What if I don't code? An E:* guide to getting hired

Meg Lidrbauch '17


If you're like me, nothing sounds worse than spending all day staring at lines of code on a computer screen. Maybe that's because you'd prefer to work outside, to work with your hands, because you dislike coding, or something else entirely. Whatever the reason, you are not alone! Plenty of Olin students pursue majors and jobs in non-coding fields - their job search process may just look a little different.

Speaking as an E: Environmental Systems (and I'm less "E" and more Environmental, at that), career fairs rarely to never provide jobs that interest me. There will maybe be one or two companies that are at least tangentially related to my interests, but not enough to get a position by attending career fair alone.

As such, if career fair isn't cutting it for you, you need to get creative. This can be hard as an undergraduate looking for a summer internship, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? More of a sports person: you'll miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

The hands-down best way to get a job - regardless of the field - is by knowing someone. Talk to your parents and your family friends to see if they have any connections in your desired industry. If those people are no help (or even if they are helpful), try talking to Sally and Suzanne in PGP. It is quite literally their job to know people, and to connect you with those people in the hopes of getting you a job. I got my sophomore summer job by talking to Sally, who told me that an alumna, Susan, would be on campus in the next week for the President's Council meeting  - and that she worked at a company I might be interested in. Sally helped me get in on a meeting with Susan and some other Olin students, and that snowballed into both a winter break job and a summer position (an endorsement from Mark Somerville didn't hurt either!).

If I hadn't talked to Sally, I never would have landed that job.

In addition to networking, it's important to know what you want. This is particularly relevant if you have a self-designed or less-known major, because the major won't speak for you as much as it does for, say, a MechE or an ECE. Sally has given me so many names of people to contact over the years, but because I didn’t' know what I want to do (I still don't), I haven't followed up on many of them. That's not to say I've discarded them - I keep the notes and emails with contact information and leads for later - but rather that it's on you to know yourself.

If you don't know exactly what type of position you're looking for, start by making a list of your skills and abilities and a list of what qualities you want in an employer - "I want a company with start-up culture, but without the start-up hours, minimal hierarchy, and lots of autonomy located in New England." Once you know these things, you can take this information to Sally or Suzanne, do a Google search, look on GlassDoor, talk to your professors, alumni, parents and friends, and so on until you have some leads.

Believe me when I say that THIS IS HARD!  Not every job lead is going to come through, again, especially for the non-software engineers.  What I learned this past year is that you can never have too many leads. You can talk to seven or eight companies and still not get an offer. If that happens, it's important to not get down on yourself - easier said than done, I know. There are so many factors that go into a company's hiring policy - maybe one of their employees' kids' friend was also applying for the position, and even though you're a highly capable and intelligent person, that connection won out (again, the importance of connections cannot be stated enough). Maybe they really only have co-ops, despite not advertising that. Perhaps you're studying abroad and the time difference is too much of a hassle for them to deal with. The point is that it's not necessarily you, so pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and continue the search.  Because if you’re sure (and excited) about the type of job you want, it’ll be worth it in the end. 

And of course while networking remember to ALWAYS follow up with thank you notes or emails.   At the end of your search, when you’ve found something awesome, you’ll want to double-back and let all the people who helped you out know how you did. It is so important to always be building this network by being considerate and thorough by closing the loop with your contacts.  

Finally, it never hurts to go online and look at the websites of companies you're interested in. Keep an eye on their jobs page, send an email to their HR rep, show interest in any way you can short of stalking an employee. Maybe it won't result in a job for next summer, but you can bet they'll keep you in mind for future openings, and, as with colleges, your history of interest can only benefit you.

In summary: Know what you want and what you have to offer; work your connections (you have more than you think); talk to Suzanne and Sally; pursue companies you're interested in. While these steps aren't a guarantee of a job, they'll get you so much closer. Don't let a harder job search keep you from pursuing what you love.  

Posted in: A Different Path