Opinion - Hunting for an Engineering Job

As many graduating college students have discovered in the past few years, this economy has had a significant effect on the job hunting process. Graduating students have chosen to pursue a graduate degree because it is often more financially feasible than to simply search for a job and remain unemployed. Students who have taken out loans for their undergraduate education also find themselves with the option of deferring the loan payments until after they finish graduate school, providing yet another incentive to continue to hit the books.

Speaking from the point of view of an engineering student, it has become increasingly simple to search and apply for positions, yet increasingly difficult to interact with a human representative. To expedite the process of receiving and filtering through potential candidates, companies have turned to online applications. These applications are extremely convenient in that potential employees can create a resume account and efficiently search for jobs that meet their occupational preferences. Some organization websites even have a general form which upon completion will put the candidate in the running for any potential job that may become available and meeting their specifications. These websites have undoubtedly aided the companies in their search for the employees and have certainly helped countless people find employment; however, for some it can also amount to a frustrating experience. I was extremely fortunate in college. I had worked diligently in my engineering studies and had a 4.0 GPA in a dual major, had done two internships with NASA, and had been awarded several scholarships including the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. There I was in 2007 searching for my next summer internship, and all I wanted was to intern at a private aerospace company. I point out my GPA and my achievements to note that I am not sure what I could have done better to deserve or earn an internship. I searched online for the three major aerospace companies that came to mind: The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman and proceeded to apply for internship positions. The Boeing Company website allowed me to begin a resume account and search for positions using key words such as “intern” and “flight controls”. The Northrop Grumman website allowed me to search the division I was interested in and submit a resume/general application. Lockheed Martin’s website also allowed me to submit a similar general application, but truth be told, I was almost overwhelmed by the process that I do not remember it in any detail. As far as how the coming months progressed following my application process with those companies, it was hot and cold. To my delight I was able to track my application status on the Boeing website. As soon as I applied for a job, I received an auto-generated e-mail advising me that they received my application and I could track my status. I was able to see the jobs I applied for and my applications status online. If I was under consideration for a position, the website let me know. As soon as my application was tossed out of the running, the website let me know. I appreciated the fact that I knew where I stood with Boeing, and I was even more delighted when I learned that I would get a phone interview and was able to begin interacting with people. As for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, the website did not allow me to track my application. Luckily, Boeing hired me, and I had an excellent summer working with the flight controls group for the 787 Dreamliner in Everett, Washington. One other important moment during my time in college that I will always remember happened at a professional conference. I visited a Northrop Grumman representative to hand them my resume to apply for an internship. At this time I had added to my list of internships, extracurricular activities, and awards and had maintained my 4.0 GPA. Again, I am not sure what else I could have done to better prepare myself for employment. I spoke with the representative and they were taking resumes for internships. I handed the representative my resume and she glanced over it for a minute and returned it to me. She refused it because I was not from a certain school. West Virginia University was not one of their preferred schools to pull interns from, and out of all of the internship positions at that center, all were guaranteed to certain schools except for five. Had I had gone to one of those designated schools, I could have maintained a lower GPA and possibly had a better chance at obtaining one of those coveted internships. I do not detail these processes as an attack on Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman because they are great companies and clearly they have had success finding wonderful employees with their online application process and recruiting. I merely would like to describe the experiences that many students and potential employees have had when they are searching for their internship or job and have the online barrier with no real assurance that the computer, let alone any human, has received their application. Now as I have begun my real job hunt and I apply for jobs through the Lockheed Martin website, I must say that it has become extremely user-friendly and I have enjoyed searching and applying for jobs that interest me. As for the recruiting process from designated schools – I understand and appreciate this process. But doesn’t it make more sense to designate five positions for a given institution and allow more positions for everyone else to apply for? The companies may be doing a disservice to themselves by eliminating excellent students before they even have a chance to apply due to their income level and what college they were able to afford. This is something that I hope companies improve in the future as students who work hard and do the “right” things to put themselves in a position for employment are not turned away before they are even considered. I have spoken to many students who have had similar experiences and have been frustrated by these scenarios because they would love nothing more than to work for these companies that are nothing short of their heroes. I know each one of those companies that I have discussed impresses me every day, and as I graduate in May, would want nothing more than to call myself a member of their team. As students move nearer to graduation in May we come to the realization that things are picking up in the economy, but the job outlook may still not be so great. Specifically for an aerospace engineer, this is an interesting time to search for jobs. After the shift of the space industry toward commercialization, many contracted employees for these aerospace titans find themselves in search of a new job. This complicates the job hunt for students who are graduating and trying to find work because many people with real job experience are also now vying for those positions. To all of you college students out there preparing to graduate and step into the real world – good luck and hang in there. We will find our place and hopefully have exciting careers ahead of us.

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