September 19, 2013

Climb On!

I went rock climbing for the first time this past summer at my daughter’s insistence. I was not really into it… I had a lot of anxiety about it and I spent time thinking about a ton of ways to get out of it. My daughter, Elizabeth, said "you do yoga; it is just like yoga on the wall". It is not – it is way more challenging. I went up the wall once came down and hugged the floor and said to myself – "done that, moving on."

Not so fast… My daughter’s birthday was this week and she insisted once again that I rock climb with her. That was what she wanted for her birthday present. No excuses were sufficient – "I’m too tired…" "I have a headache …" "I just want to sit and visit grandma…" all fell on deaf ears. So once again I pulled on the climbing harness and too-tight shoes and up the wall I went. Surprisingly, it was not as hard the second time. Amazingly - I kind of liked it. I liked the belaying best. That is when you hold the ropes for someone else who is climbing. They shout out – "Ready to climb!" and you say "Climb on!"

As the person who belays, you are responsible for the safety of others – holding the rope line and pulling in the slack. You are also responsible for encouraging people to take the next step - to move up - and challenge themselves.

It is always hard to tackle something new – to move on to the next big challenge in life. But maybe it is time for you to "Climb on!" even if you think you are not ready.

Everyone thinks there is plenty of time before they have to climb into the job market. That after a layoff you have time before jumping back in...  But it is imperative that you get back in as soon as possible.  Skills atrophy, motivation wanes, and expertise becomes obsolete.  You lose your edge and employers know it...

Students frequently tell me that that they believe you have to wait until you are in your upper division courses before employers will seriously consider you for internships.  That is foolish thinking.  Students should start getting work experience as early as possible in a job that teaches you new things and challenges you.  You also need to learn the the basics - team, leadership, organization skills and how to show up on time, do your best work, and have a good attitude. My daughter had a job from the time she was a sophomore in high school. That is the problem with being a career counselor’s daughter – no excuses are good enough and no slack is cut on it.

Why start early? Because you will have more experience by the time you graduate, an understanding of what it is to be a professional in your field, and you will almost be guaranteed a job with your summer or internship employer if you do a good job and want to stay.

Summer jobs are a perfect way to challenge yourself and to start the climb into your career. You do not need experience nor is there a set level that qualifies you to apply. Many employers care more about your skill set than they do about your educational level.

One computer engineering student, Jose Rosas spent the summer at PMC Sierra in Roseville. He is a sophomore and thought he needed more classes or work experience before he would be employable in engineering. He had never held a job before – none. Turns out the managers at PMC Sierra really liked the fact that he helped people fix their computers.

Jose not only spent the summer doing challenging computer engineering work, but he was offered continuing part-time employment with flexible hours and he is being assured that, if he continues to do well, he has a job waiting for him at graduation. And he is only a sophomore!

Starting early means not only starting to work early in your academic career but also, if you want a job by next summer, you need to start the process now. Some companies start the application process in October or November and by late in the application process, many of the jobs are gone. For example Disney opens summer internship applications in early fall and starts making offers for the next summer internships whenever they catch a talented candidate. Disney jobs fill fast!

Tyler Bal, an electrical controls engineering major, spent his second summer at Disney Imagineering at the Disney Resorts in Anaheim – you know, Disneyland! He started pursuing Disney five or six months before his first summer internship in 2012. He kept in touch with the managers he met during his first summer internship and was hired to work on all kinds of fun, challenging projects this summer - making the Disney experience more magical for park guests. He had an opportunity to network with engineers and engineering managers in multiple departments and at multiple Disney operations. He learned some really important lessons – in ride control, engineering is invisible if it works; but in show control, engineering is visible if it works! Tyler also learned that Disney managers do not hire anyone who has not done an internship with the company. When he graduates in the spring of 2014 he hopes to be hired by Disney, but he is being proactive by continuing to keep in touch with the Disney managers he met through his internships.

Ken Forsthoff, a mechanical engineering major, will graduate this December with a job offer in hand from The Wine Group in Rippon, CA. He spent this past summer doing all kinds of interesting engineering and non-engineering jobs. He thinks his offer wasn’t an accident – "Its about the hustle - meeting deadlines, doing everything with enthusiasm, and being proactive." He has advice for interns and new employees: "look for things to do if you are not busy, ask questions, and look professional all of the time." He says it is important to look like the job you want. He wore a collared shirt every day even when the work was dirty and tedious. He believes that if you want a career offer, you have to work hard to prove yourself and look the part. There is no tolerance for slackers.

Ken also learned the value of working for a good boss – "a good boss empowers you and a bad boss diminishes you." Luckily his boss at The Wine Group was great!

Raghu Karamballi, a computer science MS student, spent his summer experience with PayPal doing mobile device programming. The company not only paid him a great salary for his summer internship but they also provided an apartment for him to live in over the summer; sent him to conferences; invited him to lunch with managers every Friday; he was given an iphone and a tablet and top end hardware for his work; he was provided with refreshments all day everyday; and best of all he got a really great job offer with amazing incentives to start upon graduation in May of 2014.

The time is now to get your job search started. Next Wednesday there is a job fair in the University Union Ballroom from 10 AM to 2 PM. Show up dressed nice with a resume!

You are "ready to climb!" so "Climb on!"

I am there to belay if you need help.