Smiling at the Wall and Other Phone Interviewing Tips

By Kristy Amburgey

Employers go to great lengths to identify and hire the best candidates for jobs, and a phone interview often begins this evaluation process.  A phone interview, though, can be a difficult environment for anyone to successfully maneuver, which is why we have put together some tips to help you shine during your phone interview.


Just like with any employer interaction, you must be prepared.  Research the company with which you are interviewing.  Understand how your achievements, background and experiences relate to the employer.  A phone interview needs to be treated exactly like an in-person interview; full preparation is required.

What to Bring to Your Kitchen Table

You should collect all documentation before your phone interview, and it should be placed in the location where you plan to talk.  The documentation should include the resume and cover letter versions you submitted to the company and a copy of the job description, and you can include transcripts, certifications, awards, lists of accomplishments, employment history, research done on the company and more.  It is also important to organize your documentation to ensure that you aren’t shuffling paper around where the interviewer can hear you.

Location, Location, Location

When you are doing your phone interview, you must be in a quiet location with a good phone connection and no distractions.  Use a land line when possible to conduct your interview, or make sure your cell phone reception is strong.  If you do share space with another person, face away from them so that you are not districted by their movements or reactions.

“Hey You”

As fun as it might seem to answer the phone with a charming “talk to me”, you need to have a professional and simple greeting ready when expecting (and even when you are not expecting) a call from an employer.  The best way to answer the phone, according to one of our employers who found this to be a lacking skill among many of the students they talked to, is to say, “Hello.  This is [insert your name].”  This greeting must be accompanied with an alert and ready-to-go tone of voice.  If you are asleep, driving, in class or otherwise distracted, please don’t answer the phone.  Allow the call to go to voicemail and then call the employer back when you are ready to make a positive impression.

Another recommendation is to ensure that anyone with access to your phone also be instructed to answer the phone appropriately.  Also, your outgoing voicemail message should be professional and clear.

Speak Slowly and Clearly

Part of making a great impression on the interviewer is to ensure that the person can understand what you are saying.  If you speak too fast or know you aren’t always understandable, slow down and take breathes between sentences or questions.  If you struggle to collect your thoughts, try to avoid phrases such as like, um or hmm while forming your ideas.  Enunciate clearly and speak with enthusiasm.

Smile at the Wall

Since an employer cannot see your facial expressions or body language, you must convey enthusiasm, passion and approachability with your tone of voice.  One of my favorite tips is a way to help you bring an up-beat tempo to the phone conversation.  As you talk with an employer, smile.  The smile automatically helps you sound interested in what they are saying and interesting for them to hear.

Don’t Chew Their Ears Off

This statement should go without saying, but please don’t eat, drink, smoke or chew gum while doing your phone interview.  And while we are on this subject, you do want to avoid taking total control of the conversation.  Always answer the question completely and with enough detail to where your answer is strong and supportable with evidence, but don’t talk just for the sake of filling silence.

Move Beyond Yes and No

As you answer the questions, you want to ensure that you expand on any answer you’re given with evidence of your abilities and accomplishments.  It is best to avoid answering with a quick yes or no, and this is especially important on a phone interview.  If you are asked a simple yes/no question, do your best to quantify or qualify your answer.

Don’t Assume What You Can’t See

Since you can’t see how the interviewer responds to your conversation, it is important not to get distracted by the what-ifs while on the phone.  If you hear silence, assume that they may be taking notes or ensuring that you are finished speaking.  If they don’t seem enthused during your interview, don’t automatically think you did a bad job.   You can reflect on the interview once you are done, so there is no need to attempt to evaluate the conversation and distract yourself while on the phone.

Making a lasting impression on a company can begin with a great phone interview.  Smile at the wall and use the other techniques to fly right through the phone interview to an in-person meeting, which puts you one step closer to your job.

Additional Resources:

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.


Intern/Co-op Spotlight: Adam Naids

Adam Naids, Sr, BS EP

Adam Naids is our very first Going Places Intern/Co-op Spotlight. He is a senior, working on an undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics. He has topped off his outstanding academic record with a multi-semester co-op with the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.  Check out the  NASA is Not Cancelled video, featuring Adam, at the end of his interview. You can find this video and more on ReelNASA’s YouTube channel.

How did you land the internship and how did you navigate the process?

