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Engineering Job Hunt Requires Persistence, Patience, Clear Goals

Sun., March 19, 1995

Students urged to look beyond Spokane, Northwest markets Inland Northwest career counselors offer this advice for students seeking engineering jobs: Be persistent and be patient.

Beyond that, students my need to make sure they have the right attitude and goals.

For starters, they need to think about enlarging their search to encompass smaller firms and to look at companies outside the Spokane and even Northwest markets, said Marlin Clark, director of Gonzaga’s career resource center.

Students get trapped into thinking that just applying to the big engineering names in the region - Boeing, Micron, Hewlett-Packard and other giant companies - will earn them their first job out of school, he said.

Clark tries to set up face-to-face interviews with companies where he has built relationships with the management. Clark sorts through the files of all his graduating seniors to match students with certain qualities with the employers looking just for those attributes.

Smaller and middle-sized firms in Spokane and the Northwest do much of the hiring of students fresh out of college, Clark said.

“These large companies that students are more familiar with are going to downsize at least once every two or three years,” Clark said. “You can try to take your chances with one of the large companies, or you can target these smaller companies that typically have a lot lower turnover.”

Clark’s sentiment is echoed in Pullman, where Kevin Bennett steers students as assistant director of the WSU career services office.

“I ask them when they come into my office how many companies they’ve contacted, and they look at the ceiling a little bit and say ‘three’,” Bennett said. “I tell them that there’s 5,300 companies in Silicon Valley and 135,000 businesses in the state of Washington alone, and that changes their perception a little.”

Many students who come to WSU from out-of-state return home to look for work. But many fall in love with the Pacific Northwest and focus strictly on the Seattle, Spokane and Portland markets, Bennett said.

“I’m dealing with a lot more students with families, and when I tell them that there’s engineering jobs in Texas, they’re more likely to say ‘OK, I’ll check it out’ because they’ve got a family to feed,” he said. “But when you’re 22 and have a degree, the student can work at a pizza parlor for a while and wait for something to open up in the region.”

Companies visit college campuses far less than they did in the 1980s, said Clark and Bennett.

“Companies want to see the eight-and-a-half-by-eleven version of our students rather than ship their workers up here to see them in person,” Bennett said.

Mounting an aggressive job search where students call the companies to confirm they received resumes and try to schedule face-to-face appointments can make a difference, counselors said.

In Moscow, Dan Blanco directs the career services office for the University of Idaho. Blanco said that many engineering students who want to stay in Idaho look to Boise for jobs.

However, the distance between Moscow and Boise deters some companies from sending recruiters for interviews. To help employers keep travel costs down, UI set up a 2-way video link to allow Boise companies to interview students face-to-face.

“That’s really helped some of the smaller companies in Boise that might not have the budgets to send their people up our way,” he said.

As for handicapping the job market overall for 1995 graduates, Clark at GU calls it merely “satisfactory.” Bennett at WSU calls it “a little brighter” than in years past.

Though recruiting has been down as much as 50 percent at UI from previous years, it has begun to pick up again, Blanco said, and that may be an encouraging sign for graduates.

Tags: Employment

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