A Message to Co-Op Seekers and New Graduates

 I recently had the pleasure of attending the engineering career fair at my alma mater. It was great to be back to the place where I earned by BSEE degree, and to see how much had changed, and how much had stayed the same. The venue for the career fair had changed, but the process was the same as I remember from my last college career fair, nearly 13 years ago.

 As my colleague and I stood at our exhibit table, fielding questions and taking resumes for the co-op and entry level positions we had open, I was reminded of the times I had gone to these events years before, and how I wished I knew then, what I know now. Therefore, I would like to share my thoughts with the eager college students who are looking for co-op positions or that first job out after graduation on how to be more successful in your search. 

career-fair

NuWaves attends the OSU Fall Career Fair to recruit talented electrical engineering co-ops and graduates.

First, have a plan. Review the list of companies that will be attending the career fair and do some research. Visit the companies’ websites and see what they do. If possible, contact their human resources department and find out what positions the recruiters will be looking to fill. This can be a tough task with large corporations, but hopefully you can find out which division or divisions will be represented at the fair, and then you can research those areas. For small businesses (such as NuWaves), you will likely be able to learn exactly what positions are available, and may even be able to speak with the hiring manager – this will give you quite a leg-up on your classmates, and shows that you have initiative. Finding all the information you can before the career fair will prevent you from wasting time standing in line to talk with companies that either are not looking for your particular skillset, or do not have positions available doing the kind of work that you are looking for. 

Second, figure out how to stand out to your potential employer. What is unique about you that will make you a good fit for that company? At NuWaves, we look for three things in our candidates: attitude, mindset, and competency.  What does that mean? Your skills alone will not get you hired. Understanding this ideology is transformational – it is key to being a valued employee, and a having successful career. When I was a student, all I wanted to do was get a job as an engineer. I had a passion for radio frequency (RF) design, but you couldn’t tell that from my resume. My resume looked the same as all the rest of my classmates – field of study and GPA, a list of skills, a brief description of my senior design project, and a list of the part-time jobs I’ve had since I was in high school. Since my career services department wanted us to have a one-page resume, I left out my extracurricular activities and hobbies, because I felt the other information was more important. As it turns out, I was wrong. 

The truth is that if you do not stand out from your classmates, you will be passed up for the job. As an entry level employee, the company that hires you is making an investment in you. You will need training to learn the job and become an effective member of the team. Until that time, you are costing the company money, not making the company money. Thus, employers are going to select the candidates that can prove that they will become valued employees in return for the company’s investment. 

Above I mentioned that I left out my extracurricular activities and interests from my resume when I was a student. At the time, I thought it was pointless, that no one would even look at this section. Now that I am responsible for hiring people for our company, I’ve realized that this information can be the difference between a first interview with me and a rejection letter. Why is that? Our business is particularly specialized in that we design and manufacture high-end RF products. If a candidate applies for a position in our company without the specialized skills necessary for the job, it becomes difficult to justify pursuing the candidate. However, if through a detailed cover letter, or information in their resume that shows that they are passionate about the work we do, is willing to learn the job, and more importantly wants to learn the job, they will get an interview with us.  

To summarize, do your research on the companies you want to pursue, and find out exactly what positions they are looking to fill. Spend your efforts targeting those companies that are looking for candidates with you skillset. Further, if you lack the specific skills the employer is looking for, but the position sounds like your dream job, show them you’re worthy of their investment in you. Be honest and sincere as you describe why you should be considered for the position. Remember, employers are looking for people, not just skillsets. With the right attitude and mindset, you might just beat-out the person that has more experience, but doesn’t fit the company’s culture as well as you.

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