The road to actually getting this internship was a long one. I first found out about the program while searching the internet for internships my freshman year of college. Even though I had very little engineering experience, I applied just to get my name out there and see what I could do to make my application better the next time around. I did not get the internship that first summer but I continued to apply for each session they offered. Finally, after applying four times I finally got called for an interview and got the job.

If I can give some advice to people looking for internships or co-ops it would be to not give up. Keep applying and don’t get discouraged. Also, don’t be afraid to apply for a Spring or Fall offering even if it delays your graduation. These experiences are extremely valuable and will make you a much better candidate to get a job once you graduate. In my case it is taking me five and half years to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree, but I will have completed 4 internship tours. Additionally there are a lot less people that apply for internships or co-ops during the school year than do in the summer. So you have a much better chance of getting accepted for offerings during those times.

To explore internship opportunities I would definitely recommend using Career Services. Their EagleHire system was extremely valuable in finding internship opportunities. They also offer many great classes that teach you how to get an internship. You learn how to dress, how to interview, how to make a great resume, and many more. They were a great resource for me and I am grateful for all of their help.

What have you done and what are you doing on your internship?

Throughout my internships and co-ops at NASA I have had the opportunity to be a part of many amazing projects. My first internship I worked on a reduced gravity simulator. This crane-like system has been designed to simulate the microgravity environment in space, the gravity on the Moon and on Mars. It is currently being used to train astronauts to work in microgravity and will be used in the future to train astronauts to walk on planetary bodies like the Moon and Mars. During my time working on this project I helped design a new generation of the system itself, developed and performed tests to mitigate a problem in the system, and supported human and robotic testing.

My second internship I worked on the Space Exploration Vehicle. This vehicle is being designed to enable mobility at destinations beyond Low Earth Orbit. It will be able to maneuver around an asteroid and even drive across other planetary surfaces like the Moon and Mars. When people talk about spaceships they talk about vehicles like this, and I was very fortunate to get to work on this. During this internship tour I helped assemble the vehicle, personally designed the side windows and integrated them and numerous other components on the vehicle. It was very hands on and I spent many hours in the machine shop. This was truly an amazing experience.

Currently I am working on the International Space Station (ISS) Program. My specific group is responsible for training people to become Flight Controllers. These flight controllers are responsible for the Electrical Power and External Thermal Control System on the ISS. Throughout my time here I have learned about the process it takes to be a flight controller and have developed a huge appreciation for what they do. I have gained immense knowledge in systems engineering and learned so much about the ISS and how magnificent it really is. Additionally, I developed lessons to teach flight controllers in training how to communicate in Mission Control.

As an intern here at NASA we are very fortunate to have many distinguished speakers come and talk to us. Some of the people I have heard speak are NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Chris Ferguson and Sandy Magnus of the Final Space Shuttle Crew, Duane Ross the head of astronaut selection, Gene Kranz, Jim Lovell and Fred Haise of the Apollo 13 crew, and many more. In addition to these lectures we get to go on tours of the NASA facilities. The most interesting tour I have had so far was of the Lunar Rock Curation Facility. It is in this facility that all of the moon rocks brought back from the Apollo missions are stored. Getting that close to these national treasures was such an awesome experience. Another exciting event that we set up was our Apollo night. At this event we watch the movie Apollo 13 in the historical Mission Control Center that the Apollo missions were flown out of with Gene Kranz, the Flight Director during that time. He gives his personal account of the Apollo 13 mission and then we watched the movie. It was one of the most fun nights I have had while here.

What opportunities are available for students at NASA, post-shuttle?

Even though the Space Shuttle Program has ended there are still plenty of opportunities at NASA and their contracting companies as well. NASA is preparing to take humans beyond Low Earth Orbit for the first time since the days of Apollo. There is a lot of work that needs to be done before we can proceed with this endeavor, and that work is going on now. Currently NASA is developing the Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) that will carry humans to these far off destinations. They are also building a brand new heavy lift rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS) that will launch the Orion capsule into space. Additionally, much research is being put into how to explore an asteroid. NASA is currently planning to take humans to an asteroid for the first time in history. This is a difficult mission and there is a lot of work going on trying to figure out how to do this. Even more exciting is that NASA’s long term goal is to land humans on Mars. There is a lot of research and development going on to enable this mission to be successful. These are just a few of the bigger projects going on at NASA that co-ops and interns have the opportunity to work on. It is a great time to be at NASA because the future is bright. History will be made and you can be a part of it.

What advice do you have for students seeking an internship?

