What job can a graduate holder do?

The engineer: more than a holder of a diploma

I'm 32 and I got a degree in materials science almost six years ago.

In the meantime, I started a postgraduate course in electrical engineering, which I did not complete, worked for a long time, failed the probationary period of my first employment at a research institute (I liked the work, but the chemistry with the supervisor was soon no longer) and after worked as an editor in a non-specialist area for a few months of unemployment, which I left by mutual agreement after an extended probationary period.

I have already been unemployed for more than six months and have around 40 applications with a few unsuccessful interviews.

Abitur: 1.7 without much effort at a Bavarian scientific high school.

Studies: close to home at a university; Problems during the six-month mandatory internship that showed me how little I knew about work life; thirteen semesters (standard period of study exceeded, grade 2.0).

Diploma thesis: 1.5; Topic from semiconductor technology, for this I had to acquire programming knowledge and electrotechnical basics, which I loved to do. Graduation after extension of the deadline in ten months. Postgraduate studies: motivated by the successes in the diploma thesis, subject is related to electrical engineering; Termination due to various factors (including incorrect advice from the academic advisor).

Part-time “commitment”: in addition to studying, acquired two Romance languages ​​autodidactically, as well as advanced knowledge of Japanese; So far, I've got to know self-study as the most effective method for me, so I would actually like to refrain from further studies.

Retrospective: Quite “spoiled” in school and at university, there were no corrective measures by my socialization authorities; In the last few years I have learned to adapt better, behave more diplomatically and have learned self-management.

Problem: I wonder whether I have not persistently promoted a talent that I recognized in my undergraduate studies in solving constructive problems (see attached views of an injection-molded object that I developed myself).

Questions: My previous applications in the field of plastic injection molding / construction rarely led to an interview and were unsuccessful.

1. Do you prefer mechanical engineers for these positions?

2. I would be happy to acquire suitable additional qualifications. Which?

3. Can you recommend an internship in this area?

4. When applying, I add the cited example of my self-developed injection-molded object to my documents, which was awarded in an international competition in 2002. Should I do without it?


Just for the information of the other readers: Only the first two paragraphs are identical to the original submission, I (of necessity) tightened and shortened the rest.

I only know this verbal description of your problem, so I have no application documents (but I can imagine them). The result is the image of a person who definitely has some kind of talents - but presents indications that cannot be overlooked in several places, according to which he is or was absolutely unsuitable for classic working life. This is seen as an aspect of personality and is only partially dependent on any technical details.

The additional problem with this: This fundamental unsuitability sticks to you and will act as a burden for applications for years to decades. A simple “I have changed” or just a “I want to change” is not enough. Recipients want to see serious efforts, not letters of intent. And: in a single day with a single mistake, a positive ten-year working life can be ruined. However, you have hardly any positive, but a lot of critical points ...

First of all, we have to deal with your professionally relevant past - even for the other readers who are always in the foreground here:

a) The result of your Abitur was a great basis for everything that would come afterwards (+ + +).

b) The result of your studies was still a good basis, just exceeding the time limit is comparatively harmless (+ +).

c) Your mandatory internship of six months during your studies showed "problems". That was a very serious warning sign, but in absolute terms it is still relatively harmless - only you should have recognized there that your (professional) trees would not grow into the sky (-).

d) The subject of your studies seems to have been a clearly wrong decision based only on you personally. You would have better replaced your materials science with plastics technology (e.g. mechanical engineering / plastics technology). If you choose the wrong subject (based on talent and interests), you will quickly find yourself in a cage. After completing your intermediate diploma, you should have switched. And: because of the time that has now passed, your qualifications in the subjects you studied at that time are "dead" (- -).

e) The thesis did not match the field of study. As attractive as additional “non-subject” knowledge can be, it weakens the competence in the main area, it costs time to acquire it and you end up in a subject area in which you are not competitive (-).

f) Your “postgraduate course related to electrical engineering”, which was apparently carried out full-time, did not fit in with the main course at all, dropping out without a degree is a catastrophe in itself. That was wasted (always precious) time (- - -).

g) Failed the first probationary period (“chemistry” with the supervisor), that was a rather massive second warning after the internship dealt with under c. If everything else is correct, something like this can be survived. If ... (- -).

h) Flown out of the non-specialist job of an editor despite an extended probationary period, that was really not necessary (after so many failures and defeats), it increases the distrust of the reader of your application (-).

