Wednesday, February 25, 2009

dear ICS student

(i got an email from one of the students i met at the career fair today. i wanted to follow up with him, but i decided to post my response in my blog, because i think others could benefit from it. i'll leave out the specific personal comments.)

dear ICS student,

thanks for following up with our discussion at the career fair. i'm glad you stopped by to talk to the different companies. ICS students are probably under represented at the career fair, so you coming by to meet us is definitely a very good step on your part.

i was impressed by several things that you did:
  • you came to find us again after talking to you more informally last semester. you've shown good initiative, by being more prepared this semester. i really think coming to visit companies at every opportunity is a very good thing. whats even better is that i remember you from last year. it shows that you understand thats important.
  • it was immediately obvious is that you have done side projects that help grow your experience. having longer term project work whether in the classroom or out is definitely something students should strive for.
  • your resume looked well thought out and you had an appropriate amount of real world experience given that you are still a student.
  • you were dressed appropriately. usually, i don't necessarily dwell on this point. but, the competition (namely the other EE students) are definitely on their game in this respect.
  • you know what type of software development (web development, database, client, etc) you were interested in.

    here is some follow up advice.
  • continue to learn about the companies out there. talk to us as much as possible at these events. learn what we do and how we do business. come with specific questions. in general, its even more impressive when students come to visit us and know what we do.
  • i'd spend some additional time networking and meeting other technology professionals. read blogs (like mine. hahaha) and sign up for things like TechHui. the more you can network the better. you'll learn a lot from those relationships. back to my blog again, here are some posts that i wrote about students: career fair, work on your soft skills, don't be afraid to speak up, student portfolios, making students awesome, COE Fall Career Day
  • continue to do larger project work. one of the best things to do in an interview (or at a career fair) is talk about your lessons learned on ongoing projects. for example, how your leadership influence the project or how you debated over design decisions. more importantly, its your chance to show off your domain knowledge and how you are able to learn about the problems you are trying to solve with your software. in my opinion this is really important.

    you did a good job of approaching us at the career fair. definitely the best attempt from an ICS student we talked to today. keep it up!

    thanks, aaron

  • (i'm going to get a little more general now and tad bit negative)
    some of the ICS students that i talked to today weren't really sure what they wanted to do. this might be acceptable for intern positions (however, even intern positions are very competitive these days). but its probably definitely not okay for students looking for full time employment. career fairs are your chance to show the employer, wow we need to hire this guy; immediate benefit to the company usually wins over potential. immediate benefit and potential definitely wins over uncertainty. i remember when i interviewed with companies, one of things that i would say is "this is what i can provide the company... i bring experience in... and i believe that my skills can make this company better" that might be a little to forward for some places, but i wanted to be sure i found a company that would allow me to utilize my skills and where i could make a difference. the bottom line is that we have a whole stack of resumes and a lot of them know they want to work for us. students need to show that same excitement.

    in general, ICS students (i'm being general and isn't directed at you) don't seem as prepared as other college of engineering students that we talk to. i met a student once that said, i'm interested in mobile development. i asked why? and he said cause i just finished a course. hmm... well um. i think you need a little more experience in mobile development than that.

    i want to make another quick note. i'm seeing more and more students from the mainland coming back home. these are students from USC, UW, MIT, ITT, etc with a good amount of schooling and experiences. YOU ARE COMPETING WITH THESE STUDENTS. you're advantage is that you are in hawaii for your entire schooling and we are in hawaii, but thats about it. so you better maximize that advantage. to me that means, students cannot come to visit companies their last semester and expect that all the companies are going to be standing their with open arms. getting a job is competition. its a pretty serious and important competition. do something that separates yourself from the rest of your peers and even the rest of the mainland school students. you need to if you want to compete. here is one example how, why you need to do a honors thesis.