EEVblog #138 – Top 5 Tips for Graduate EngineersPosted on January 8th, 2011 36 comments
Dave runs through his top 5 career and life tips for electronics engineering graduates.
Fantastic blog Dave. I’ve been working as a software engineer for twenty-odd years, and only got wise to the idea of “screw you money” a few years back. Exactly the sort of thing young engineers need to hear.
There is so much life wisdom in this single episode, Dave. The idea of the “screw you money” is my personal favorite which I’m a big believer of.
How do you get on saying “screw you” and quitting then not being able to use them for a reference for your next job because you left the company in a bad way?
From what I’ve heard from friends in HR, in the UK at least it’s pretty difficult to say anything too bad as you can easily be sued for anything you say that can’t be backed up-if you stopped turning up might be in trouble, but opinions don’t tend to appear in references
Like your shirt!
Excellent seagull impersonation – thanks, I needed the laugh!
You hit the nail right on the head. We call it “F–k You” money here in the US. I’m sure you cleaned it up for the Vlog.
That is great advise for anyone in any industry. Maybe even words to live by.
Companies know that people are strapped and deep in debt and can’t afford to leave. These are the folks that get screwed and taken advantage of by companies.
Always have control of your own destiny by building up a nest egg and living within your means so you can be reasonably financially independent.
Don’t let finances control you.
Other advise is sound also.
Sage advice Dave.
You have to follow what brings you joy.
I work with a mixture of folks, some who are passionate and some who aren’t.
In a way I kind of pity the ones who are just punching the clock. It seems so empty to me.
Of course following your passion is usually a bumpy road, but it’s also those experiences that mold us into what we are and what we continue to become.
…but man, in retrospect I sure do wish I had been smart enough to put some money aside.
I would have eaten a little better and had a slightly warmer coat, and that would have let me focus better. Lessons learned.
Ahh….good times. Good times. Hahaha!
My top 5 list.
1. I have found that the best opportunities for getting your hands dirty in all aspects of design work is to work for a small company.
2. Small companies do not always pay as much as big companies, but good small companies really appreciate the value of good people and will do what it takes to make sure you stick around.
3. Even crappy jobs present valuable learning opportunities if you have the right attitude. I have yet to have a job where the experience gained did not benefit me in future jobs.
4. Never stop learning new things.
5. Always have screw you money. You will feel more secure if you decide to take some risks at work or if things just are not going well at work.
I like your list.
One more thing (to no one particular) about the “screw you” money: use it. Take your time to (re)learn how to search for a job, to research the market, to gain a job interview experience and most importantly to find out what your goals really are.
The key is: unless you are doing it all the time, job search is a process, not a task. It is more costly (at least in case of engineering jobs where it usually takes 1~2 years to learn a new job) to accept a wrong offer than to reject a good one, so don’t act hastily.
Also, don’t worry about “negative feedback” Feedback in general is very “noisy”, it can be all over the place, from openly hostile to euphoric. You shouldn’t treat a result of a single interview as an answer to all your questions, it is the averaged trend that matters, and you’ll find it improving as you gain an experience.
For the same reason be very careful when evaluating several first successful offers. If in doubt – reject them. At this stage you should receive more decent ones very soon.
I’ve been working for 3 years now in a medium startup that was recently acquired by a large company. Looks like we actually did something right…
The projects, on the other hand, got pretty boring as a result. This is my first job and i was learning alot in the first 2 years but now it seems like the climax is behind me. There are many benefits in this job, except for the design work – should I stick to it for now or quit and look elsewhere?
As for the “screw you” money – I’ve been saving up since I started working, but I still don’t know what counts as enough – what should I’ve aimed for?
Anyway – great advise!
It think Dave mentions that ‘screw you money’ is 6 months of cost of living.
Southern California might be different than other places, but here, it costs about $36k a year to live (food/housing/transportation). This is of course with no Health Insurance which can run up to $2k/month depending on the specifics. So having 6 months of living expenses ($18k) would be the f.u. money.
BTW, to net $36k/year, means you have to be earning around $50k a year. Which is not that hard, as most senior engineering jobs pay around 80k-110k in these parts. Your tax bracket will be higher, but you should be able to save enough f.u. money if you live within your means in about a year!
Awesome advice! just what i was seeking for.
Folks. Don’t think of it as enough to live off of for 6 months. That should be your minimum when young. Keep stashing it away and it eventually becomes your retirement money.
