Getting Started

Career development is a continuous process of assessment and action beginning in your first year and throughout your education for both undergraduate and graduate students.  Your participation in work experience prior to graduation is preparation for the practice of engineering at the professional level.

Both national and local employer surveys report that relevant engineering work experience is the most important qualification for employment at graduation.  Statistics collected from undergraduates of the College of Engineering validate the importance of work experience.  Work experience before graduation is called Experiential Education.   College of Engineering data for in-profession placement show:

The Experiential Education Story
Bachelor of Science Engineering Graduates


Placement at Graduation















No Eng Work


Iowa State University, Engineering Career Services

You are advised to "begin with the end in mind."1  The process of obtaining career related employment requires assessing values and taking action during each semester. In the first year you may be a beginner or novice when developing the steps in the employment search process. In the process of taking appropriate action, you develop expertise. If you wait to begin the process as a senior, the results are often at the beginner level. You are advised to begin early to achieve more effective outcomes for employment.
Before graduation, you may choose among the three options for Experiential Education. The undergraduate options are:


Cooperative Education is alternating semesters of work and on-campus study. You will work three work terms and obtain a minimum of 12 months of experience. 

Internships are for a fall or a spring semester. You may extend the work to include a summer. 

Summer employment is one work period of at least 10 weeks.


Developing a resume and preparing to interview require "thinking like an employer."  Employers are concerned about competencies.  Your assessment of the appropriate information to include in your resume will center on your competencies.  Competencies are:
l abilities
l knowledge
l skills, and
l motivation
During your first or second semester, you are advised to "construct" your resume. The staff of Engineering Career Services is available to critique your resume. The advisor office hours are at: Advisor Office Hours. Your resume can be used early in fall and spring semesters to  meet with employers at the Career Fair.  These activities help you concentrate on the questions that are critical to your career choices.  The questions are:

What do you value?

What are your competencies?

In communicating with employers at career fairs, information sessions, and interviews, you learn that employers are asking the same type of questions:

What do you want or value? In other words, what is your objective?

What abilities, knowledge, skills and motivation do you have to work with my organization?

There is agreement among employers that there are five competencies that are important for most positions:  The five workplace competencies that are important to the majority of employers2 are:
Continuous Learning
l Targets learning needs
l Seeks learning activities
l Maximizes learning
l Applies knowledge or skill
l Takes risks in learning
l Responds quickly
l Takes independent action
l Goes above and beyond
l Facilitates goal accomplishment
l Involves others
l Informs others on team
l Models commitment
l Organizes the communication
l Maintains audience attention
l Adjusts to the audience
l Ensures understanding
l Adheres to accepted conventions
l Comprehends communication from others
Analysis and Judgment
l Identifies issues, problems, and opportunities
l Gathers information
l Interprets information
l Generates alternatives
l Chooses appropriate action
l Commits to action
l Involves others
l Valuing diversity
2001 Development Dimensions International, Inc.
Assess your competencies to succeed in interviews. Create examples of as many of the five competencies as possible. In addition evaluate position descriptions for additional keywords and develop examples. These examples are important in behavioral interviewing.
l Use the STAR format:

describe the Situation you faced and/or the Task you performed during work and/or an activity
m describe the specific Action(s) you took
m describe the Results that occurred from your actions

STARs connect resume writing and interviewing. You have maximized your time! Resumes refer to your STARs and in the interview you discuss your competencies in more detail. Your resume guides the interviewer to the questions.
l Let’s look at an example of a STAR for Initiative
Developing a career action plan is an important investment of your time. Some of the vital steps are:
l Preparing a resume
l Attending career fairs
l Developing interviewing skills
l Engaging in extracurricular activities
l Obtaining relevant work experience
l Developing competencies
l Networking with peers and employers

Your professional performance is important for a successful employment search. In addition, your actions reflect upon the reputation of Engineering Career Services and Iowa State University. Our goal is to maintain excellent relationships with our employer community to provide opportunities. During the employment search process, it is important to honor the following obligations:

l Provide accurate information,
l Attend scheduled schedules; if canceling is required Engineering Career Services must
  be informed 48 hours before the interview,
l Accept an offer in good faith and do not withdraw your acceptance,
l Notify employers in a timely manner of the acceptance or non-acceptance of an offer,
l Withdraw from the interview process after accepting a position,
l Interview only with employers who are of interest, and
l Request reimbursement for only reasonable expenses for site visits.
The outcomes achieved as you prepare for work experience both before and after graduation are:
l an ability to design an employment search system with effective components such
as a resume and interviewing skills integrated into processes that meets desired needs
l an understanding of your professional and ethical responsibility
l an ability to communicate effectively
l a recognition of the need for, and ability to engage in, life-long learning3
1 Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Simon & Schuster), pp.95-144.
2 William C. Byham, Landing the Job You Want: How to Have the Best Interview of your Life, (Pittsburg: DDI Press, 1997), pp. 188-189.
3 Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology Engineering Accreditation Commission. Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs-Effective for Evaluations During the 2002-2003 Accreditation Cycle.
Back to top