5 ACTIONABLE TIPS FOR GETTING A PLC PROGRAMMING JOB WITH NO EXPERIENCE
The mindset that helped me find my ideal job as a PLC programmer with NO experience.
Working as a PLC Programmer is one of the most attractive and highest paying jobs in the PLC engineering industry. By getting a PLC programming job, you have the opportunity to design sophisticated control and monitoring systems in some of the most strategic and important industries (such as oil, gas, and steel)—along with improving your lifestyle thanks to a generous salary.
But suppose you’re a new graduate or someone without any relevant PLC experience (or too little of it to qualify for positions that often demand at least two years in the field). Are PLC Programmer jobs out of your reach?
I’m here to tell you that this is not a problem, it’s an opportunity! Why? Because you’re going to be one of those people who stays the course. So many people give up after being turned down a few times. They settle for non-relevant jobs and give up on their dream. But someone like you, someone who believes in the true value of working in this field and is committed to becoming a PLC programmer —the path to success is wide open.
It’s this mindset that helped me find my ideal job as an automation engineer (or PLC programmer) when I had no real experience in this field.
I now have more than seven years of experience in designing control systems for big industries such as oil, gas, petroleum, and steel. After only two years in my first position, I was promoted to the head of the technical department where I have had the luxury of working with some of the most talented PLC programmers and automation engineers from all around the world. Most of them had a long extensive background in this field.
As I progressed in my career, it occurred to me that I could help others achieve a similar success, regardless of their current experience level. That revelation was what inspired me to create RealPars platform.
The YouTube channel I started in collaboration with some of my colleagues is now one of the most viewed channels in the field of industrial automation training. We also created a massive video library filled with practical PLC programming courses—a library that has been referred to as one of the “most effective and practical training courses,” by other automation experts.
As you might guess, most of the job opportunities that were available required real experience in this area. But I didn’t give up because I couldn’t. I had invested several years during high school and college to become a PLC Programmer. It had been my dream job for so long that I couldn’t simply turn a blind eye to it.
I’ve recently received a lot of questions, both online and offline, asking me how to get a job as an automation engineer or PLC programmer without any experience in the field. While I prefer to answer every query that comes in, my schedule has been very tight lately and, unfortunately, I just can’t respond to every question that comes in.
Because of this, I’ve decided to share my tips for success as someone who searched for a job in this field, and as an employer who reviews resumes, interviews candidates, and hires PLC programmers for a variety of projects.
So, let’s get started!
1. Put yourself ahead of the crowd by educating yourself as much as you can
When I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Instrument and Control Engineering, I found out that there are many people holding the same degree as me. And a few of them had applied for some practical training programs on the top of the college curriculum.
So, although I was not in a good financial situation at that time, I invested most of the money I earned into the different training courses that I thought would be able to help me come closer to my final goal: a job as PLC programmer.
Most of the recent graduates I knew didn’t take any courses outside of the college, or if they did, they were only limited to one or two training courses. I took eight different courses in PLC programming, WinCC and monitoring systems, Profibus, Ethernet, etc. and that made me very unique compared to others with the same college degree.
Having these training courses in my resume showed employers immediately that I was different from the other recent graduates and if they hired me, they’d be able to avoid having to train me from scratch. They knew that by hiring me, they’d get a guy who’d been trained with the exact skill necessary to work as a PLC programmer.
This is also what I see now sitting on the other side of the table as an employer. Most of the resumes that are sent to me either don’t have any relevant training courses or just one or two. If I see a resume that has seven or eight practical training courses, his/her chance of being hired is way more than the others. This shows that they know what to do right off the bat and it also indicates that they have been committed to their goal of working as an PLC programmer. They’ve invested time and money to achieve their goal and what employer doesn’t like a serious employee?!
“Put yourself ahead of the crowd by educating yourself as much as you can”
2. Sell the heck out of yourself!
Top directors of companies are always looking for someone who can add value to their company. If they find someone who could potentially be effective and valuable for their company, they don’t hesitate to hire that person.