Initially I put money away to have a savings for starting my life on my own. This saving got me started on my own with minimal debt.
As my income grew I stashed more away. Got to a point where I made enough to live off of for one year and stashed enough for a second year off with no income.
Glad I did. I got laid off 2 years ago this coming Jan. 12. As they say in Australia. “I have no worries mate.”
I am still searching for work but this stashing of screw you money is giving me a chance to change career paths and get back into my passion which has always been electronics.
Good luck to all you kiddies out there starting your new careers in what ever you do.
Take control of your destiny by being as self sufficient as possible.
Happy and Prosperous New Year to all.
In my experience, the best tip is to do your own thing on the side right from the start. If you do your own engineering type work on the side on a subject that you really love then it won’t seem like work. As they say people are happiest at work they enjoy and also the happiest people control their own destiny. Having a sideline that YOU choose, doing what YOU love, will not only make you happier, it will improve your skills and also make you more valuable to companies because of the skills you will naturally learn. Plus, if you use the internet to sell whatever it is you create, you will also make that Screw You money while you sleep.
Well said !
Very good advices.
I’ve never had to use my savings — I’ve never left a job without having a new job already lined up. Nevertheless, it’s really nice to know I’m not trapped. I do remember a few years back when I was very overworked and getting ready for a long vacation that didn’t really come at a time which was ideal for my boss, one of my co-workers asked “are you really going to ask for a vacation next month?” I said, “My boss doesn’t get to decide whether I go on this trip. My boss only gets to decide whether I come back to work here afterward.” My boss was very good and understood things well enough that I never had to give him an ultimatum.
It’s always nice to know that, no matter how bad conditions at your current company get, the worst that can happen is that they’ll let you go, the second worst is that they’ll make things so bad that you decide to leave on your own, and that neither scenario is scary to you.
Pretty solid advice, I like the screw you money part best. There are drawbacks to all positions pretty much is what I have come to understand. But if you have talent I have to agree if you don’t like it just move on.
I graduated an electronic engineer, I started work in the power industry and had many jobs aling the way,changing careers a few times.(Curently working in IT)
My expereince is that most jobs are 95% boring. I was in (flame shield on) marketing for a decade. I left a well paid job, trips overeas and interstate , a company car, status becuase it was boring.
I realized late in life that you need more than your job to satisfy your soul. I started back playing music (do it semi professionally now but I still have a 9-5 job) and I started doing electronics again and flying RC planes.
The 9-5 brings in the bucks. The extra curricular activiites satisfy the soul. When (its not if these days) that the company does not want you any more, your life is not ruined because you will have other interests outside of your job to keep to going.
But don;t treat your 9-5 with disdain. Out in the effort – it shows. That way you get to be asigned the intresting projects. If the boss does not think you’re committed, he’s not going to trust you with that important project.
Last word – Always have your next step planned well in advance. Take the courses before you need them. I changed jobs and careers because I was ready and prepared for the next step.
Loving all the advice. I’m in my second last year of electronic engineering.
Currently running up some “I’m screwed” money getting there
Got an internship coming up, so that should even things out a bit.
Nervous about getting into the real world, but good to hear it all done before.
(Now, back to tomorrow’s assignment – procrastinating time is over..)
only very senior engineer get to manage the whole life cycle and get their designs to be implemented. I just do booring stuff in a company where females serve tea to male workers. I am buying a scope for my home so that I will learn faster and hopefully one day my company or a company out there will let me do more fun engineering work. BTW, I am very scared at quiting my company to try a much smaller one…..its so scary!
When you leave Uni with your degree in your hot little hand,you are not yet an Engineer.
You might be in a couple of years.
If a Technician comes to you with a question,
if you don’t know,say so–don’t bullshit!!
Techs aren’t stupid,—-we just don’t have a degree!
This one follows on from the last one—-Techs
& Cadet Engineers are not Engineer’s labourers.
This sounds like I resent Engineers,but it’s not so.I’ve only met one Engineer I didn’t
like,& even he was tolerable on a good day!:)
Hi, good tipps … i wish i had them 9 years ago .. when i was 17 and signed a 12 contract for the navy … yeah i am a graduaded engineer .. and now i am fixing printer and pcs .. a GREAT job … and yea a boring job has some internal boring dna .. so it will not getting better … But aniways the srew you money .. great idea … Ucki
Good advice but Dave’s overly enthusiastic style would drive me mad if he was my co- worker.
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