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Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Hello everyone, I am new to this forum so if this isn't the right place to post this inquiry, I apologize. I recently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Central Florida with 3 years of research and internship experience at NASA. For the past 3 months I have spent many hours applying online to companies including Lockheed, Northrop, NASA, Jacobs, and others for career positions matching my skill set, mostly in R&D and design. So far, this hasn't yielded any results.

I understand there are a considerable amount of experienced engineers applying for same positions. Possibly even some of you, have encountered this experience early in your careers. I was wondering if anyone had a situation similar to mine, and if so, how did you manage to get your foot in the door? Any and all advice is greatly appreciated!

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

"many hours applying online"

Balance that with attempts to apply in person. It is more time consuming and difficult, but the odds of success are dramatically better when you are there, especially if you are also well prepared. Try to have contacts that will meet you at the prospective company, almost regardless of their position or rank they can at the very least open the front door. If you have done some internships then you know many people who have many contacts. Any one of them might be the key person to open a door for you. Don't worry about how it sounds "hi, I haven't talked to you in years, but do you know anyone that's hiring?" Lots of people have been there so just get over it.

Your education sounds first-rate, but they may not have prepared you to understand the aviation industry as a whole. That would give you more insight into activity and who could be hiring. If your horizon has only been R&D, then you could be missing some important parts of the aviation, aerospace, and space industry.

A fellow classmate of mine struggled for work for about a year after graduating. I got a nice job right out of school so at first it seemed like I was doing better. Then through contacts, Cadets and other activities he met enough people that he clicked with someone - after a few falling dominoes he got a fantastic opportunity with a special-missions conversion shop and his career really took off from there.

So there's hope for you. Just remember to expose yourself to good luck, too.


RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

My experience in applying online to the big name companies is that often the response time is several weeks or even months. This can cause scheduling problems for you down the road. These companies are popular and get lots of applicants. To the person sifting through the stack of resumes, someone else's resume will always look better than yours. To echo Sparweb, it will work in your favor if you can swing an in-person visit or interview. The aircraft engineering industry is a small world and you should use whatever contacts you can from college professors or from your internship to your advantage.

Also, do not be afraid to call a company that you are interested in and ask if they are hiring even if there are no positions listed on their website. I have gotten engineering positions at two different general aviation OEMs this way.

If you do apply online, it is always good to call and/or email as a follow up. At my last job I was in charge of hiring two entry-level engineers. Remember, from the eyes of the person over the hiring, it is very easy for someone to email a resume (or even spend hours on an in-depth online application) and expect the company to do the rest. You must follow up and verbally express your interest in the company and set yourself apart from those who just fill out the online application and leave it up to the company to contact them. Yes, they may contact you to schedule an interview if you look good enough on paper, but your chances are much better if you establish some form of personal contact.

Lastly, be open to working somewhere besides one of the big companies. Smaller OEMs can be just as fun, fulfilling, and challenging as the big guys, often without the corporate hoopla that goes along with a larger company. And in the event you want to later transition to a larger company you will have gained valuable hands-on and well-rounded experience at the smaller OEM where engineers are often required to wear many hats.

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

"For the past 3 months "

Sorry, my friend. A lot of aerospace industries are laying off workers and staff right now. Tough times. You might see if you can go back to school for a masters...

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Honestly, numbers. In good times, think 20 applications : 1 interview, bad times 100:1 . Interviews I'm between 1-5 interviews/hire. People sellers, I mean placement/contract agencies can also figure into things prominently. There are also 'lucky hat' sort of correlations without causation that I've observed in my case, so as Sparweb said 'expose yourself to good luck'.

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

tough times. how do you distinguish yourself from the other 100+ (applying for the same job) ?

you're in Central Florida. go visit places, like Melbourne even Huntsville.
as above, consider large and small places.
maybe go on a roadtrip … Wichita, South Cal ?
maybe consider working outside your field.

with today's degrees … consider post-grad.

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

In addition to great advice presented... emphasize 'real world' work and related aviation/maintenance/engineering hobbies you have solid experience with.

