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My degree is in an extremely heavily-regulated field, nuclear engineering, and I'm not a software engineer. I made the mistake of going to a mid-tier school and zero recruiters came to my school, and internships weren't possible - every company I interviewed with for internships had a list of schools that they would only accept from. Everyone I graduated with wasn't able to get an internship and is actually in exactly the same position as me. Every company I've interviewed with has said that they need me to already have nuclear industry experience before I can work there, even for entry-level positions. I have academic research and they've all said that's not the same and doesn't count. I've asked everyone I interviewed with how they got their first industry experience and they all say they already had a family connection - I don't have that.

I've managed to get a job working IT at one of these companies, but it's not possible to transfer into the right department - you need X years of direct nuclear experience to apply internally, and every company I've interviewed with since joining has said that my experience isn't nuclear and doesn't count. They're correct, but I feel stuck. It's not possible to make a nuclear "side project" - in fact it's illegal to do so. Again, everyone I graduated with has still failed to get a nuclear engineer job and they're all either in grad school or gave up and are working in a different industry, so I don't think it's a personal failure on my part.

How can I get my first industry experience in this position?

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    What country are you in? – Matthew Gaiser Aug 13 at 3:45
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    Depending on the country, there may be a route via nuclear subs or aircraft carriers. – Trent Bartlem Aug 13 at 4:29
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    Does this answer your question? Soo... I need experience to get experience? – gnat Aug 13 at 4:39
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    @TrentBartlem what I was thinking. Nuclear military people always seem to be in demand. – Matthew Gaiser Aug 13 at 5:16
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    Have you asked at the school? It would be strange to have the courses without some sort of connection to the industry. Usually in the niche industries they can help. It's not a good look for the school if 100% of their students cannot finds placements after graduating. They'll end up with no one paying to take their courses. – Kilisi Aug 13 at 6:18
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I studied Aerospace Engineering in the UK and discovered that universities have no problem with churning out 20 times as many graduates as there are entry level jobs. They driven by the demand from students who want to study the subject, not the amount of recruits the industry needs.

In your position, it's possible that there are even fewer entry level jobs. Maybe the industry is shrinking and all the work is done by foreign companies, or maybe they can find enough people with experience from the Navy or overseas, or maybe the internships from that limit range of schools is all they need.

I imagine there aren't many potential employers, so contact them all and ask them where they find their recruits. Presumably this seemingly impossible strategy must be working for them, so ask them how.

Otherwise, I think you're in the best possible place - working in a different department of the right company. After a while your experience of the company will count for something, even if it's not exactly what they want.

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    As an add on to this, OP might have to take a hit on position and pay in order to move in to a truly entry level role in that field. One of the issues is that a lot of companies don't want "experienced" people in their entry level roles. It's a pretty shit place to be in really. – Malisbad Aug 19 at 0:57
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Wow. That's a tough one, and I suspect mileage varies quite a bit.

What it sounds like, at first glance is that there are WAY more qualified candidates than jobs - so that only the very most-qualified or best-networked candidates are managing to get even the entry level.

My best thoughts are:

  • If other folks got into the industry by being networked (got help from a family member, friend, etc) - can you do similar networking? Are there professional associations you could join? Online forums to be a part of? Can you build a network so that you have these same entry points. Even in industries where experience can be found outside of a paid position, this type of networking makes a BIG difference.
  • Similarly - can you get a mentor w/in the industry? This could come from networking... if you can get into the circles of folks who do this type of work, you may be able to find a mentor, even an advocate, who can think of other ways to distinguish yourself. Also - having such a person would give you the potential of looking at unpaid ways to get the experience. Notice I don't say "personal projects" (no fusion reactors in your backyard!), but are there unpaid internships that you could apply to? Sometimes those are not well known or well advertised - so a mentor may help.
  • More education - many folks who can't get jobs in their industry to manage to up their credentials with further academic work - it sucks and it's expensive... but sometimes it's what you have to do, and it may mean you have to be strategic in terms of figuring out how to get into a brand-name school to get that door open.
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