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Is work experience more valuable than educational background?

I am a graduate Electrical Engineering student with little to no experience in the engineering field outside of the classroom. Lately, I have been applying to jobs and receiving little to no interest from engineering companies due to lack of experience even for some entry-level jobs. That made me really wonder about which is more valuable, work experience or educational background? Your thoughts will be of great interest. #engineering #career #education #human-resources #recruiting


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Mark’s Answer

Hi Mohammad,
If you can get some field experience you should go for it!


Engineers are problem solvers, right? That is what we do. Field work lets you see how another engineer solved a problem. After a while you start to form opinions about how a problem coulda, woulda, shoulda been solved. And working out in the field is fun.


Now in my aviation world, I am always seeing how some other engineer solved a problem - For example, there are lots of ways to rig aircraft controls, but some ways are complicated and some are elegantly simple. The complex solutions are expensive and have caused companies to go broke. It is the same with electronics. You could make a light dimmer with a solid state solution or just use a rheostat. Both ways work - which one solves the problem best for the customer?


You education is fabulous! Good on you! You will be able to design stuff. After some field experience you will also be able to improve the stuff some other guy designed - at that point you will be one super excellent engineer.


I wish you all the best!!


Mark Julicher


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Srinivas’s Answer

Hi,
I do understand the concern you have raised. If I were an entrepreneur I would obviously prefer experienced candidate to ensure that scope of error is minimal. For an experienced person I just need to teach company culture. For a fresher I have to teach company culture and also the work. Spending huge bandwidth to teach a person on both will be tedious task. Even if spent there is no guarantee that the person is going to stick with the company until a good ROI (Return on Investment) is obtained. In order to gain experience either you need to talk to HR of different companies of your domain and convince them for an unpaid internship and only for experience letter. By this it will give you a real-time experience with experience letter too. This will definitely give you the edge and at least you will get to the initial round so that you can convince your potential employers with evidence of your experience.


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Kia’s Answer

Good evening Mohammad,


Look for internships and volunteer work in the line of field that you graduated from because that can help with your resume. Also, look to see where your line of work is really blooming at because simply relocating can also help you find what you are looking for as well. I think you will find your dream job in do time, just keep doing your research on what you can do to further improve your resume and build up your portfolio in your line of work.


Best of Luck


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Taylor’s Answer

Hey Mohammad!


Great question with many ways to look at it. There are many variables that can affect if you are able to secure an internship or not. I'll break it down in priority order on what I think are the most important factors:


1.) The job itself
What kind of candidate is the company looking for? Is it more research heavy position where academic experience is valued more? Is it a more hands-on role which requires prior experience? I think this is the most important part. You have to understand what position you are applying for and tailor your resume/emails to what they are looking for.


2.) Prior experience in this specific area
At the end of the day, a company is looking for the most well-prepared candidate at that position (unless referrals are involved, in next section). Ideally a company wants to find candidates who have worked on the same things in the past and who can start contributing from day one. Obviously, this begs the question, how do I get experience if I don't have experience?! Its a really annoying conundrum for students looking for their first internship. That one is always the hardest. My advice is to do personal projects, research, shadow, take on different jobs, do academic projects from classes, basically do whatever you can do to get some practical experience. Some companies offer early programs for freshman/sophomores so that they can get their feet wet. I think that's something to look out for to get your foot in the door.


3.) Referrals
Humans are naturally inclined to their friends. See if you can get a referral from a friend who has interned at a company or even a full time employee that can setup a part-time role for you. Getting referrals is a great way to bypass the initial round and straight to interviews. I would leverage this heavily and I have in the past.


Good luck Mohammad!


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Mrinalini’s Answer

I think both work experience and a robust educational background are equally important in your career and in getting new job opportunities. The college degree gives you knowledge, soft skills, network of people and this helps in your work experience.


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Alexandra’s Answer

One complements the other. Good educational background aligned with experience. Most of the time it doesn’t come at the same time. To be prepared as much as possible for any future opportunity it’s always important to choose the career you like, the right college courses and the best education as possible. Do your part, be prepared academically and work opportunity will show up. Many industries have intern programs that can give you the experience that you’re looking for.

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Ronald’s Answer

I believe the answer to your question would be that most employers want at least some experience for the position they are hiring for. This doesn't negate the need for a good education, but many companies offer internships for engineering students for a reason. If you look at it from the company's point of view, it comes down to how much additional resources would be required to get you into ready status to do the job. Is the position they are hiring for able to be done by a person straight out of school, would they need to assign a simple mentor to get you acclimated, or would you need to be trained by a full time instructor? You have to ask yourself, am I capable of doing the position without a lot of supervision?
Having some previous experience would also mean that you are in a better position when it comes to negotiating salary. In that previous experience, you should have gained some insight on what questions to ask about the work/life balance at the company, as well.

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