i) "Little things" in the curriculum vitae after completing the main course ("have worked", "was unemployed") are additional stresses (-).

j) Your language skills, to which you have given space, have given you a qualification that you have not yet used; However, the self-taught learning also cost time and energy that you wasted on a "secondary theater of war". At least you can now use any languages ​​(- +).

k) The most recent unemployment of “more than six months” additionally reduces your value on the labor market, it would also do that under otherwise impeccable “accompanying circumstances” (- -).

l) The overall view shows: no line, no red thread, constant change of direction (you have materials science, you wanted electrical engineering, you want plastics technology, you can speak languages); nothing fits together, nobody can place you anywhere; wherever you were allowed to work in practice, you failed (- - -).

Result up to then: You should be able to show around 10 plus evaluation points today, purely in terms of the passage of time and from your starting position. With my practice-oriented calculation, however, you get a balance of around 11 minus points. Even if someone wanted to set a point somewhere else, the result would remain extremely (!) Weak.

From my point of view, the following recommendations are available that may help you:

I. You definitely have skills that are relevant to your profession. There is a suspicion that you have chosen a completely wrong profession. With your meanwhile reached age, with your professional past "on record", with the discontinuity you have shown up to now and your lack of central objectives as well as in mind that there is no really promising opportunity there to determine the other profession that suits you and, taking into account your expressed aversion to further studies, I advise against completely new ways of professional orientation including new basic training.

I can also put it more briefly: A fundamental idea of ​​where a (new) “journey” could possibly go should have long since existed. It is not there, so this variant is done.

II. Concentrate on what you have (these are partly also the pounds with which you can possibly increase):

- the solid general educational basis of a good Abitur;

- the successful, presentable university degree with an academic degree (Dipl.-Ing. Univ.), The associated subject is no longer so important;

- Apparently good knowledge of several languages ​​as well as the ability to learn more at any time, moreover in self-study;

- the realization that you have to change if it is to work halfway in working life, that you adapt, that you take into account the status of an employee as an employee who is always dependent, that you have to be much more diplomatic in the future and that your value on the job market with classic Applications is extremely low;

- that there is a subject that you love (hopefully it will last), in which you had a small success many years ago and in which - despite the lack of training - you would like to work.

III. I will try to give you a small list of possible directions that your career path could take with a reasonably realistic view. Do not exclude something spontaneously, think carefully. And: You will not find a professional dream job spontaneously - you will definitely pay a price for the whole misery. So then:

- Sales are often still possible when other things don't work. You could e.g. For example, try to become a sales engineer for plastic products for industrial customers. If you combine that with your foreign languages, that would have a future (either on foreign markets or for a Japanese company in Germany or Europe, for example). The late discovery of the - necessary - passion for sales is tempered by the fact that sales are practically non-existent in the classic engineering degree, so that many engineers need time to discover their "true talent" for this area (application readers know that).

- After preparation here and probation (!), A longer assignment abroad for a German company or an immediate engagement directly with a foreign employer would be an option (principle: the main thing is that you work). Not all countries are as “strict” when assessing applicants as they are here. Perhaps it would even be possible to revive your “old” materials science qualification.

- Or you try to get into plastics engineering here. You are not trained in construction; your development from ten years ago is a little underdeveloped. Therefore, only the entry via an internship remains connected with the hope of being able to qualify professionally and above all personally (!) And then later to be taken on for some reasonably demanding job. Perhaps you can then pursue a part-time further qualification in plastics / construction technology. Your rise in this area could also start hauling boxes in plastic production, so at the very bottom.

- But it is always part of the fact that you bake “small rolls” in the written and oral application process, admit mistakes and take on contractual risks (e.g. fixed-term, starting on a freelance basis). You have to accept a well-founded distrust of you.

Short answer:

1. A young person is allowed to do something wrong once in a while. The emphasis is heavily on “once”, otherwise you will quickly be classified as a “repeat offender”.

2. Working out of a professional “hole” is much more difficult than trying not to fall into it in the first place.

Question No .: 2558
Number of the VDI nachrichten edition: 19
Date of the VDI nachrichten edition: 2012-05-10

A contribution from:

  • Heiko Mell

    Heiko Mell is a career advisor, author and freelancer for VDI nachrichten. He is responsible for the career advice series within VDI nachrichten.