Advice from Alumni
We asked college alumni what they wished they had known as students that would have better prepared them for their first job. Many of them enthusiastically responded with tidbits of advice to help you leave school prepared to excel in your career.
It’s no surprise that a large number of alumni advised students to gain experience while still in school. Nothing beats the knowledge you’ll learn from hands-on work in the real world.
“Get experience NOW. Figure out what you want to do and get a job doing it. The education is good to have but the experience is what will get you hired.” – Derek Caswell
“If at all possible, get a summer job in the industry and with a company you might consider working for after graduation. We have hired students temporarily and then later brought them on full-time after they graduate. There is no better way to get a peek at a future career than to do it for a summer.” –Robert Chappell
“Seriously look at Internships between your junior/senior years or whenever appropriate. They give you networking opportunities, practical experiences, build confidence and show potential post-graduation employers that you already have practical experience.” –Curtis Conkey
You’ve probably already heard the cliché phrase that dominates the job market “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Alumni agree that one of the best ways to secure a successful career is to build your network and keep it strong.
“Network, network, network, that's the biggest way you get jobs.” –Carissa Pavlakos
“Network! It will be the key to opening whatever career doors you're after all across the spectrum, whether it's a large company where you network into the hiring-decision-makers, or as an entrepreneur where connections become anything from partners to customers.” –James Paul Vaterlaus
Many graduates also expressed the need for students to be able to communicate. While technical skills are important, being able to communicate clearly with your superiors, peers and employees is crucial to a successful career.
“Being able to clearly and succinctly communicate, either written or verbal, is so very important. You can always network and leverage the engineering skills and knowledge from more experienced engineers; but you are the one responsible for what, and how, the details are communicated.” –Hal Leifson
“Learn to communicate your engineering knowledge and ideas. Speaking, listening, reading, writing, sketching, drawing, expressing, composing... And do so thoughtfully, respectfully, with integrity and with a desire to lift and build your peers, your leaders, and your followers. If you do so, opportunity will flow your direction, and solutions will flow from your mind, heart, and spirit. You will be a leader in the general, most effective sense.” –Ken Hardman
As a student, you have the unique opportunity to take classes in a wide range of emphases. Every class offers valuable knowledge if you’re willing to put in the effort to learn from it.
“Take an elective class that you think might eventually help you in your career that might be a little off-the-beaten-path. When you take your first job, you will be surprised how specialized your knowledge base needs to be to do well in your job, but how important it is to not forget the fundamentals you learned in school.” –Chelisa Pack
“Grab a business management or accounting course. Principles there will drive your manager's decisions much more than engineering principles.” –Derek Skousen
“Pay attention to your technical writing class, make statistics your best friend, and have fun taking on the hardest problems.” – James Engle
The advice received from alumni extended beyond things you can do during school to important things to remember in the workplace.
“Do not have a sense of entitlement. Be willing to work your way up (both in salary and in position). Earn your reputation.
“Be willing to step up and own everything that is delegated to you. Don't just bring problems, but rather, think through solutions and bring the issue with proposed solutions to your manager. Take initiative and have passion for what you do.” –Brian Stewart