Still, if I were you, my first choice would be to keep flipping over rocks to find a job. The beautiful thing about jobs is even when they are scarce, you only need to find one good one to make a huge difference in your life and your outlook.

When you describe your own weaknesses, the idea of MSc doesn't sound like it would do anything to bolster those weaknesses, if anything it could widen the gap.
[OP]
Newbie
Jan 20, 2015
6 posts
1 upvote
Madden, AB
Thanks for the advice, everyone!

Yes, I am a bit partial to the Masters options. It would allow me to salvage my four years of studies, as well as keep existing connections with profs. Also, once admitted, funding should be able to cover for tuitions.
gotak wrote: Doing the full MASc is one solution since you already have a good GPA. Here's why that might be a good path to take:

1) It will get you more experiences. In a research master you aren't taking that many courses, you are expected to start thinking and finding things out yourself. Which are valuable skills and it's in many ways similar to real world work.

Personally my own abilities to absorb a huge amount of code in a short period of time and figure out what's going on came from spending those 3 years hacking the mess of a simulator my prof wrote. And eventually one of the jobs I landed was in the area of my research. I wouldn't have gotten that interview if I didn't have that background.

Grad school's full of politics. Important skills to pick up.

2) It gives you a chance to get more industry contacts. Profs typically have industry contacts to get funding for research etc. Working with a prof with good connections can be quite rewarding in the job market afterwards.

3) Master degree holders are fewer than Bachelor holders. Stands out more in your resume. A lot of EE jobs now a days wants people to have a master degree. I know I prefer to hire such people myself.

People fresh out of undergrad are just really green, tends to ask a lot of questions and can't be relied upon to figure things out on their own. Undergrad programs just don't teach (most) people to think, it's all spoon fed. Grad students who did well in research based programs had to think, they had to do their own research. They already have a huge advantage over those who only knew how to accept what's taught.

4) Gives you 2 to 3 years to socialize and meet people who can help you find jobs. The last few jobs I had all in one way or another came from friends or acquaintances I met in grad school.
Sounds like a swell deal to me. I want to ask (I know every school is bit different) aside from doing the research and thesis, are there much opportunities to take part in industry-related projects?
Deal Addict
Oct 19, 2006
1877 posts
122 upvotes
Enginefruit wrote: Thanks for the advice, everyone!

Yes, I am a bit partial to the Masters options. It would allow me to salvage my four years of studies, as well as keep existing connections with profs. Also, once admitted, funding should be able to cover for tuitions.


Sounds like a swell deal to me. I want to ask (I know every school is bit different) aside from doing the research and thesis, are there much opportunities to take part in industry-related projects?
The bigger name school are going to have more opportunities as always but the situation really depends on you and your prof. As a student there are many way you can get involved in industry related stuff. Sometimes all you have to do is sign up for something. With the flexible schedule of a typical grad student you can get stuck into things like Google Code Jam and such.

It's always been said (and I do believe it) that you should do a graduate degree because you want to not because it gets you something. So you should consider that part as well. You would be doing 2 to 3 years of student life which some people can't stand anymore. I loved it but others they would get depressed because their friends are working, buying houses and going on vacation. And while everything in this paragraph applies worse for those doing a PhD than MASc, it can still affect you. It's one of the reasons I didn't do a PhD (that and tenure tracked teaching jobs are hard to get).

Still I think it's ok to do a Masters with the aim of kick starting your career. A lot of immigrants do it. That's why you'll meet people with PhDs doing another Master or PhD in Canada.
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Jun 7, 2001
7492 posts
1439 upvotes
Alberta
If you want to be involved in business, a MBA might be worthwhile. However, typically, one needs a couple of years of work experience first.

There might be a lot of engineers looking for work in Calgary and Edmonton (and most big cities). Engineering jobs are available in the smaller markets where many of my engineering classmates were not willing to go....it was Vancouver or bust attitude for engineering jobs back in the 90's. I prefer the small towns and cities. Not as much traffic or as busy (ie. rat race).