When looking for internships that interest you, have an open mind. Almost nobody gets to do their dream job as an internship. So when you are searching for available programs, apply to openings even if you don’t think you will enjoy it. Having an internship doing something you don’t like doing is better than not having an internship at all. That will allow you to get your foot in the door and open up more opportunities in the future. Furthermore, you may end up liking something you never thought you would. In my case I was placed to work with Flight Controllers and see the process they go through to train. I never thought of myself as a flight controller in a million years. However, after being here and seeing what they get to do, it is something I would highly consider if I were to be offered a job here. To sum up, I would say be open minded, try new things, and do the best job you can at the tasks you are given. Doing that will open up opportunities for you to pursue your dream job.

Internships and Co-ops are the best thing you can do for your career while in college. They enable you to put the knowledge you learn in a classroom immediately to use on real world applications. It allows you to figure out exactly what you like and don’t like doing. And even though you may not be assigned the most exciting tasks in the world, everything you do is important to your growth as an individual and for your career. I cannot emphasize enough how imperative it is to do some kind of internship or co-op during college. And it is important to remember that these opportunities will not just come to you. You need to actively go out there and search for them. Search the internet, talk to friends, and use Career Services. There are many avenues to take to be successful; you just have to find the right one. I hope that sharing my experiences with you motivates you to get out there and apply. I have had the greatest times of my life during my internships and co-ops and I want others to have that same experience.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Career Services Office

During this time of year, it is always good to stop and reflect on all the great things for which we have to be thankful.  Here in Career Services, we want to share with you our thoughts of thankfulness.

I am thankful for a career that I completely enjoy!  After six plus years in a previous career, I decided to make a career change.  It was a lot of work and meant I had to go backwards before I could go forward.  Furthering my education with a graduate degree was the beginning of a new career – and it was worth every sacrifice.  Enjoying what you do takes ‘just a job’ and turns it into a ‘passionate career’.  Do whatever it takes to find the career path that you completely enjoy – you deserve it!

– Sandi Ohman

I am thankful for the students/alumni who utilize all the resources in career services and then share their successes with our office.

– Valerie Kielmovitch

I am thankful for having the opportunity to work with students and alumni that share the same passion for aviation!

I am thankful to see an increase in college recruitment as we were up 10 companies at the Expo this year over last year!

I am thankful to work with students and alumni that are focused, determined, and dedicated to our industry!

I am thankful that ERAU attracts great employers who want to fill all their open positions with our graduates!

I am thankful for the opportunity to lead such a great and caring team whose mission is to truly help our students and employers!

– Lisa Kollar

 I am thankful for the wonderful group of colleagues that I work with in Career Services. We share the same goal of helping our students and alumni to find their dream jobs in an industry that we are passionate about.

– Adriana Hall

 I am thankful for the many amazing students and alumni I have had the pleasure to work with over the years in Career Services. It is truly a gift to watch them grow and develop as they go from student to intern to working professional. I am especially thankful for the ones who continue to stay in touch long after graduation since I no longer advise students. They make me feel that my work here has made a difference.

– Alicia Smyth

I am thankful for former interns who know how important their co-op/intern experience was in the initial phase of their career path.  Now some of them give back to other students by donating to the Career Services Co-op Assistance Program.  That fund gives 3 to 5 selected students a summer some extra cash to help defray the expenses of doing a co-op or internship and allows students who may not have the opportunity because of financial reasons to participate in a valuable co-op/intern work experience.

– Sally Richards

 I am thankful to be a member of the world’s best aviation alumni network! 

– Brian Carhide

I am thankful for all of the wonderful students who utilize our office and recommend our services to others.  It is so rewarding to see students passionate about their careers and pass along that same enthusiasm to their friends and colleagues.

– Amy Treutel

I am thankful for the meaningful relationships I have developed through my work in Career Services.  I have worked with outstanding students and alumni, great employers and caring staff.  I truly appreciate the influence that all of these groups have had on my life. 

– Kristy Amburgey

We extend our warmest wishes for a safe and happy holiday season.

The Career Services Office

Alumni Career Spotlight: Beth Joseph

Beth Joseph, DB 1999

Beth Joseph is a 1999 graduate from the Bachelor of Science in Human Factors program at Embry-Riddle, and she is currently a Senior Systems Engineer at Sikorksy Aircraft Corporation.  Beth is also one of the leaders for the Connecticut/Sikorsky area alumni chapter.

