Graduating with a degree AND a resume

Boise State Engineering #13 in public undergraduate Engineering programs.
http://bit.ly/OJvGmg

For those of you that don’t know I Graduated w my BS in Material Science & Engineering for +Boise State University in 2009. While there I was afforded with the unique opportunity while there of working on three different research projects. Most Universities with nationally ranked Engineering programs don’t let undergraduates touch research, let alone pay them to do it. The longest of the three projects is in the October issue of The Journal of Solid State Chemistry, http://bit.ly/OpXNLf
I also had the opportunity to present that same research at PacRim8 http://bit.ly/OJA4BI
This isn’t meant to be a brag post, because honestly while I’m smart, I’m not smarter than thousands of other students graduating every year who didn’t have the opportunity to graduate with a resume in addition to a degree. I graduated with a great education, having passed the FE, with a 5 year degree, a laundry list of scientific equipment acronyms I know how to run (SEM, XRD, TEM, STM, etc.),  and a 5 year technical resume.

If you in the wild time of a life where you are trying to figure out how to go about transitioning through college and into the real world (whether you are still in high school, or already in college) I would give you two conjoined pieces of advice:

1) Look for opportunities! Look for an environment rich in opportunities. One of the greatest advantages to going to a school like MIT isn’t the absolute hell they will put you through to get your degree. It is the status of the degree that says “I’m smart enough to cut it at MIT”, the opportunities that degree will provide; and almost more importantly, the opportunities that will be provided to you WHILE you are there. One reason many people join fraternaties and sororieties is for the network, and opportunities that often come up when connected to those networks, though the greek system is not necessarily the best or only network on campus. Join clubs (or at least show up to the meetings for the free pizza and listen until the talk about doing something you want to be involved in) Engineers w/o Borders is a great one for the future engineers out there. If you have a specific dream or asperation, start chasing it now, don’t wait till later, there will always be a later, and if you make that awesome contact “too early” the worst thing they could say is “call me when…” and then you have a legitimate reason to bug them later on. Even if you think “it would be cool to…” then pursue it. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to google up whoever is successfully doing whatever it is you want to do and reach out to them. (tip: don’t just reach out to top dog, reach out to every person who looks like they have experience in what you want to do, especially if there is some sort of connection, even if that connection is that you both live in the same state or that you both like [insert a movie/book/tv show/artist/whatever here])

2) Take those opportunities! Both of the first two undergraduate research positions I landed was because of one simple fact that I don’t think I’ve told many people. I was possibly the only person to apply, and I followed up. It was really that simple. It helped that I was in a new program (Material Science had just started its undergraduate program a few years earlier), and every professor in the program had multiple research projects going on.  In no way am I saying “give up on your dreams” and take the first thing that comes along. But I am saying DO NOT hold out for something better to come along when you still have no idea what better is. If you have no idea exactly what you want to do, then you would be stupid (don’t worry we are all stupid at times) to turn an opportunity simply because you don’t know if you would like it.

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