Dave
Deal Addict
Sep 20, 2014
1518 posts
710 upvotes
Toronto, ON, CA
I wouldn't say you screwed up the degree, you just missed out on the boat. With a 4.0 GPA, you'd probably secure interviews very easily with the Silicon Valley crowd had you tried at the time - but no big deal.
Usually, graduates 2 years out are eligible to go to most career fairs - check if your school has some going on right now as most companies look to hire new grads around January-Feb for a Spring/Summer start.
Bring your resume (make sure you have multiple sets of eyes on it) and make a good impression to the recruiters, DO NOT JUST TALK ABOUT YOURSELF, YOU ARE NOT YOUR MAJOR/PROGRAM. Ask them how their day is going, if they're tired from all the talking, ask questions about them but definitely hit your selling points.
Deal Addict
Jan 10, 2007
1859 posts
341 upvotes
Woodbridge
Im not fond of the masters idea...
its generally useless in most engineering careers. however if you have nothing else to do/cant get work....

I would really network hard and try to get a job somewhere. Be prepared to move.


You didnt screw up your degree...you screwed up not taking any co-op.
Newbie
Feb 2, 2006
28 posts
3 upvotes
OP: is the problem that you 1) don't get interviews or 2) don't pass the interviews?

If 1): a) your resume needs to be improved and b) you need to explain the gap in your resume. Whenever I go through resumes, I find it very noticeable whenever someone has not worked or done something on their resume post graduation (within 3 months of graduating) in an unfavourable light.

A close to 4.0 GPA from a reputable engineering school is normally a very strong candidate for office jobs.
Deal Guru
Oct 7, 2010
12188 posts
3398 upvotes
Not sure why OP so desperate. He doesn't know his own strength and depressed, that's why he writing this. A high GPA mean he is strong in academics and less likely to be successful in field work. Best to go academic to phd or move into medical school. Dumb to compete with low level classmates who talk more than walk. Be prepare to get mop on the floor by colleagues who are good interpersonally yet average or low in technicals. No point trying to get into the rat race.
Deal Addict
Feb 20, 2008
2583 posts
598 upvotes
Viktri wrote: OP: is the problem that you 1) don't get interviews or 2) don't pass the interviews?

If 1): a) your resume needs to be improved and b) you need to explain the gap in your resume. Whenever I go through resumes, I find it very noticeable whenever someone has not worked or done something on their resume post graduation (within 3 months of graduating) in an unfavourable light.

A close to 4.0 GPA from a reputable engineering school is normally a very strong candidate for office jobs.
These are excellent questions.

OP, what's your field?
Moderator
May 28, 2012
11695 posts
4238 upvotes
Saskatoon
Viktri wrote: A close to 4.0 GPA from a reputable engineering school is normally a very strong candidate for office jobs.
I would say that makes you a better candidate to take more education and go the teaching route...it doesn't seem to matter how socially handicapped you are in an academic institution. If you aren't getting interviews or being offered jobs, the interviewer likely can't see you fitting in with their company. No further amount of education is going to help if you can't get past that hurdle.
[OP]
Newbie
Jan 20, 2015
6 posts
1 upvote
Madden, AB
I failed university in the sense that I didn't develop myself enough to be competitive enough in the job market. I'm effectively a high-school grad, with only the knowledge of a university grad. Unless I go into post-grad education or alternatives, chances are that my engineering degree will be going in the way of a liberal arts degree in terms of usefulness.

I mostly focused on power systems (transmission, bit of generation) in my EE degree, and didn't particularly like electronics. Silicon Valley jobs weren't really a fit for me. I've been chasing the likes of AltaLink, Enmax, Fluor and co. I've also applied for smaller, lesser known companies.

