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Recent ECE grads offer tips for job seekers

Max Petri (right) talks with Danny Rellergert and Ryan Lorton of Black and Veatch at the Fall 2012 Engineering Career Fair. ECE alumni Ryan Dickherber and Carly Eastman both said the Engineering Career Fairs are a good resource for new and upcoming graduates who are looking for a job.

The College of Engineering offers a wealth of advice and guidance to assist graduating students looking for a job. The Office of Career and Professional Development hosts a career fair, advises graduating students on resumes, helps students practice interview skills and gives job search advice.

But what about recent graduates who landed a job? We asked two recent electrical and computer engineering grads what advice they had for current students. Here’s what they had to say.

Ryan Dickherber is an electrical design and analysis engineer at The Boeing Co.’s Satellite Development Center. He’s a 2011 electrical and computer engineering alumnus. Carly Eastman is an electrical engineer at Burns & McDonnell in Kansas City. She also graduated in 2011.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were in college?

Ryan Dickherber (RD): “As an electrical design engineer, feedback and control theory is a necessary course, even though the college doesn’t make it mandatory.”

Carly Eastman (CE): “So much emphasis is put on internships and co-ops. While that is extremely helpful, it’s not make or break. A slightly lower GPA is not a deal breaker either. As long as you can present yourself well and have some positive experiences you can normally get an in. Also I don’t feel recruiters care that much about resumes. Basically don’t stress about things that don’t matter and focus more on you. That’s who companies are hiring — you — not your resume or cover letter or something else that is subjective.

“You are going to have bad interviews; you are going to have awkward conversations with recruiters but all you have to do is put your best foot forward and you will have a job.”

What you can be doing now to boost your potential?

CE: “Take on any opportunity to volunteer, lead or participate in a group. I was in several organizations including Engineering Student Council and got to plan the freshman barbecue. That’s the kind of thing an employer will ask about.

“Get involved in something that has nothing to do with engineering. Most employers want a well-rounded person who can add something to their corporate culture. I was involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters and taught at a dance studio. More often than not I was asked about these non-engineering activities and I was always surprised by that.”

RD: “Choose senior design projects that are challenging and closely related to career paths of interest. Design projects are a good way to design, analyze, troubleshoot and figure out how hardware behaves and how that relates to the theory learned in the classroom.

“Be active and show leadership in campus activities like professional organizations, clubs, undergraduate research, affinity groups or Greek life. Internships are the best way to test drive a company and for a student to gain real world experience.”

What looks good on a resume?

RD: “It is never too early to look for an internship… I would also consider undergraduate research as a fundamental building block in my education and ability to obtain my job. Undergraduate research gives students the opportunity to work on state-of-the-art technologies and work through problems to help gain knowledge outside of the classroom that extends far above and beyond the curriculum of any classes offered to undergraduates.”

CE: “Honestly as a college student it’s hard to have a good resume. It’s more important for it just to be clean and direct with name, discipline, objective, and GPA easily seen. Also don’t take trends so seriously. Everyone and every company has a different standard. It’s better to be clean and simple than super trendy. Use the resume paper in the career services office. Bring a flash drive with your resume to any career fair, interview or recruitment event. Sometimes you can upload it right there on their computer.”

Where to look for the job:

RD: “There are many good places to look, including career fair, Hire Mizzou Tigers website, professional society websites (IEEE job search), and browse through job openings at companies of interest.”

CE: “I found out about my job through the career fair. My best advice is to use all of the resources available up until the career fair. Study the list of companies and what they are looking for, look them up in recent news, keep a list of who you want to see, make notes to look at just before talking with recruiters. Have a game plan. Don’t go in blind.”

How to get the interview:

RD: “I got my interview by contacting a manager who was hiring for a different position, and he contacted my manager — who was also hiring — informing my manager that I could be a good candidate. In my opinion, experience is the most predominant factor for getting a call for an interview. At that point, the applicant has the opportunity to shine beyond the confines of the single 8.5“ x 11” sheet of paper, to impress the hiring manager. “

CE: “The hardest part is the recruiters see a lot of qualified candidates and may overlook some due to pure volume of people they see in a day. So take advantage of getting any and all face time.”

Preparing for the interview:

CE: “Most companies do the STAR format so look up a few standard questions online and plan out the S,T,A,R so you aren’t blindsided trying to come up with detailed answers on the spot. Have a few situations planned to talk about. A simple group assignment described articulately can be impressive. Always run a search on the company for current news stories. Understanding what is currently happening with the company can be important and give you an in for an insightful question or comment.

“Also, I used glassdoor.com as a great resource! They have company profiles with salaries, company reviews and typical interview questions that people post and rate their job or interview experience. As much as you are advertising yourself for a company, they are doing the same for you. If the company is rated poorly or their employees are posting bad experiences that may be a warning sign. Ask about work-life balance, employee reviews and corporate culture. You are the one that has to be there every day!”

RD: “I had an impromptu technical interview, thus not allowing for any preparation, but my preparation for the structured interview was my experience from previous interviews for internships and other job applications.”