Regards, Wil Taylor

o Trust - But Verify!
o We believe to be true what we prefer to be true. [Unknown]
o For those who believe, no proof is required; for those who cannot believe, no proof is possible. [variation,Stuart Chase]
o Unfortunately, in science what You 'believe' is irrelevant. ["Orion", Homebuiltairplanes.com forum]

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Have you had someone review your resume? The cover letter, if any, and your resume IS THE GLOSSY BROCHURE that scream "BUY ME!" If it doesn't it needs to be fixed. Can a prospective employer tell what benefits they'll get by hiring you? And don't imply, SAY IT. As with getting into college, it's partly about numbers and a lot about your story clicking with someone.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

in my opinion, keep it short … you're a new grad with very little experience. I "hated" people telling about their school projects and their pets and hobbies. With hundreds of resumes to go through I looked at the few key marks and interviewed about a dozen.

The biggest thing you can do is to visit places. Smaller places will be easier to get into. How about placements contacts from your school ?

Think seriously about doing a Masters.

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

I have to agree with btrueblood, the aerospace industry is currently facing the biggest crisis it has ever faced, so hiring of new grads has stopped for the most part, and many open positions are being filled by recently laid-off engineers with great resumes, as you've noticed. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you've likely graduated with an aerospace degree in the worst possible year for the past 100 years, and probably the next 100 years as well.

That said, hope is not lost. My advice:
- If you have contacts at NASA, pursue them and see if there are any openings. For any new grad, you best bet for a fulltime position is at the place you interned, assuming you didn't leave a bad impression.
- If you're interested in anything but the lowest rungs of engineering jobs (which are all laying off right now), go for a Master's. When I graduated five years ago, I failed to get a reasonable offer after searching for several months, so I started working towards a Master's degree. Within two months I was offered a great fulltime job in my dream position, and I continued working on my Master's parttime while working. If, for whatever reason, you're deadset against a Master's, you don't necessarily have to finish it, because just saying that you're working on a Master's distinguishes you from other candidates significantly. But, I can tell you that the things I learned in grad school were much more applicable to my career than my undergrad classes, and that having a Master's does good things for your career. Personally, I have yet to work under a lead engineer that doesn't have a Master's degree.
- Try to figure out what subfield of engineering you want to work in, and focus your efforts on getting relevant experience there. For some people, R&D is their calling, and more power to them. However, in my experience, most companies only invest in R&D when times are good. When times are bad, R&D folks get laid off, or they get transferred to some other engineering group, where they underperform for their experience level (of course, when compared to an engineer that has spent their career in that subfield), and have their careers stifled as a result. If you show an employer that you're really all-in on one subfield, that greatly increases your odds of getting an offer in that field. Taking classes in that field and moving to a city where that sort of engineering is popular both help.
- If you're eligible for a security clearance (American citizen, not too many foreign contacts, haven't tried to assassinate the president, etc.) and have a desire to work in Defense, then I would suggest you focus your efforts in that field. I believe this is the only sector of aerospace that isn't suffering right now.
Last but not least,
- Get comfortable with using Excel professionally, programming in Excel VBA, Python, or some other popular programming language, and working with UNIX-based systems, if you haven't already. Honestly, the only major advancement in aerospace in the past 50 years has been the application of computers to engineering and manufacturing. I can't think of a single engineering job where Excel/programming skills wouldn't help you significantly, and any serious computational work is going to be done on a UNIX-based system.

I wish you well in these difficult times, Steven.

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Aerospace crash of the 1970s [~1972-1979] was far-far worse, so-far. In that era, you couldn't buy a job. Those 'gray-haired core engineers' in hard-strapped companies barely-held onto their jobs with fingernails and bailing-wire. I graduated in 1976 and spent the next 3-years in the US Army. In early 1979 it was evident that small/large companies were just be re-expand work forces... too many gray-hair retirements to maintain ranks... so I spotted an opening and went-for-it. BUT I was ready and eager and hungry to do what I loved... work in aviation.


The greatest skill-set college [supposedly] teaches is how-to-learn/work/solve independently... using learned knowledge and to build a base of understanding to solve what appears inscrutable/unknowable... and establish basic confidence in YOU, 'to go-forth'.

The experience I needed most, was 'learned' while living the reality of Army duty: overcoming complacency, self-motivation, setting aside occasional 'fear' and bearing down to the hard work at hand.

