January 24, 2011

Ready, Set, GO! Taking Advantage of the Economic Recovery

The semester begins next Monday and there is a sense of urgency. Things are definitely moving in the economy. Students and alumni are being interviewed for internships and career positions in ever increasing numbers. We have had more jobs posted in the first 20 days of January 2011 than we received in all of January 2010. We now have twice as many companies signed up for Career Day 2011 as we did by this point in January 2010. 36 organizations have now signed up with a reported 1066 openings to fill over the next 6 to 12 months. I am hopeful that we will have 50 to 60 companies by March 11th - Career Day - 2011.

The job market for engineers is no where near what it was a few years ago but it is definitely picking up from the lows of zero hiring. For students and serious job seekers things are looking promising. If you are ready to move rapidly, the door is open for now - it is hard to say if it will open wider or if it might slam shut. Do not delay!

Preparing yourself to respond to internship and career opportunities and for Career Day hiring starts now! The time line is short what with all of the demands on your time if you are a student. If you want to get a job by June, you need to start moving in high gear now before your classes start screaming down on you! The first few weeks of the semester are tame (comparatively speaking). If you are in the market now as a new grad- this is your full time (50 hour per week) job.

You will need to be prepared to present yourself as the most qualified candidate- with the right knowledge and skills for the job. This is not as difficult as it sounds if you are ready to do the work.

Showing up unprepared and unpolished in an interview or at a job fair is not going to beat the competition. Looking good, with the right answers to the tough questions is what is required. That takes company research, self analysis, and practice. Over preparation is required. Think about it like you would your most challenging final exam. (Nothing like a bad interview to jolt you.) That is what it is- the ultimate final exam- where everything pays off.

So how can you to take advantage of the improving market?

Start by taking a career planning class. The earlier the better! One enterprising student took my class as a freshman and was a frequent visitor in my office as a junior and as a senior. Rod Baybayan (BSME 2009) took his first job as a labbie here in ECS; his second job was with the California Energy Commission; his third job was with the California Fuel Cell Partnership; his forth student job was with Sac Regional Transit. When Sac RT could not offer him a career position in December of 2009, they helped him connect with PGH Wong Engineering in San Francisco, where he worked until December on a rail system from upper Sonoma County to Larkspur in Marin County. His dream job came through in December 2010 when he was offered a job with the Honolulu Rapid Transit Authority to work on developing a rapid transit system. According to Rod, “The decision for rail as the solution for the islands’ congestion is certainly one that is overdue and to think that I will be part of this solution is an engineers’ dream come true”. Rod had a way of positioning himself in the right place at the right time and moving to ever more interesting places over the course of his education. He credits taking the career planning class early on in his academic career with giving him the direction he needed to get the ultimate job in Paradise.

Write and polish your professional resume. It is really important! If you do it right, your resume will help you define who you are. It will be the catalyst for getting interviews and for the questions you will be asked in an interview. Do it wrong and you will be ignored and sadly unemployed.

Develop and practice your elevator speech. This is a 3X5 introduction of yourself in a tight squeeze. You will find yourself in many brief encounters that could easily lead you to a job and a career if you do it right. Do it wrong or fail to do it and you will be immediately forgotten.

Get one very nice interview outfit and one casual professional outfit. The value of a polished image cannot be overestimated. The damage of a sloppy appearance can be underestimated. One student who was lucky enough to get an interview last semester showed up in flip flops when told to dress casual. The employer was not impressed.

You do not have to break the bank to look good. There are tons of shopping options in all price ranges:

* Expensive: Nordstrom’s
* Mid Range: Macy’s
* Cheap: Men’s Wearhouse, JC Penny, or Macy’s on sale
* Really cheap (and often taking more time): thrift stores
* For the shopping impaired: Lands’ End on-line

Prepare for interviews. Most people don’t so if you do, you will definitely stand out. People are lazy. They want things to come easily. They expect that if they have a degree and some experience and just show up- they have the job cinched. They wander into an interview unprepared. That is such a foolish mistake. I cannot tell you how many jolted job seekers I have coached over the years who suffered from over confidence in the initial phase of their job search. They quickly learned that it is all about preparation. In many instances the lesser qualified candidate gets the job because they have done their homework. Be prepared to answer what you know about the employer, the job, and why you are the best candidate for the job.

Do the work and the rewards will land you a job in your idea of Paradise.