Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Feel the Love

Hey Y'all,

Check out for more career resources and insights.

Don't forget that if you have any questions about certain career-related issues you may be having you can e-mail them to me at

That's all!

-Eva McSpartan

P.S. More to come in the near future! Oh, and if you have a google account, please click the "Follow" button on the right side of the site. Following my blog will give you updates every time I post something new. I promise not to spam your inbox with lame entries!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Becoming One With Your Anxiety: Dealing With Graduating 101

For anyone like me who is starting the process of graduating in the next academic year and may be mildly OCD (hypothetically), there's a solid chance that you're starting to feel the pressure that comes with having to start acting like a bonified grown up. To be perfectly honest, I'm about 5 months away from my big bad graduation ceremony and I'm definitely starting to feel the anxiety of having to make some major decisions. I guess it's natural, but for a control freak like myself, it kind of stinks.

While I know it is only natural to be a little intimidated by the future, it is a good reminder that any of us who are graduating in the near future really need to get our act together. To be perfectly honest (sorry if this is a little too frank), many of my classmates who were not able to find employment after graduation may have had some particular flaws in their search process that significantly decreased their likelihood of finding employment. I'm not here to bash everyone's search, though. I'm here to tell you what to do to prevent an all-out employment scramble when you graduate.

Here it goes...

1 - Be Open...Don't Judge Too Quickly...Get Off Your High Horse

One thing that many students figured out in the last few years is that many companies are pretty quick to employ interns or co-ops if you put yourself out there. For many people in my class, finding an internship or co-op for the summer was a little like finding mold in dorm showers. Easy, right? Things have changed. Many qualified students are coming short of offers and being forced to find alternative paths for getting experience. This is not a bad thing, but it is a new challenge. One your biggest assets during competitive times like these is to be open to new and different things. While students could get away with pigeon-holing themselves and still finding good jobs a few years ago, that is NOT the case any more. Unless you have some serious connections, there's a solid chance you are going to have to shop around. These are no longer times to sit on a high horse and wonder why nobody wants to hire you. Hop off your horse and make it hard for companies not to want to hire you. It's going to take effort, but the results should be positive.

2 - Make it Hard for Companies NOT to Hire You

Think that putting out a general resume and lame cover letters (or no cover letter) is going to get you the job of your dreams? Wrong! Quit dreaming and start acting. Make it hard for companies NOT to hire you by perfecting your resume and cover letter to state your intentions, interest, and qualifications. Use these two documents as tools to show off your strengths you've honed from experiences at school and in industry, and also verbalize your interest in a company by showing that you've done your homework well enough to point out specific things that make you want to work for that company. Students entering the current job market need to understand that with less jobs on the table, they need to start putting forward their best foot to stay in the job race. There's no excuse for sending out weak resumes or wimpy cover letters. If you really want that job, go get it!

3 - Get Down with Your Chatty Self

Especially when it comes to engineers, communication can be a fatal flaw in our ability to convey ourselves. Some of the most brilliant students I know who can kick my butt in any and all of our classes are still unable to sell themselves well enough to also kick butt in the job market. To be completely honest, you can be the best at what you do, but if you cannot communicate your goals and ideas to other people, you are going to seriously struggle in industry. Don't let this get you down if this is something you need to work on because it is something that you can work on.

Here's an example. Let's say you have this amazing idea to starting building an entire line of wheelchair parts out of a new carbon fiber derived material instead of the usual aluminum parts. Using a certain class of materials and a rockin' new design you've come up with, you can literally make a wheelchair in half as much time, with half as much money, and with twice the benefit to the customer because they get the same support with a lighter design. Awesome, right? The only problem is that you cannot for the life of you communicate your new idea to your manager or marketing in order to get the funding to make the chair and save the company tons of money. At this point, no one will ever know about this great opportunity as long as you're unable to communicate it.

At this point, it is time to figure out how you are going to effectively communicate your idea to the appropriate people to get the project rolling. If you struggle with presenting in front of other people, try practicing your presentation in front of the mirror or with a peer to gain confidence with your presenting skills. Maybe you can't seem to find the right way to explain your new idea to an non-technical audience. In this case, it would be a good idea to get together with someone you know who has a technical background, but a working role in the business side of things. Use this person as a sounding board for toning down the technical nature of our presentation and enhancing the all-important business-wide benefits of your new idea.