Coming from a Human Factors background, how has your degree helped you succeed as a Systems Engineer?

My degree has definitely helped me with not only getting in the door at Sikorsky, but with my career path.  When I first joined SIK, I started in the Crew Systems department, writing requirements and designing the cockpit displays for the pilots on the Comanche helicopter.  I worked in a group with fellow ERAU Human Factors classmates, which made starting work at a new company so much more comfortable for me.  When the Comanche program ended in 2004, a new opportunity in the System Engineering department emerged for me.  With my Human Factors background, I was easily able to transition to System Engineering responsibilities, such as Requirements Management and Risk Management.  I have been a System Engineer on several different Sikorsky helicopter programs, and have worked closely with our Customers while participating in many technical reviews, such as System Requirements Reviews, Preliminary and Critical Design Reviews.

What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?

The biggest highlight so far has to be when I was given the opportunity to experience a helicopter ride in an S-76.  It was so neat to actually be a passenger in one of our products.  My flight took place on a Saturday in May with perfect weather, and the flight was amazing.  I couldn’t believe how quiet it was inside the helicopter, once the doors were closed.  It was a pretty smooth ride, and we got to hover above the helipad.  What an experience!  The other employees on my flight were so nice, and we all exchanged the photos we took in the air.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ve been working at Sikorsky for 9½ years now.  Time flies when you enjoy your job and the people you work with.  I would like to continue my career at Sikorsky.  I’ve been toying with the idea of going to back to school to pursue a Masters degree.

As the Hartford-area Alumni Chapter Leader, please give us some insight into how alumni can get involved in their local chapters. 

I think it is great having an Alumni Chapter where you work.  The Connecticut/Sikorsky Alumni Chapter here is made up of Alumni who are Sikorsky employees, as well as other Alumni who live in the local CT area. Sikorsky is such a big company, that our Chapter provides everyone the opportunity to network with other Alumni coworkers who work in diverse areas, from mechanics who work on the production line, to engineers who are experts on the many different systems of the aircraft.  Alumni can get more involved in their local chapters by showing up at Alumni Chapter events, such as social hours after work and community service opportunities.  It’s also nice for members to suggest ideas for Alumni get-togethers, for things that they want to do or go see in the area.  Our Alumni Chapter will be volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, as part of International Eagle Day.  We will be working on framing two neighboring houses in New Haven, CT, which will be tough work but very rewarding.

Why You Need LinkedIn

by Alicia Smyth

Last week, the Career Services Office  gave a presentation on Social Media and Your Job Search and only four students showed up. Since there is a very good chance you weren’t there, I’m going to share some of the important information you missed.

It’s vital for you to know that you need to start building your network before you actually need a favor from someone. While a few people may be more than happy to help a complete stranger who cold-called them wanting help getting into their company, the reception will be much warmer if it is someone you actually know and with which you have a rapport.

Lucky for you, the internet has made networking easy. A LinkedIn account is a must for any college student who has career aspirations…even ROTC students! Why? Because networking is not just about getting an inside track to landing a job. Your network (i.e., who you know) can help propel your career further even if you already have a position. Life takes many unexpected turns, so again, it is important to be ready in case you ever need help someday.

Below, you will find links for some amazing LinkedIn resources. They will help you to maximize LinkedIn to its full potential. There is even one that explains what LinkedIn is, in case you didn’t know.

Once you have a LinkedIn account, fully complete your profile and then start inviting people to connect with you. You can load your email distribution list to do this if you want. Connect with classmates (they are your future colleagues and partners out in industry), professors, Embry-Riddle staff, friends, your parents’ friends, current and former coaches, etc. And when you meet new people (including recruiters), connect with them too. Just be sure to include a personalized request, not the default message you see; let the individual know how they know you.

What’s more, there are over 26,000 Embry-Riddle alumni on LinkedIn. You can find them by completing the education information in your profile and then visiting

When you have a complete profile and a few connections under your belt, you are ready to begin interacting on LinkedIn. You can do some pretty amazing things with LinkedIn that can help you in many ways. Examples include researching companies for work or for class projects, joining some of the many groups on LinkedIn that cater to aviation and aerospace, posting status updates that give people an idea of the things you are working on (related to your professional life, not your social life), getting recommendations from others on your personality and the quality of your work, and joining various discussions that are taking place within groups.

