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Sunday, April 6, 2014

How Being An Aggie Helped Me Land My First Job

First, some very brief background. When I was in college, I had two reasonable goals for when I graduate: 1) Find someone to marry and 2) Find a full-time job. Neither happened.

Let's focus on 2) because 1) deserves a whole different line of blog posts.

Again, I was an aerospace engineering major at Texas A&M. This is a dangerous major because it awakens individuals' inner rocket scientist. After 4.5 years, I'm still not certain how a plane flies, but anything can fly if you strap a big enough Thrust-Generating Object™to it (or TGO, if you like acronyms...which I just made that one up...).

While suffering through aerospace engineering, my appreciation for airplanes grew and got pretty fly (for a nerdy guy). I had some appreciation already because I'm an American Airlines kid who flew frequently (still do, through not as much). I started to develop a liking for fighter jets and V-tails and flying fortresses. By the end, I knew I wanted to work with airplanes directly, but I wasn't entirely sure how exactly.

Throughout college, I interviewed for companies like NASA, Lockheed Martin, Continental Airlines, Siemens (wind turbines), and NAVAIR. Didn't. Get. Any. Of. Them. No internships. No co-ops. No full-time positions. Nothing.

Not surprisingly, during my last semester of college I was freaking out because I had nothing lined up. In all humility, I had to suck it up and continue working as a customer service rep at my home city's rec center but now with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. I never thought it beneath me to engineer solutions to real problems in a recreational facility setting like changing TV channels, getting yelled at by impatient moms trying to book birthday parties, and refilling coffee for The Morning Coffee Club. Throughout all this, I hung on to the hope that I would eventually stop dealing with all that. In the mean time, I learned how to make wicked awesome workout towel swans.
Creating magical moments was literally part of the job description. Though this is a generic picture. Still magical.
I did that for eight months after graduating. That whole time, I found myself caught in a cycle of pessimism and despair because I hadn't yet found full-time employment. I mean, as much as I loved working at that rec center, it wasn't what I ultimately wanted to do. It couldn't pay the bills. I think in my sadness and negativity, I kept myself pretty distant from family and friends. I was also dealing with a weird skin issue at the time. Just all around Mr. JD-Not-Enjoying-Life.

Then I had my lucky break. I saw that my city had an opening for an engineering intern in our Public Works department. Landed that one!

While this intern position was technically more civil engineering-related, I still appreciated that this new opportunity would look good on a resume. Also, the project engineer for my city is an Aggie, and naturally we talked about the good ol’ days at our alma mater.

After becoming an expert at scanning civil engineering drawings and making at least two McDonald's deliveries to my coworkers, I had a renewed sense of needing to find a full-time engineering position. I also got a lot of support and advice from my fellow coworkers on finding opportunities. Their help somewhat had a double-edged sword effect because they were of the mindset that it would be easy for an Aggie to find a job. Sure, maybe not me. After working as an intern for a little while, I was starting to enter into in another cycle of negativity because I hadn't made any sort of real progress in landing interviews for a full-time job. But then...that changed after I worked as an intern for two months.

But first! More background: during my (first) senior year of college, I had a team of guys that I worked with to do our senior design project. We designed an attack UAV.

Ascension Aerospace's FQ-1 Phoenix--taking sexy to the skies
Together, we made a wind tunnel model and RC model of our aircraft. After we all graduated (though at different times), we went our separate ways but occasionally got back together to have dinner, hang out, and catch up. It was through one of these mini-reunion dinners that I found out that one of my teammates had recently landed a job nearby with a company that makes commercial airline seats. Practically desparate for anything, I decided to hit him up to see if there were any available positions at his company. Conveniently, there was!

After talking and working with my classmate, I was able to submit my resume to several open job positions at his company. He worked with me and worked with upper management to make sure that I would get noticed. That effort was fruitful because it did, in fact, land me an interview at his company. I suppose they liked me well enough and were impressed by my dorm room designs done in CAD since I brought them with me to the interview. They hired me!!!

It took me a long ten months after graduating in order to land that job, but it was totally worth it in the end.

Long story short, I've been with that company for the past three years!

I even made a new BFF.

Omg my BFF Fred--he crash tests our seats
I'm grateful that I had kept in contact with my AERO buddies after college. Without my friend-who-helped-me-get-my-job's help, I wouldn't be where I am today. Through his willingness to help me with anything and everything that he could do to help me get hired, I was inspired to do the same with two more of my AERO buddies from college.

The Aggie Network works.

- JD

Ole Miss makes Aggie very sad from
Towel swans from WikiHow