Find a Co-op at the career fair
The career fair provides the chance to speak with some of the many companies hiring Aggie Engineers. Take the next step in finding your next co-op, internship or job!
If you’re like me and don’t exactly know what you want to do after graduation, but desire a real, hands-on way of exploring engineering, consider a co-op. A co-op is an extended internship that can also count as a technical elective. Think “cooperative education” with a company. Although it may delay graduation, the co-op’s semester(s) in length allows for a quality work experience. Companies often rotate you through different positions, allowing you to get a taste of each potential role and uncover your engineering likes and dislikes. This can prove invaluable for your future career.
Here’s the path I took to obtain a co-op for fall 2021. The same strategies can also be useful while searching for an internship or entry-level position, if you are pursuing those.
1) Find a Company
Create a list of target companies that pique your interest. I started brainstorming by browsing the career fair attendance sheet and searched online using HireAggies and Google. Since the career fair was virtual, I booked virtual meetings for the fair to talk to recruiters. I also sent my resume and cover letter to companies online.
2) Prepare to Showcase Yourself
Polish your resume, LinkedIn, elevator pitch and HireAggies. For my resume, the career guide came in handy for formatting and content examples. I also attended resume reviews: events where recruiters from top-notch companies discuss and edit your resume in an informal, friendly environment. You can register for these through your department or the Career Center, so check your email and the Career Center’s events calendar.
Most students work 98 percent on resume/LinkedIn and 2 percent on interviewing. Not good! Consider scheduling a Career Center appointment for mock interviews; they can help you understand what to say and how to attract employers. It may sound silly, but I also remember giving my elevator pitch to a wall over and over and over. It helped me untwist my tongue, get the stuttering out of my system, and walk confidently into the real thing.
3) Interview with a Smile
Finally, the actual interviews arrived. I dressed for success in a suit and tie. (If needed, these can be rented for free at the MSC’s Career Closet.) The recruiter would typically begin by asking “tell me about yourself,” so with a smile, I gave my elevator pitch explaining my major, interests and the kind of position I was looking for. We would then have a conversation about career aspirations and experience. Afterwards, most of the recruiters said I wasn’t their ideal candidate, since I was only a sophomore, or that they did not have a co-op.
Rejection is a part of life. Don’t let it cripple you. While I could have ended the conversation there, I instead asked more questions to evaluate the company as a future employer. After all, that is why recruiters are here: to talk to students! “Why do you personally work for Company XYZ?” was my go-to question. I remember talking to a recruiter who provided real, concrete ways that her company cared for its employees and made her work meaningful. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.
4) Wait…Wait Some More, and Decide
Companies can drastically differ in the length of their decision-making process, so don’t panic. One company offered me a job in less than two weeks, another took a month and another still hasn’t gotten back to me. A good rule of thumb is to send a friendly check-in email after two weeks. Once you accept an offer, celebrate! However, be respectful of other companies, and notify them that you are no longer available.
Although the job search can be intimidating, it is a worthwhile experience. You learn to assertively pursue what you want. I am thrilled to start my co-op, but ultimately I’m excited to discover where my engineering interests lie. My biggest piece of advice is this: do not be afraid. It is possible for you to land that job — even if you are an underclassmen. If you want it, then get after it. You have the whole Aggie network cheering you on.