While I know that transitioning into the "real world" can be difficult and most likely will be difficult, it is important to focus on the things you can do to make this transition as beneficial as possible. Sitting back and thinking that everything will turn out alright doesn't work if you haven't put the time in to ensure that there's a small chance of it going wrong. We all know life can change and our paths can vary, but putting yourself in a position to succeed is going to be very important during the time leading up to graduation.

Phew. Take a deep breath everyone. While this whole process of becoming a full-fledged adult can be intimidating, it is also a part of life that can be a stepping stone to great opportunities and challenges. If you keep a positive attitude and roll with the bumps along the way, there's a solid chance you'll be able to get through this time of your life in one piece.

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Beware Boys and Girls...School Is Approaching!

I'd hate to start a panic of any sort, but let it be known that classes start in roughly 6 weeks! If you're like me and graduating in less than 6 months or even looking at something closer to a 6 year kind of plan, how you prepare for going back to school will set the tone for the beginning of your semester. Now I know that many of you may be saying "What the heck. I just got out of school. I have to start like thinking about student groups and jobs and how I'm going to make the most out of my time at school?" Yes. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you should probably start thinking about all of these things. Don't worry, there's still plenty of warm weather and lazy afternoons left before the hustle and bustle of school.

The first order of business with preparing for the upcoming school year is to figure out the logistics of all your academics. Are you signed up for the classes you need to be? Do you need to schedule an appointment with your adviser to talk about your future? Make sure that these details are figured out before you set a toe on campus so that when you actually get there you'll have one less thing to worry about.

The second order of business is figuring out what you need to do this year to make your experience better. I don't necessarily mean that you need to start looking into social etiquette classes or clocking more hours at the gym, I'm talking looking at the weaknesses on your resume and figuring out what you can do to make them strengths. For example, if you have absolutely nothing to do with ANY student groups on campus, you need to start thinking about joining one if you can make the time for it. Student groups are a great way to meet people with similar interests to you, get leadership experience, and get exposed to different areas of campus. Michigan State has literally hundreds of student groups on campus ranging in interest groups from sports to arts. If you are really interested in something and there isn't a club on campus that meets your interests, you can ever start your own club! Here are a few websites that may help you figure out what student organization is good for you:

Attending events like Sparticiation will help you figure out what groups may be good for you as well. One tip I have for any underclassmen is to attend several events for a variety of student groups you may be interested in with the intention of keeping only one or two memberships long term. If you tend to keep yourself inside your comfort zone or feel a little shy, getting involved with student groups is going to be a good way for you to reach outside your comfort zone and meet new people. Everyone has been the "new kid" before. Rolling with the initial awkwardness is well worth it when the end result is making friends, learning something new, and enjoying yourself. Plus you can put your student organization memberships on your resume!

The third and final order of business for preparing for school is getting ready to take your career search to a new level! Some things that should definitely be on your "To Do" list for this fall include:
  • Get your resume critiqued at the Center for Spartan Engineering.
  • Speak with your academic adviser and career adviser about your future.
  • Sign up for a mock interview.
  • Register on MySpartanCareer ( with your updated resume.
  • Sign up to attend the Career Gallery Job Fair at the Breslin Center and make sure to attend the Pre-Gallery Cram Session in October.
  • Stay tuned to this blog for tips on resume development, interviewing skills, and much more!
That's all for now! If you have any questions about getting ready for this fall or can think of something I've missed, shoot me an e-mail at

Like always,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Noteworthy Article about Internships

Check out this article from Heather Huhman:

It continues on the theme of making the most of your internship to prepare for full-time prospects.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Art of the Midterm Review

Believe or not boys and girls, we have officially reached the half way point of the summer! Hopefully you feel like the first part of your summer was great and are optimistic that the 2nd part will be even better.

For anyone who is interning right now, one thing you may be preparing for is your midterm review (if you company you are working for conducts these). While reviews can be a little stressful, they can also be incredibly beneficial. The key to a constructive midterm review is to do your homework. Make sure that you have written down specifics on some of your major projects so far and also looked over the review format to give yourself an idea of what kinds of questions you're going to get feedback on and will have to answer.