But you need to show them how good you are. If they don’t know you then how can they be assured that you’d be a valuable addition to their team?
It’s like having the best product in the world but not doing any marketing for it and then expecting others to come and buy from you. In this case, no one buys your great product simply because they’re not aware that such a thing exists! You’ve got to have the ability and willingness to sell yourself in the best way possible and show and convince employers that you can add value to their company. If you don’t promote yourself, who will?
One the best and most powerful tools that you can use to represent your skills is LinkedIn. Today most international and local companies jump into LinkedIn when they want to hire new employees. Research shows that professionals with a well-designed LinkedIn profile have more job opportunity than others. If you’re a professional and don’t have a well-designed LinkedIn profile, then you’re missing out on a good chunk of opportunities.
3. You must be willing to pay the price
When I was looking for a job, I searched for opportunities online and offline every single day. I sent my resume to every single good company that was hiring. Some of the companies were not based in the city that I lived in and sometimes I had to take a bus for a six- or seven-hour long trip (because I couldn’t afford to buy a plane ticket).
The scenario always went pretty much like this: the company secretary would call to tell me they liked my resume and asked if I could interview the following day. I always said, “I’ll be there!” and then usually took the bus the night before and arrived in the morning for a brief fifteen-minute or less interview.
If you really want to find a job, you need to have the courage to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Some folks don’t even take the time to fill out an online form for a new job opportunity. Then they wonder why they can’t find a job! Their excuse is “I’m so busy with my current job or with other things in my life. I can’t find time to look for new opportunities.” My answer is “No, you’re not too busy. There is always time to do what you want and what you need to advance your career.”
“You must be willing to pay the price”
4. Offer something that’s hard to ignore
I used to ask for advice in every interview by posing this question: “In your opinion, considering the skills on my resume what is the best strategy for me to find a job?” I learned a lot of valuable lessons this way. For example, in one interview the CEO interviewing me said, “Offer something that’s hard to ignore, for example, say that you’ll work for six months for free.”
It didn’t make sense to me at the time but I said, “What the heck, I’ve tried a lot of things so far, let’s try this one too.”
Of course, the manager of that company was a good guy and they started paying me after two months because they were satisfied with my work. You might consider this type of offer too. Don’t act like the majority of people. Get creative! I’m sure you can find something to offer that’s hard to ignore.
5. Don’t expect to sit behind a desk at the beginning
One of the mistakes most young engineers make is that they expect to sit behind a desk right away at their first job in a company as a designer and programmer because they have an engineering degree! Not only is this rare, it’s not actually ideal. If you’ve been hired as a newbie and you’re asked to do handy work (like construction work) do not waste the opportunity—it’s very valuable.
When I was hired for the first time as an automation engineer, I was working in the hardest conditions for about eight months—wiring control panels that had been installed 100 feet above the ground on the cranes to cabling in factory basements.
Now that I look back, those days were some of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had and they expanded my view for designing and programming. Even now that I’m not a junior engineer anymore, I still sometimes get a workday like that if there is a need.
My advice? When you’re asked to do this type of hard work, don’t be lazy. Think of it as a learning experience that will lead you to become a serious and professional elite automation engineer.
I could go on and on with additional tips, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. So many blog posts offer long lists of advice, but they’re hard to remember and apply to real life scenarios.
What I can tell you is that if you want to get into the automation world without any professional experience, you must prove to employers that you will add value to their company. No one cares how good a student you were. The only thing that matters is whether or not you can add real value. Convince them that you’re someone who’s willing to sacrifice, who’s willing to do the dirty work, who’s ready to learn, take it from someone who’s done it—you’ll have a much better chance of being hired!
Now it’s your turn. Get out there and get that PLC programming job. I’d love to hear about your successes or lessons learned throughout your interview experience. Please share it with me and the rest of the RealPars team in the comments below!
By Shahpour Shapournia
updated on Jul 15, 2020
By Shahpour Shapournia
Updated on Jul 15, 2020
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