I am genuinely passionate about advancing in this field. My original plan was to get the Masters, after a few years of engineering work experience to gain insight into the profession (and the much needed break from academics). However, since full-time work isn't coming any time soon, I don't mind going back to school. I enjoyed being a student far more than being "funemployed". Part of the reason I wanted to get a Power Engineering Technologist diploma was because it might lead a way back "home", so to speak. Of course, I would be aiming for a First Class ticket since I have a very strong background in math, physics and chemistry, it's just a matter of getting the right steam time. I was hoping that doing the design work of a First Class PE will either count as relevant experience for a P.Eng - or will be a stepping stone towards an actual engineering position. I don't mind 12-hour shifts (not like I had a social life anyways), and I enjoy troubleshooting/optimization. The compensation is just icing on the cake.
Viktri wrote: OP: is the problem that you 1) don't get interviews or 2) don't pass the interviews?

If 1): a) your resume needs to be improved and b) you need to explain the gap in your resume. Whenever I go through resumes, I find it very noticeable whenever someone has not worked or done something on their resume post graduation (within 3 months of graduating) in an unfavourable light.
I don't get interview offers at all. I've had my resume & cover letters looked at by 5 different career counselors. At this point, would I be more successful by just hiring a professional resume writer to do it for me?

Aside from looking for engineering jobs, I've been searching for regular part-time/full-time jobs too for the past year. I haven't been able to secure much other than a tutoring gig for 5-8 hours a week. I think there's a stigma against new grads (especially engineering) that we wouldn't stay long for the position until we find a better one, so they'd rather not waste training on us.
Deal Addict
Oct 19, 2006
1877 posts
122 upvotes
What kind of BS is being posted here?

Graduate degree has no value in engineering? What about actual research jobs? Few undergrads knows the useful stuff out of school because it's just not taught in the curriculum. It's all basics. Undergrad engineering should be call engineering 101.

High GPA = no good at actual work? Again need we go over this again? That's a myth made up to make people feel better. There are just a many, if not more, folks with low grades who are useless as those with high grades. Being good at school does not exclude them from being good at other things. Being bad at undergrad where most of the courses can be pass by just memory alone, speaks volumes about someone who has bad grades.

Teaching is tough. If you want a good teaching job you need to go to top US graduate programs to give yourself the best chance and even then it's not easy.
Newbie
Feb 2, 2006
28 posts
3 upvotes
Mars2012 wrote: I would say that makes you a better candidate to take more education and go the teaching route...it doesn't seem to matter how socially handicapped you are in an academic institution. If you aren't getting interviews or being offered jobs, the interviewer likely can't see you fitting in with their company. No further amount of education is going to help if you can't get past that hurdle.
Why do you think that a high GPA = socially handicapped?
gotak wrote: What kind of BS is being posted here?

...
High GPA = no good at actual work? Again need we go over this again? That's a myth made up to make people feel better. There are just a many, if not more, folks with low grades who are useless as those with high grades. Being good at school does not exclude them from being good at other things. Being bad at undergrad where most of the courses can be pass by just memory alone, speaks volumes about someone who has bad grades.
This is correct.
Enginefruit wrote: I don't get interview offers at all. I've had my resume & cover letters looked at by 5 different career counselors. At this point, would I be more successful by just hiring a professional resume writer to do it for me?
1) Your resume is probably written and formatted poorly
2) Career counselors don't give resume advice in my experience - best to ask people who care or post it online to get unbiased critique
3) apply more broadly; also, you're too young and inexperienced to know what fits best for you
Jr. Member
Apr 27, 2011
114 posts
12 upvotes
Enginefruit wrote: a tutoring gig for 5-8 hours a week.
With your high academic ability, this is a perfect job for you until you find something else full time. Can you get more hours? Find clients yourself? Try other tutoring companies? If you could get up to 20 hours a week tutoring and spend the rest of your time job searching until you find full-time EE work, this seems like it would be good.
Sr. Member
Nov 22, 2012
671 posts
25 upvotes
NORTH YORK
Can you do internship while doing your masters? If yes, you can try that route since you have very good GPA.

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