If you have an eye for detail and passion for computer-aided design (CAD), there are a lot of great jobs out there for you! But, as with most careers, landing your first job out of school can be a daunting challenge. The good news is that you can start enhancing your resume today so that you can reap the rewards in the future. I’ve included a few unique — and pretty fun — ways to get more involved in CAD so your resume is ready to go when it’s time to start applying to jobs.
1. Gain on-the-job experience working at a manufacturing plant, a machine shop, or other organization
Having a job or internship in your chosen field is a great resume booster as it shows employers that you have experience in a workplace, setting you apart from students who haven’t had that opportunity. And you’ll also gain valuable on-the-job experience that will help you succeed in your future career.
Seth Miley, mechanical EIT at SGW Designworks, LLC, explains, “We get a lot of resumes that look exactly the same. A lot of people want to talk about their school and classes, but everyone who goes to school [for engineering] takes the same classes. Extracurricular activities and internships are what I look for — people who have done practical things, for example, a student who got an internship or got involved working on a shop floor.” Getting an interview is about what you have done beyond taking classes.
Plus, you’ll have a chance to look behind the scenes at what it’s really like to work in that industry. In some cases, this can confirm your interest in pursuing that career — or you might discover that you’re better suited for a different industry instead. An added bonus: a good number of engineering internships are paid, with average wages of about $16.80/hour (Pay Scale).
2. Become a SOLIDWORKS Certified Associate (CSWA) — or even a SOLIDWORKS Certified Professional (CSWP)
It might seem daunting at first to get a professional certification like the CSWA or CSWP, but if you study hard and have the right training materials, it’s certainly within your reach. We’ve had students in middle school earn their CSWA, and even more students are pursuing certification at the high school and postsecondary levels!
Greg Serio, founder of The People for Manufacturing, says, “Getting a certification is what the industry looks for because it says that the SOLIDWORKS brand recognizes your expertise. And that big, heavy-hitting brand means a lot [to employers].”
Think about it this way: With a certification, you’re not just telling employers that you have the skills they’re looking for, but you’re showing them that you do. And that can make the difference between getting an interview and not hearing back.
3. Spend time or volunteer at a FabLab or Makerspace
If you have a FabLab or Makerspace near you, take advantage of this opportunity to try out different equipment, network with fellow enthusiasts, and volunteer to help out around the lab. Mike Puckett, senior manager of the World Wide Certification Program at SOLIDWORKS, says, “Volunteer at a FabLab or Makerspace; be able to show something that you’ve designed and built.” In addition to being able to put your FabLab experience on your resume, you can use it to build your design portfolio as well. Experiment with 3D printing intricate objects, test out a laser cutter, and make sure you document each project for your portfolio.
4. Tinker with machines, 3D printers, and the like, and document the projects that you’ve completed
As I mentioned before, it’s incredibly helpful to have a design portfolio full of projects that you’ve designed, tested, and built yourself. Figure out which projects you enjoy doing, from 3D printing to entering design challenges, building robots, designing molds, and so much more. From there, dig in and have fun. Maybe try creating a YouTube channel to show off your design process. Or, start a blog where you write about your CAD-ventures. Whichever route you take, explore your design curiosity and learn what interests you. From there, the rest is easy!
5. Get involved in extracurricular activities like FIRST(R) or Vex Robotics
Being on a robotics team is an incredibly fun way to gain more design skills while creating a really spectacular product. With FIRST Lego League Jr., FIRST Tech Challenge, and FIRST Robotics, you can get started when you’re in elementary school, middle school, junior high, or high school. Plus, many teams have the opportunity to learn cool new design tricks from an industry expert!
By joining a robotics team, you’re showing employers that you’ve been developing important skills, but you’re also interested in learning more about designing and building cool products. And all of these attributes can certainly get you a leg up on the competition in the hiring process!
If you’d like more tips about how to prepare for a career in engineering design, check out this e-guide based on interviews with industry professionals.