"The difference between school and real-life is simple. In school You learn the lesson; then take the test. In real-life, You take the test then learn the lesson." --version of Vern Law’s quote

Regards, Wil Taylor

o Trust - But Verify!
o We believe to be true what we prefer to be true. [Unknown]
o For those who believe, no proof is required; for those who cannot believe, no proof is possible. [variation,Stuart Chase]
o Unfortunately, in science what You 'believe' is irrelevant. ["Orion", Homebuiltairplanes.com forum]

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Don't hesitate to contact companies and ask who the hiring manager is.
Ask nicely for there contact information and write them an ol fashioned letter.
More personal than an email or write a letter and attach it to an email.
I worked for both large and small companies. Small companies will require
More diffrent hats. In a larger company easier to transfer to a different position. As said earlier post the wait can be as long as six months.
Keep in contact and keep pestering them.
And keep reapplying.

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

I my opinion, open positions currently in the commercial aerospace field are in very short supply. With companies like Boeing having layoffs, aerospace suppliers are also being hit with layoffs. It seems the aerospace defense and space fields are not affected much by the commercial aerospace layoffs.

My suggested is for new grads to leverage any contacts they've made with industry engineers whom they have worked with while on an internship. The OP mentioned he was an intern at NASA, so I would recommend he talk with the engineers who he worked with and see if they can help him find a position at NASA or supplier company. Having them as a reference is an obvious bonus.

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

I got hired right away early in my career. A smaller company will move faster than a big company. If you are holding out for a big company, it can take several months. Most companies can't even be bothered to write a small computer program telling you that you were rejected. It sucks.

Three years of experience in the Florida aero industry? I think you need to turn over every rock you ever stepped on in your travels down there (i.e. networking). My employer is Boeing. They are hiring east of the Mississippi. Someone mentioned Huntsville. I've seen Pennsylvania come up a few times. I've seen Cape Canaveral a few times. It's going to be competitive though. We let go of several hundred engineers. Defense and space jobs are going to be more available than commercial jobs methinks.

It's as simple as this: "Hey Joe. I just graduated and I am looking for work now. Have you heard anything?" This might surprise you. The person you are talking to might not know or care about _you_ very much. But they have a friend who's going to be complaining about "finding good people" and they will certainly want to help _them_.

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Raymer's Rules for Would-be Aircraft Designers

Raymer's Rules for New Grads.

Regards, Wil Taylor
o Trust - But Verify!
o We believe to be true what we prefer to be true. [Unknown]
o For those who believe, no proof is required; for those who cannot believe, no proof is possible. [variation,Stuart Chase]
o Unfortunately, in science what You 'believe' is irrelevant. ["Orion", Homebuiltairplanes.com forum]

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Don’t be afraid to move around. I worked for oxford staffing for quite a while and got hired full time as a result. Often their positions are consulting and are temporary. But if you prove yourself to be resourceful you may become full time.

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

Congratulations on graduating! Any update on your search for employment?

All the best
Kieran Jackson, CEO
Crew Industrial, LLC

RE: Career Advice for a Recent Graduate

My experience entering the workforce a couple years after the 2008 crash felt rough but I can't imagine trying to start out in 2020. So my congratulations and condolences.

It took my 4 months to find my first job. I'd banked on getting a position from my internship manager (implicitly promised if not explicitly) and when it came time, he didn't have an open req he could use to get me into his department. I ended up taking a job with a small startup. It lasted a year before they lost their DARPA contract and I was laid off. That said it was a good experience where I got to learn a lot and it opened the door to the next job which was absolutely my dream job. You're young and presumably have little more than student debt to be responsible for--don't be afraid to take a "riskier" job with a small company to get your feet wet.

Even though I was laid off from that first job, at that point I had that first job under my belt and a letter of rec from a real boss. That made finding the next job exponentially easier, and it went on from there. Once you have your foot in the door in industry, as long as you're competent your interviews will never be as hard as they are now.

I will say, if you have any aspirations of grad school, do it now. I went back after 3 years in industry and did my masters, and while I'm glad I have that piece of paper and the experience, taking that pay cut and going from a part of a real engineering team back to the relative isolation and "newbie" status of a first year grad student was rough. I think it would have been easier to knock that out immediately after undergrad, and the fact that jobs are scarce right now is a reasonable reason to investigate that path. When I graduated from undergrad I had no intention of getting a masters, but things change. If it's something you're interested in there's no harm in pulling on that thread a bit to see what falls out. Note: choose your advisor wisely if you decide to do grad school. They will make or break your experience. Find out how many people they've graduated both with masters and PhDs, and if you can, find out how many of their prospective PhD students mastered out.

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