It was about this time three years ago when the panic began to sink in. Spring commencement was just around the corner. My peers—and my parents—were asking, "What do you have lined up after graduation?” After four or more years at school, the whole point is to have a job lined up—but that's not as easy as it sounds.
I was proud to say that upon graduating I would be leaving for Nashville, Tenn., to do a dual internship at an artist management company and an independent record label. It was a temporary distraction from fear of the real world, which entailed submitting a million applications to a job board black hole and competing with thousands of other people who had the same experience I did.
Now, there are pre- and post-graduate career opportunities out there that students who secured a job before graduating, or found one shortly after, will tell you to take advantage of in order to gain the experience employers look for in new hires.
Also read: "Young Professionals Map Careers"
Whether it is an internship, co-op program, networking event, career resource center or simply guidance from your educators, there is an abundance of ways to help prepare yourself for what's to come after you finish your college degree.
Brandon Cary, industrial designer for digital part materialization company ExOne describes his job search as "hectic.” Upon graduating in May 2012 from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh with his bachelor's degree in industrial design, Cary used job boards such as LinkedIn and Coroflot, a job site specifically for design jobs, to apply for more than 200 positions.
He gave himself a deadline: After six months he'd take any job he was offered. Luckily, right before that six-month mark hit, he connected with ExOne through a friend who helped him get an interview and shortly thereafter receive an offer.
It's all about expanding your network, says Allen Koh, part of the Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP) at General Electric Power & Water GE. By challenging yourself to meet people outside of your classroom and outside of work, you give yourself the opportunity to develop better networking skills, he says. Be proactive when looking for communities to join within and even outside your major, and find extra curricular activities to get involved in.
Koh graduated in May 2013 from Olin College of Engineering with his bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering. As an undergraduate, Koh took advantage of Olin's post-graduate planning (PGP) career services to get some guidance on resume and cover letter development. Koh interned for GE in Summer 2010 and 2011, and for Intel during Summer 2012. In August 2012—his senior year—Koh accepted a job offer from GE.
Brian Wallden, process engineer for blade-assembly operations for consumer product manufacturer, Proctor & Gamble (P&G), in Boston, landed his job using a similar process. While obtaining his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Penn State, Wallden used job boards such as LinkedIn and Monster, but found more promising opportunities via Penn State's online job-posting system, eCareer, where he could upload his resume and cover letter for full-time positions, internships, co-op jobs and international opportunities.
Wallden did four co-op tours before graduating. The first two were with multinational engineering and electronics firm Robert Bosch (www.bosch.us), Charleston, S.C., in the manufacturing division. The third was with DuPont, Richmond, Va., in the research and development division. The fourth, in his senior year, was again with Robert Bosch, this time in Stuttgart, Germany, in the research and development department. On his return to the U.S., Wallden interviewed with P&G and received a job offer a few days after.
Doing multiple internships rewarded Andy Milluzzi, research assistant at the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Center for High-Performance Reconfigurable Computing (CHREC) at the University of Florida (UF), with several job prospects.
Prior to graduating in 2012 from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in computer engineering and software engineering, Milluzzi did a two-year internship with National Instruments (NI) writing software for the NI CompactRIO that serves as the robot brain used by FIRST Robotics Competition. He also worked as a program manager intern for Microsoft, working on the Xbox gaming system. He also was a software development intern for Workflow, software development intern for Hyland Software and a robotic vision system intern for Rose-Hulman Ventures (www.rhventures.org), an on-campus internship program with big-name companies.
Milluzzi was offered a job from Microsoft shortly after his internship, but declined to attend UF for graduate school to pursue his long-term goal of becoming a professor. To become a professor, one must know how research and academia work apart from having industry experience, he says. "My philosophy for getting a job is to have fun.”
And that's just the path Aiswarya Kolisetty, user-experience engineer for Ford, is following. Kolisetty works on connectivity between personal devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, and Ford vehicles.
Prior to graduating from Olin in May 2013 with a bachelor's degree in electrical and computer engineering, Kolisetty interned with Tesla Motors, Fremont, Calif. While this internship was beneficial for experience, her most positive influence came from the Society of Women Engineers National Conference, to which she was introduced by Olin's PGP career center. After attending the conference, Ford put her in touch with managers and supervisors looking to fill new graduate positions.
Kolisetty's position at Ford focuses on product development. Following a user-centric design approach, her team develops features that are engaging and favorable to the customer.
CHREC's Milluzzi went on to earn his M.S. in electrical and computer engineering from UF and is currently pursuing his doctorate, while working for NSF's CHREC. As a project leader, Milluzzi looks at heterogeneous computing systems for high-performance applications, also known as "super computing.”
Wallden recently joined the P&G team doing Gillette Fusion blade assembly operations. His role involves design improvements, safety and quality enhancements, better productivity and cost reduction through mechanical process efficiency.
GE's Koh remains in his first year of the two-year rotational program EEDP. His current role focuses on engineering design for wind turbine pitch and electrical controls. Koh is also pursuing his master's degree in electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech.
As an industrial designer, ExOne's Cary reviews part files for customers (industrial and art) and processes them for application. He works one-on-one with customers and often needs to teach art process to them so their engineers have a better idea of how to design for their own process.