How to enter business world with an Industrial Engineering Degree?
May 3, 2014 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Graduated (almost) with an Industrial Engineering degree but realized it's not the industry I want to work in. What are my available options and how should I pursue them as far as entering business world goes?

Im graduating in two weeks with a degree in Industrial Engineering from University at Buffalo and currently have 1 internship under my belt. After working at this internship I realized it's not something I want to do for the rest of my life due to how quickly they cap out (financially). It doesn't allow too many opportunities to move up in to a company. I see some of my friends who graduated 5-6 years ago are still in the same position that they started in engineering.

I want to eventually work where I have opportunities to move up in the career. So I want to know what would be my best option to enter into Business setting where I can use my engineering degree as a leverage. I don't have a solid GPA to start with. And as far as going to MBA school, its not an option right now due to financial reasons. But any idea or experience with this would be really helpful.
posted by Parh6512 to Education (8 answers total)
How about joining the graduate training programme at an engineering focussed company like GE, Honeywell, ExxonMobil, or 3M ? You'd have a fairly intense series of rotations and business related education over the course of a few years that would set you up pretty well to either continue there or move to a different company.

You could also use your engineering degree to get a graduate job in banking or consulting if you wanted which is what I did with my physics degree. Most of the people I've worked with have had either science/engineering or humanities undergraduate degrees.

The only problem with most of those options is that they usually require a high GPA.

You say you want to enter the 'business world' but can you be more specific? An engineer, marketing manager, financial analyst, b2b salesman, and CEO are all in some sense in the business world. What is it you actually want to do?
posted by atrazine at 8:12 AM on May 3, 2014

I have applied to the rotational programs like you mentioned but they do require higher GPA like you mentioned.

I want to move away from engineering(if possible), so not consulting or that kind of job. But more in the sense of marketing manager or a analyst where I can expect to make similar starting salary as an engineer as well as provide opportunities for growth down the line. So more in decision making process.
posted by Parh6512 at 8:33 AM on May 3, 2014

I know several people who've started in technical roles like engineering and then gotten employers to pay for MBAs (in one case, at an Ivy!) and then moved on to management and done extremely well financially. I think at this point, it's great to know that you have bigger plans, but when you haven't actually done much work yet, engineering is probably one of the best starting salaries you're going to have access to. "Marketing manager", for example, is not typically going to be an entry-level position, and whatever your aspirations, you're still starting at the entry level. One of the best ways to move up if you're not starting from a great GPA is to show you can be really good at handling the working world, in whatever capacity, for a few years. But that doesn't mean you're stuck there, being willing to look for roles that don't involve actually being an engineer is a big asset. (Many engineers get disappointed when they hit the point where better jobs require less and less of the thing they like doing.)

Doing this for a few years definitely does not doom you to doing it forever.
posted by Sequence at 9:20 AM on May 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

What about management consulting?
posted by J. Wilson at 9:24 AM on May 3, 2014

J. Wilson: Where can I start with management consulting? Do I need to have a specific requirements for it?
posted by Parh6512 at 1:01 PM on May 3, 2014

Management consulting, the way in is to apply to their graduate programs. You may find that very tough going though, they're also very competitive and probably wouldn't consider anyone without a high GPA.

I'd say your best bet is to figure out which industries you want to work in, learn as much as you can about them and then figure out how to pitch your engineering degree in that context.

If you really wanted to work in commercial real estate development (just for instance), you'd want to walk into an interview able to talk sensibly about how the mathematical skills from your degree are relevant to modelling the kinds of transactions they do.

Honestly, I think Sequence has the right idea. Most managers of anything started off doing it, a typical CEO will have started their career in the sales, engineering, marketing, or whatever department, risen to lead that and then moved up beyond purely functional roles.
There are "shortcuts" to these managerial jobs, and being a management consultant for a few years before doing an MBA and moving directly into a managerial role is possible but these shortcuts are quite challenging to get into in the first place and I'm not 100% convinced that they'd really save you much time.

Here's a question to consider: are your friends who have been engineers for a few years and haven't seen any career movement working as engineers in engineering-dominated companies? If a company is building commodity products and revenue is driven by the relationships of their salespeople then they will get their managers from their salesforce. A company like Boeing or Google gets their managers from their internal engineering talent pool. Don't work for the first kind of company.
posted by atrazine at 3:27 PM on May 3, 2014

With one internship and second-hand observation of other people's work situations, you don't even know how much you don't know about your field, its opportunities, and how it compares to other fields.

Fresh out of school, your best bet is to work in the field you trained in for a few years, learn more about your options (joining professional organizations and getting to know people in your field who are not in your organization is a great way to do this), and then (if you still want to) craft a strategy for moving to a different area. Assuming you cannot get tracked into a consulting/grad development program, you'll have to make a case to an employer about why they should hire you directly out of school for something other than your area of study. That will be a tough sell if you can't articulate really well why you want to do something different and how your skills are applicable.
posted by jeoc at 4:04 PM on May 3, 2014

I suggest working for two or three years in the best job you can find, and then get an MBA. An MBA can be a magic career pivot point that will let you characterize your first few years and your undergrad studies as little more than a source of quantitative strength.
posted by grudgebgon at 7:20 PM on May 3, 2014

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