During your actual review, it is important to regard this experience as more than just a time where your employer to tell you all the things you've been doing poorly. If you walk into your midterm review and that is in fact all that they have to say about you, it is time to start asking questions and find out what you can do to improve your performance. In most cases, your employer is going to give you feedback on what you did well and what you should work on. This a good thing. Receiving your constructive criticism then taking steps to improve your performance in these areas will set you apart from the pack. Espcially if you are a younger intern and still have the opportunity to intern with this company or another company before you graduate.

An example of a constructive criticism that you may receive during a midterm review is that you may need to improve your communication. This could mean several things. You may struggle with communicating your ideas to other engineers, managers, etc. If this is something you need to work on, think of better ways to get your ideas across. One good thing to do is to write down what you're trying to convey. Having a little cheat sheet with all the details you wanted to discuss will keep you from blanking out and also help you support your ideas.

Another disconnect in communication may be how you communicate with others on a day-to-day basis. To be frank, one thing that engineers generally struggle with is their ability to communicate in general. I know this a typical stereotype and not all engineers struggle with communication, but for anyone who does struggle with this, there are steps you can take to improve your communication skills. Here are a few examples:
  • Smile! It may seem simple, but smiling and being positive with your co-workers conveys that you are open to conversation. Even if you're having a bad day, taking it out on other people by being negative to them will not help you AT ALL. Just because something is getting you down doesn't mean you have to take everyone else with you.
  • Find opportunities to improve your skills. Doing things like being involved in social events with other interns or your co-workers, volunteering to make a presentation or lead a meeting, and talking to someone in person instead of e-mailng them are all ways to work on your communication skills. The key to many of these is to take yourself away from electronic modes of communication and actual interact one-on-one.
Make sense? I hope so!

So now that you know how to receive your constructive criticism and grow from it, the next step of your internship is going to be applying those improvements to you day-to-day work. In addition to this, you and your employer should set goals for the remainder of your experience. This is so that when you go to do your final review, you will have some top projects to discuss and hopefully some deliverables to present.

While reviews can be stressful situations, it is important to look at them as more than just an opportunity to get your behind handed to you for showing up to work late too many times or sleeping at your desk. Take your constructive criticism as an opportunity for improvement and a way to show your employer that you can make progress working on your weaknesses. Also, keep a mind set that you should find ways to make it hard for your employer to demerit your work. Find ways to be innovative, thorough, and positive in your work every day and I can almost guarantee that your employer will be hard pressed to give you a terrible review.

I hope this information is beneficial! If anyone has questions that they'd like me to address or feedback about this or past entries, shoot me an e-mail at

As usual,

Good Luck Job Seekers!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Career Search Tactics: Creating Company Profiles

In contrast to the last few weeks' entries, this week I'd like to focus on something more specific to your actual job search. For anyone looking at co-ops for the Spring 2010 semester or who will be graduating after the Fall 2009 semester, this tactic will hopefully help you in your search and also with your interviewing skills.

The first step to this process is to figure out what companies you'd like to create profiles for. You can do this with the help of the career search blurb at the bottom of this blog which helps you refine your top company list.

After you have created your company list, you can use that information to create company profiles. Here's what to do. Once you know who you'd like to research, get out a piece of paper, or make an Excel or Word document. On this page, make a table with the following categories:
  • Company Name
  • URL of Company Website
  • Size of Company (Number of Employees, Divisions, Etc.)
  • Locations (Headquarters, Plant Locations, Regional Headquarters, Etc.)
  • Financial Profile (Annual Income, Trends over the last 5-10 years, Stock trends, etc.)
  • Recent News (Significant news relating to company over the last few years)
  • Products/Services (General list of products and services provided by the company)
  • Company Contacts (List any contacts you may know at the company)

The advantage of making company profiles with these categories is that you can not only use them to prepare for interviews, but you can also use them if you are considering multiple offers from different companies. By utilizing a one-stop resource for useful information, you'll be able to make more informed decisions when the time comes to decide on which company is going to be best of you.

Confused on where to find this information? Most companies' websites actually have the majority of this information. Larger companies will generally publish their most recent annual reports which contain useful information like their annual income, company size, and major changes in company structure or significant mergers, acquisitions, etc. Some companies also publish fact sheets with many of these details as well.

Doing your research is one of the the most valuable things you can do to expand your job search. Making company profiles like the one suggested above with help you be moved informed of significant company information so that when you speak with recruiters, interview, or consider job offers, you'll be informed and ready for action.

As usual,

Good Luck Job Seekers!