The more you interact on LinkedIn, the more you increase your reputation (aka personal brand). Then, when a prospective employer Googles you to find out who you really are, they will see all of the great things you are doing to move your career forward. And if you are doing everything right, there is a good chance that hiring manager might already be one of your first, second or third level connections.

For more information on how to best utilize LinkedIn, it is strongly recommended that you review all of the resources below…

Alicia Smyth has been with the Career Services Office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University since 2000. In her time at Embry-Riddle, Alicia has worked primarily at the Daytona Beach campus but has also served in roles with Prescott and Worldwide. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Central Florida. Alicia currently serves as the director and information systems manager for Career Services and loves all things social media and technology. 

100% Accuracy, Please

by Kristy Amburgey

In reading about the Penn State scandal and the subsequent fall-out, it brings to mind an important but often delicate subject: honesty.  Regardless of your thoughts and feelings on the Penn State case, you have to acknowledge that it was the act of hiding the truth that forced a school and its leadership into the media spotlight and the court of public opinion.  There is one element of this sad case that needs to be highlighted and emphasized as an important job search and career topic.  The moral of this story and many other ones found in the headlines today is to provide only accurate information and don’t attempt to purposely hide the truth when conducting your job search.

In your job search, you will be asked for lots of information, often times an overwhelming amount of details, and each of those details needs to be accurate and verifiable.  Employers have access to many resources in which to find out information about you.  They can conduct background checks, review your social media accounts, contact former employers and schools and simply search the internet for your information.  An employer who finds inconsistencies, over or under-stated information, misrepresented details or other situations after-the-fact can only assume the worst, and most employers will never give you a chance to defend yourself.  When you provide accurate information to an employer, you will find that you have more control over the situation.  You may not get the job, depending on the circumstances, but you can more easily address issues that may, when left to a person’s interpretation, ruin your chances of obtaining a job.

Although your job search is a personal experience where you get to decide what information to pass along to employers, it is imperative that the information you share is correct.  The consequences of lying or hiding information can be detrimental not only to your candidacy for a specific job but for your reputation within that company and within that industry.  Even the smallest detail that is misrepresented can make them view you in a negative light.  This statement can’t be said enough; you must provide 100% accurate information on any job search documentation, applications, interactions and interviews 100% of the time.  Please!

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Julie Schell

Julie Schell, DB 2001

Julie Schell has worked with the Career Services Office since her days as a student. As her career has progressed over the years, Julie has remained in close contact. In her current position as Safety Manager for US Airways Express/Piedmont Airlines, Julie promotes internship opportunities to Embry-Riddle safety students and has taken on several ERAU interns over the years.

Julie shares her story and offers some great advice for students and alumni alike who are seeking opportunities in the aviation industry.

How did you get where you are today? 

After completing my undergraduate degree in Biology, I began flight lessons on the weekends near Boston, where I lived at the time.  When weather and general life issues slowed my dream of obtaining my commercial pilot certificate, I decided to flight train full-time at ERAU.  I relocated to Daytona, where I continued my flight training in Deland at what was then called ERAU CATER and began the masters program in Aeronautical Science with a specialization in Safety.  After completing an internship at the FAA FSDO in Columbia, SC, I graduated with a MAS in Safety and a private pilot certificate.

In order to break into the industry, I took a job as a Shift Manager at the US Airways Express / Allegheny Airlines Boston station.  Because of my safety background, I focused on building the local safety culture and participated in the company-wide safety committees. Through my safety work and networking, I was promoted to the Safety Specialist position at company headquarters in Harrisburg, PA.   After spending a few years in this role, I moved to Washington, DC and worked as a contractor at FAA Headquarters.  I worked on such projects as the Whistleblower Protection Program, NASDAC (predecessor to ASIAS) and the FAA.Gov website redesign.

I returned to US Airways Express (Piedmont Airlines) for my current role as Safety Manager which I have held for the past six years.  I wear many different hats in my current position.  Most of my time is spent supporting the safety goals of the Customer Service Department.  My responsibilities include being a safety information resource, investigating ground damages to aircraft and on the job injuries, moderating safety meetings, and ensuring our ground station personnel receive and understand safety related information. For example, in the event of a ground damage, we complete an investigative call which results in findings and, more importantly, preventative measures. This is a safety fact finding call only; it is separate from any disciplinary investigation.   My other duties include assisting with emergency response planning, auditing, following-up on regulatory agency violations and developing and presenting training sessions.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career to date?

