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Career Advice for Engineers in 2021

  • by: Alex Fuller
  • On: 8, Mar 2021
4 min read

Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic changed life and work for individuals and businesses across the world, those working in the Engineering sector saw some of the most impactful changes. Remote working was never an option for those in manufacturing, build and maintenance roles, meaning that safety at work became of paramount importance and many Engineers worked in silos apart from team members to maintain social distancing requirements.

As vaccines and slowing coronavirus cases across Europe and the world bring everyday life closer to normality, positive trends and changes will come to every industry, and Engineering in particular. VHR’s teams of former Engineers turned recruitment professionals explore the outlook for Engineers in 2021 and provide expert advice on navigating your technical career in the year ahead.


4 Ways Engineers Can Improve their Career Prospects in 2021

1. Adapt the Way You Search and Apply for Jobs

The pandemic has given millions the chance to pause, take a step back and consider what they truly want from their lives, career paths and day-to-day jobs. The insight gathered from this reflection is perfectly timed for the changing employment market and the evolving ways that employers are selecting candidates.

Following mass redundancies across sectors, the recently candidate-led jobs market has in the space of a year turned on its head. An average of 250 candidates are now applying for each job advertised, and only 2% of applicants ever reach interview stage. Employers can afford to be more choosy and cautious, and will use this opportunity to assess candidates’ skills, experience, knowledge and cultural fit before a candidate has even been contacted by HR. In response, skilled Engineers can diversify themselves from the pack by changing their own approach to jobhunting.

‘Most people focus on defining the role they want and then looking for open positions across many companies,’ former Inc 500 CEO and current executive leadership coach Bruce Eckfeldt reveals. ‘Try finding a handful of companies that represent truly great places for you to work and develop your career (think about culture, opportunities, networking, and so on). Target developing relationships with people inside those companies and look for any opening that might get you in the door—even if it’s a step down. Plan to go in, crush it, and grow [into your desired role] from inside the company.’

By being more selective about your own career choice to ensure they match what you truly want, and investing more time in targeting fewer companies, you can gain more connections within each company and build the in-depth knowledge and rapport needed for a successful interview.

2. Consider Contracting

Whereas 2020 created a difficult period for temporary workforces – 60,000 contractors lost contracts or saw projects cancelled due to the pandemic – 2021 will see a new demand for flexibility in employment.

The IR35 updates to off-payroll working are likely to increase admin burdens and compliance costs for businesses employing contract workforces. However, companies across industries are already sold on the overall value of temporary labour. Thousands of employers forced to deliver mass redundancies and delay projects in 2020 have seen business return to previous or heightened levels of demand thanks to vaccine optimism and the ending of national lockdowns. Businesses must balance smaller budgets with the same need for highly skilled Engineers. HR departments will opt against building back permanent workforces in case of further lockdowns or economic recessions periods, and will instead favour the lower-risk option of Engineering contractors who can hit the ground running on necessary projects, and who can be flexibly retained or redeployed according to business need.

Becoming a contractor will enable the most skilled Engineers to take on multiple projects and clients at the same time, or to experience many different projects one after the other, benefiting from many opportunities to upskill in a matter of months. Contracting can also provide a more flexible career for Engineers who are also parents or carers, those who have a disability or those who need to take on multiple work projects to financially support their families.

3. Embrace Challenges

A candidate’s CV and online profiles can tell an employer everything that the applicant excels in, but only a direct phone call or interview can identify their challenges – often the area that reveals a candidate as the perfect fit.

Every organisation around the world will have faced their own major challenges in the past year, and will be expecting to encounter further threats to business continuity and obstacles to progress in the years ahead. As skilled testers, analysts and problem-solvers, Engineers are ideally positioned to take advantage of these challenges. When applying for a role, use your CV and interviews emphasise the challenges you have faced, how you responded, what you have learned and which skills you have developed to tackle similar challenges. In the wake of the pandemic, prospective managers are increasingly valuing honesty, humility and the ability to learn, which can further position you as the most skilled, flexible candidate and the most likely to collaborate with and support existing teams. 

4. Register with an Engineering Recruitment Agency

With heightened competition in the jobs market, Engineering specialists will be best served by partnering a recruitment agency. Recruiters with first-hand knowledge and experience of your sector and role – such as those who have worked within a technical vocation themselves – will understand exactly what client businesses are looking for and can help you present yourself as the ideal candidate.

VHR’s team of recruitment consultants is made up of former technical professionals, including Aerospace Engineers, Formula 2 drivers and international yacht racing champions. Our personal experiences mean we understand your industry, your career path and the best ways to navigate the challenges and opportunities you will encounter in the coming year – get in touch with us to find out how we could help you.


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