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Senior Engineer Offers Career Advice for Upcoming Graduates

January 29, 2010

Steve Unruh (BSEE 03) is a senior electronics engineer at Hasbro Toy Group. He is responsible for the electronic design of approximately 30 products per year. Unruh says his job provides a fantastic amount of variety, and he can even pretend to be 7 again when playing and evaluating prototype toys. Unruh must be an adult most of the time though, discussing cost tradeoffs with marketers and communicating with international manufacturing vendors and production engineers. He also designs and drafts electronic schematics, builds prototypes and juggles numerous other responsibilities.

 We asked Unruh for advice he would give students nearing graduation.

•   Job hunting can take a long time, and it can be a soul-crushing experience! So, start early and pace yourself. Don’t try to cram it all into a short period of time a month before you graduate; that’ll drive you nuts.

•   Don’t waste time applying for positions you don’t want or positions for which you’re completely not suited.

•   Do apply for positions you’re passionate about, even if you’re under-qualified. (e.g., an employer wants three years of experience and you have zero.) If that company has been unsuccessful at finding the right employee for a while, the employer might interview you and find out you’re the perfect person for the job, despite your lack of experience.

•   Try to convey your personality in your application in whatever tasteful way you can. In truth, most job interviews are more about personality than technical skill. You managed to graduate with an engineering degree, so the employer probably assumes you’re competent. (As a side note, I did mess up a job interview once by getting so nervous I couldn’t even perform a simple circuit analysis when they were double-checking my abilities…It was eight years ago, and I still get embarrassed thinking about it. Oh well, live and learn.)

•   If you meet your prospective co-workers during your job interview and you like them and they can sense it, they’ll be your advocates if the director asks their opinion about which candidate should be hired.

 Once you’re on the job, learn to focus while at work and then leave the workplace mentally behind when you go home at night. Do the best, most efficient job you can during the day. But don’t forget to stay true to your personality, your hobbies and your dreams. It’s important to enjoy life.

Be good to your co-workers. Developing a good rapport with your colleagues will help you have a good time at work. Plus, it’ll help you be successful at your job. Your colleagues will be your friends and your greatest technical resource.

Communication skills are a big part of most jobs. So, if your communication skills (written and spoken) aren’t in excellent shape, do whatever it takes to continually improve them. Never stop trying to learn.

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