The highlight of my career is imparting safety information to the variety of people that work in the industry.  To me, it is absolutely critical that I make every effort to ensure the safety of our employees, passengers and assets.  This is accomplished through a multi-layered safety committee system, extensive training and investigations.   Everyone plays a role in setting a safety culture at a company; the safety department’s role is setting those expectations and making sure that everyone understands their responsibilities.

Another highlight was participating in an NTSB incident involving a nose gear up landing.  I had the opportunity to investigate the incident and determining probable cause.  It was a fascinating and educational experience.

What qualities do you find to be the most valuable for those working in the field of aviation safety?

In working in the regional carrier world, the most valuable asset is prioritizing workload based on risk levels.   Because airlines are so dynamic, new tasks develop all the time.   Depending on the size of the company, you may have multiple areas of responsibility that all need your immediate attention.  Teamwork is essential in getting the job done.

Successful aviation safety professionals are passionate about safety and are willing to go the distance to see measures put in to place to ensure a safe environment for everyone.

Enjoy what you do and you will never consider it “work”.

What advice do you have for candidates who are seeking work in aviation safety?

Network! Network! Network!    Career fairs and industry conferences are good places to network.  This industry is very small and all interactions you have with aviation safety professionals are important.  To make these connections, introduce yourself and have a firm handshake.  Then listen and ask questions, never assume you know best and collect business cards for future reference and to jot down a few notes from the conversation.  During these events you can network with many people in a short time span and these notes will trigger your memory of the conversation.

Internships are a valuable way to learn more about the industry.  Very few people get internships without applying.  Prepare your professional resume using tools like Eaglehire.  During your internship, it does not hurt to be the first person in the office and the last one to leave at night.  Always volunteer to take on projects and to help others.

Due to the small size of the industry, we generally have contacts at other companies where you have worked.  Always leave a good impression.

Persistence pays off.   Because this industry is competitive, do not get discouraged if finding an aviation safety job takes time.

What You Missed at the Annual Alumni Industry Panel

Students and alumni gathered on Thursday, November 4, 2011 to hear five Embry-Riddle alums talk about their respective careers and dole out valuable advice for those seeking work in the industry. If you were one of the smart ones who attended, you know how beneficial the event was for job and internship seekers.

Alumni panelists answered questions from both the audience and moderator, Lisa Kollar. After  the 90-minute long panel event, students, alumni, Career Services staff, and the panelists congregated in the COB Atrium to network and talk about job and internship opportunities. Job seekers that attended had the chance to stand out and get valuable facetime with prospective employers.

Panelists included:  

All five panelists did an excellent job of conveying to students and alumni the importance of completing an internship, the value of networking as part of the job search, and the fact that one’s career path may take many turns. They spoke of the Embry-Riddle community and how tight bonds are out in industry. Many said their companies regarded Embry-Riddle candidates as a preferred choice when making hiring decisions. They shared personal insights into their own experiences and offered sage advice to college students embarking on a career in the industry.

If you missed the event, we have you covered. You can view the 2011 Alumni Industry Panel discussion online now (panel discussion starts at 3:27 on the video). 

The Philly Cheese Steak Principle

by Kristy Amburgey

Want a great way to initiate a conversation with a new connection?  How about a debate over the best Philly cheese steak?

At the recent National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) event as we sat around the lunch table, I mentioned my affiliation with the Philadelphia area.  Of course, the conversation with one of the gentleman turned to cheese steaks.  We talked about the best cheese steaks, and I definitely had an opinion.  Soon the conversation turned to where we worked and what we did.  I was excited to learn that he worked at a company which hired our students and alumni.  Our talk quickly turned to how the company could further establish themselves with Embry-Riddle job seekers.  After a bit of follow-up, the gentleman has an open invitation to ask me for suggestions about places to eat in Philly, and I have an open invitation to visit his company.

In most cases, a Philly cheese steak would not have had anything to do with a job search, but in this instance, it had everything to do with building a professional relationship.  What was a simple, friendly conversation turned into a valuable connection, one that promised to benefit our Embry-Riddle community.  I want to advocate that this idea of initiating friendly, light-hearted conversations with the goal of growing your professional network be called the Philly Cheese Steak Principle (there’s always hope that it catches on).

The Philly Cheese Steak Principle is great for any level of networking comfort and expertise.  For those people who are uninterested in the idea of networking, this tactic is useful for you.  Find common ground with a new acquaintance by speaking to your passions, your observations or some other comfort-generating topic.  The experienced networker may already have an established list of topics that he or she is ready to use in any situation.  Just as important as being willing to initiate a conversation is working to further your connections.  After you meet someone with whom you connected, follow up with them and keep in touch periodically.

