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Finding Your First Job at an AEC Firm

By Joe VanHoose

April 5, 2017


As a college graduate, landing your first job is a big to-do. There’s the hassle of filling out redundant application information for multiple companies, the exciting initial phone screenings, and (with any luck) a few in-person interviews.

But the path to a great first position is not traveled by the seat of one’s pants. So how do you ensure that you are hitting the mark when beginning your search?

It all starts with a resume. That’s not so surprising, right? What is surprising is that many applicants fail to properly tailor their resumes for the position they are applying for. “One of the biggest automatic disqualifiers is an objective that doesn’t fit the position,” said RS&H recruiter Tara Warnock, who has even seen resumes where the objective section listed a goal within a completely different company.

Aside from the objective, it’s good to keep in mind the wording of your resume as a whole. You can modify the focus in your descriptions of skills, courses, and experiences to fit the position and company you are applying for. Your resume could be the one and only chance you have to make your case, so make sure that you are utilizing it as a persuasive tool and not just completing it at a bare minimum level.

In addition to customization, you’ll want to make sure your school, major, and GPA are easy to find as these are some of the first pieces of information recruiters will be looking for. Most firms will expect a GPA of 3.0 or above, although the hiring manager may be willing to overlook a slightly lower number provided the applicant has a wealth of other qualifications. Make sure any relevant certifications, such as Engineer In Training, are also easily found on the resume. Recruiters and hiring managers will also want to know if you took any added interest in your field outside of the classroom, so visibility of any volunteer work and internships is critical as well.

So, you’ve hurdled past the resume phase and you’ve been summoned for an interview. What now?

The most important part of the interview is genuinely being yourself. Be personable. Speak with passion. Hiring managers understand that a new graduate may not have much experience, but they want to know that you will be a good fit for the team. In the same respect, you’ll want reassurance that the choice you make is the right one, so be open about any questions you may have as well.

Overall, finding a job is not a formula so much as a process. If you don’t know the best place to start, try to form relationships with others in your field as a first step.

“Start by networking with people you know – family and friends,” Warnock said. “A lot of companies will have information sessions on campus. Ask about particulars at those companies’ information sessions. Go to career fairs, talk with professors, and visit career services at your school.

“Use these resources to find out what your true interest is and become passionate about that.”

Topics: Insights, Our People, Our Culture

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About the Author

Joe is a storyteller with more than a decade of experience in media relations, with particular specialty in writing and promoting. He can be reached at joe.vanhoose@rsandh.com.

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