How to Turn a Mechanical Engineer Internship into a Job
Updated November 22, 2022
Student internships can be wonderful opportunities to get on-the-job training, increase your skills, and gain valuable work experience. Internships or practicums in mechanical engineering are typically a requirement of your degree, but they can also lead to potential job opportunities. As a mechanical engineering student, knowing how to leverage an internship into a job after graduation can be extremely useful. In this article, we explain what a mechanical engineer internship is, share tips for finding internships, discuss the benefits of interning, and offer steps for turning internships into full-time employment.
What is a mechanical engineer internship?
A mechanical engineer internship is an opportunity for an engineering student to gain relevant work experience while continuing their studies. Employers typically pay students while completing their internship or practicum. Internships are a requirement for a mechanical engineering degree, as they can offer the practical skills and experience students require for most jobs. Full-time undergraduate students usually take internships that last for four, eight, 12, or 16 months and work full time for employers who offer related work.
Most programs also require students to finish a minimum of two internship terms of four months or a longer internship of eight months or more. Some employers require interns to have previous knowledge, such as how to apply engineering principles, and to possess excellent communication skills. They might also expect students to meet minimum grade requirements, have practical knowledge of networking and hardware architecture, and be capable of learning new technical skills and domains.
How to find an internship as a mechanical engineer
As a mechanical engineering student, you can sometimes find internship opportunities on your school's website. Student advisors or the career centre might also be able to help. You can network with people in the industry or contact professional associations that offer tips for finding internships. Here are some steps you can follow to find a student internship:
1. Build your skills
Students who have experience and skills that are relevant to mechanical engineering often have a better chance of finding internships. To determine what skills an employer wants, you can search job boards for positions in an area of mechanical engineering that interests you and review the job descriptions for the skills they require. One employer might want candidates with experience in 3D printing, CAD design, and sensors, while another might want candidates with injection moulding experience.
Searching job descriptions can reveal the most desirable skills employers look for on mechanical engineer resumes. If you haven't learned these skills yet, you can often develop them before applying for an internship by using online resources, such as certified courses or video tutorials. Some students start independent projects to build skills or join various student design teams or related engineering clubs to enhance their abilities.
2. Create a mechanical engineer resume
A student resume is typically a one-page, skills-based document that contains information such as your degree program, the university you're attending, and your contact information. You typically include a professional summary that outlines important skills, how you've used them, and the results. For example, you might write: Improved the fixture design for a smart-home mechanism using computer-aided design by including a self-fixturing feature that can reduce manufacturing time by 15%.
In the skills section, you can summarize your skills using bullet points and include about four points that employers typically look for. Consider describing the skill, how you used it, and the results, as this can let a hiring manager know that you understand the concepts and how to leverage them for the best results.
3. Build a portfolio of your work
Including a portfolio that showcases your work can often improve your chances of an employer offering you an internship. You can add a link on your resume to your portfolio that can include pictures of various projects you've worked on or videos that show how to operate a device you've built. Building a portfolio while finishing your degree and interning can also be an excellent way to present your work to potential employers when you eventually apply for full-time positions.
4. Start applying
With a strong resume and portfolio, you can start applying for jobs you're qualified for. You can also search the websites of companies you've applied to and find alumni from your university. Consider contacting them and introducing yourself as a mechanical engineering student attending their alma mater. You can express your interest in learning from their experience as a mechanical engineer and ask if they have time for a quick conversation. Making connections with people in the field can provide you with valuable networking contacts. It can also lead to a potential interview with an interested company.
5. Prepare for the interview
Interviewers often ask candidates to elaborate on skills they've listed on their resume. This gives you the chance to substantiate the claims you've made. Interviewers might also ask technical questions relating to basic mechanical engineering concepts, so it's beneficial to review these beforehand. You may consider researching what the employer does and the skill set typical mechanical engineers at the company require. You can then educate yourself on these skills.
For example, most mechanical engineering jobs require mechanical design knowledge, an understanding of the mechanics of various materials, and familiarity with manufacturing methods. Consider asking a professor or advisor to conduct a mock interview with you to help you prepare for your interview. Preparing can offer you a better chance of doing well and getting the internship.
Benefits of an internship
Internships offer many benefits for mechanical engineering students. These can include:
expanding your knowledge and learning practical skills
getting valuable work experience to build your resume for a job after graduation
learning about real work environments in different jobs
building a professional network and getting potential referrals for jobs
getting one-on-one mentorships with professionals in your field
working in multiple areas of a company to build broader experience
offering an opportunity to decide if a certain job is what you want in the future
creating an opportunity to turn the internship into a full-time job
Tips for turning an internship into a full-time job
While it's not obligatory for companies to hire interns after they complete their internship, employers sometimes decide to offer an intern a full-time job. Internships are great opportunities for employers to see what you offer as a potential employee, so it's essential to take steps that can lead to a full-time position if you're interested in remaining with a company. Here are some tips that might help:
Connect with an advisor or mentor
During your internship, you're likely to come into contact with many people in various departments and at different levels in the company. While it's beneficial to be cordial and helpful with everyone you encounter, it's important to find the people who can help you learn and grow your career. These mentors might also be valuable for turning your internship into a full-time position. Completing tasks effectively, asking questions to show interest, being willing to do extra work, and learning new skills can show you're a great fit. Consider letting your mentor know you're interested in working for the company.
Create good relationships
If you want to remain at a company after your internship, it's beneficial to create many positive relationships. Getting to know people's names, learning about different roles, speaking to others regularly, getting involved in company events, or joining people at lunch or on breaks can help build good relationships. Before the end of the internship, you could reach out to department leaders to update them on your progress and express your gratitude for the opportunity. It's also important to be genuine in your efforts when including yourself in conversations or events and to be positive, amiable, and helpful.
Accept extra tasks
You can often have free time during the day, so consider asking your manager for other tasks or completing extra work. This can show your eagerness to learn. You might also ask others if they need help or if there's a project or task you can do to help the department. Ask about joining committees for any volunteer projects the company runs, such as community events. This can highlight your abilities and show you're someone the employer can rely on.
Follow up with your manager
Ultimately, it's your manager who can offer a good recommendation to the hiring committee, so it's a good idea to communicate with them regularly. You can update them on your progress and ask them how they feel you're doing and what you might improve or learn. At the end of each week, you could discuss your progress in an e-mail or in person if they have time. Communicating with them regularly can build a great working relationship and show responsibility and professionalism, which can help if you ask to stay with the company.
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