Opening the lines to a great conversation can be as easy as talking about where you are from, the weather, a unique experience or, well, anything.  Moving the conversation into a connection depends on your rapport with that person and your expectations of them.  Remember, you don’t want to talk to someone with the end goal of getting something out of that person.  You want to develop meaningful connections that result in mutually beneficial relationships.

Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department.  She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Travis Gonzalez

Travis Gonzalez, DB 2008

We were excited to hear Travis’ story because he is not your typical ATM graduate. Most graduates from the program aspire to become Air Traffic Controllers…while Travis did too initially, things changed for him after his safety internship with JetBlue Airways. In his role at The Mitre Corporation he is able to draw from his Air Traffic Management degree and his internship experience with JetBlue; plus, he has furthered his education in systems engineering to make him an even greater asset to his company.

You majored in Air Traffic Management – what made you decide to pursue a career outside of the FAA?

Working at the Center for Advanced Aviation System Development (CAASD) in MITRE’s FAA research and development center, I am in fact working as one of the main contractors  for the FAA; however, what deviated my initial plan of becoming an air traffic controller was my interest in aviation research and analysis; especially in the midst of a paradigm shift occurring by way of the Next Generation Air Transportation (NextGen). The overall decision to make that change in career path came after a year of working for JetBlue Airways Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program which commenced during my senior year at Embry-Riddle. At JetBlue, I assisted air safety investigators and staff engineers in developing metrics and performing statistical analysis on a variety of aircraft parameters that came directly from the fleet for the purposes of identifying answers to critical issues in safety, operational conformance, and internal investigations. After about a year and a half of hands on experience, I decided that the MITRE Corporation with its impressive reputation and wide range of research and development projects, was an excellent choice.

What did you do in the course of the application and interview process with The MITRE Corporation to effectively market yourself as a strong candidate?

I leveraged information obtained from coursework in both my major and system engineering/human factors elective courses, along with the niche skill set learned while working at JetBlue. If there is one piece of advice that I can give an applicant applying to MITRE, it would be to not only focus on your technical strengths, but assess your interest in professional development. Unlike other jobs where you may develop a specific skill set and apply it to or project or job function for the rest of the career, MITRE strongly encourages their educational programs, which sponsor advanced degrees, certifications, or applicable single courses that are extremely helpful due to the different projects you may work on from year to year (see below for more information). I believe the determination for higher learning that I displayed in my interview stuck with those particular managers and was a contributing factor in receiving my job offer in April, 2009. Since then, I have graduated with a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from George Washington University, and am working on my PhD in systems engineering with a dissertation focus on  stochastic optimization in aviation systems.

How has your Embry-Riddle degree opened doors for you in your current role?

In the aviation professional environment, Embry-Riddle is regarded as one of the most respected universities for aeronautical studies. In a competitive job market, where some companies are seeing triple the amount of applications received from the previous year per job opening, it is imperative that you differentiate yourself from the pack, and a degree from Embry-Riddle is a starting point. Secondly, I firmly believe that If I did not pursue an internship during college, I probably would not of had the chance of getting that initial interview in the first place. Proper planning and a clear focus on what career you want to pursue as early as possible, will help you identify a proper internship and get you to the desired end result, which in most cases, is the opportunity to work as a contributing member in enhancing our National Airspace System.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the near term future are to complete my PhD in Systems Engineering/Operations Research which I began August of this year, as well as to continually work on interesting research projects that take me to various locations around the U.S. When I finish my PhD and have more of an open schedule to travel, I would like to work in our International division as a country director, which involves identifying and developing innovative system engineering solutions to problems presented by our international clients all over the world.

About MITRE’s tuition reimbursement benefits:

At MITRE, there are three tuition reimbursement programs available to employees that are unmatched amongst the aviation research industry.  Three programs are offered through the Educational Assistance Office: the Basic Educational Assistance Program (BEAP), which reimburses tuition, applicable fees and books to support a planned academic objective in line with MITRE’s work needs; the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program (AGDP), which allows employees to pursue an advanced degree at an accelerated rate by providing time off for studies; and covers tuition, books and applicable fees in full and the Advanced Degree Award Program, through which qualifying employees receive a bonus for completion of their degree. For more information on benefits and additional information on MITRE, please go to

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