Alumni Career Spotlight: Erin Gormley

Erin Gormley, DB 1997/WW 2005

As an undergraduate Aerospace Engineering student, Erin Gormley knew she wanted to work for the National Transportation Safety Board. She got her start as a Co-op student, working for the NTSB in Washington, DC during her junior year, and was offered a position when she graduated in 1997. The rest is history, as Erin has continued her career with the agency as an Aerospace Engineer in the Vehicle Recorders Division. In addition to her BS degree, Erin received a Master of Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle and has a Private Pilot Certificate. Erin recently came to campus to serve on the Alumni Industry Panel, providing valuable advice for the students and alumni who attended. Additionally, she is a supporter of the Embry-Riddle Co-op Assistance Program and serves as a mentor for Women in Aviation.

Many students and alumni dream of working for the NTSB. How did you make it happen?

 It was a personal goal to pursue a career at the NTSB, so when I was a junior at ERAU, I applied for a summer internship position at NTSB Headquarters in Washington, DC.  While waiting to hear back, I introduced myself to an alumnus speaking on campus who was an NTSB investigator and told him I was still interested.  I had tentatively accepted a position with another agency for the summer since I had not gotten a response, but he encouraged me to hang in there and I finally got word back that I had gotten the job.  I spent 2 semesters working as a Co-op student in the engineering division.  I worked hard, volunteered for any task going, and tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could to better prepare me to continue working in accident investigation.  Upon graduation, I was fortunate to have numerous interviews and job offers in the industry, in part because of my Co-op experience.  When the NTSB offered me full-time employment, I jumped at the chance to follow my dream, and I have been with them ever since.

What do you do in your role as an Aerospace Engineer – Flight Recorders?

During major aircraft accident investigations, I serve as a Group Chairman for either the flight data recorder (FDR) or cockpit voice recorder (CVR) group that convenes.  My role is to serve as a subject matter expert in these areas and lead a team of industry representatives in obtaining factual data that might be critical to the investigation.  The information is first extracted from the physical devices, processed, converted, analyzed and then synthesized with various data from other disciplines to help paint a cohesive picture of what was occurring at the time of the event and, depending on the circumstances, aid in determining the underlying causes. Other responsibilities include providing technical assistance on minor incidents and foreign investigations, serving on standards committees, and providing outreach to the aviation safety community as necessary.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

Each of the investigations I have worked provide me with unique insights and experiences.  Doing flight tests and ground tests to try to replicate scenarios is a lot of fun because it gives me an inside look at a wide variety of aircraft types and systems, sometimes in conditions beyond which they were designed to operate.  Working overseas always lends a fascinating perspective to my job because the laws, processes and cultural experiences vary from the way we do things here in the US.  One memorable experience that stands out was working following the events of September 11, 2001.  The NTSB does not lead investigations on criminal cases, but we were asked to provide technical assistance in this instance.  I was staged at the Pentagon to help recover the recorders there and subsequently worked on data recovered from various other sources.  It was a surreal atmosphere in DC that week, and it was an honor and a privilege to be performing an important public service during such a trying time for our Nation.

What advice do you have for students and alumni seeking opportunities with the NTSB? Federal government in general?

The STEP program (formerly Co-op) allows the Federal Government to hire students after having completed a certain number of hours working in their specific area of study.  Participating in this program or an alternative (summer student, intern, volunteer, fellowship) is a great way to get exposure to an employer, show them your abilities and mutually decide if it is a good fit.  Any internship or industry experience is beneficial when looking for employment. Federal service is sometimes overlooked because the salaries at entry-level are not as competitive as private industry, but the generous benefits offered are worth consideration when weighing decisions.  Applying for a job with the government can be daunting, but I would say to be persistent.  Reach out to as many people as possible through alumni networks, LinkedIn, and professional societies to find out about openings and get advice on how to improve your application.  Use these resources to determine the ultimate requirements for the job you hope to pursue and strive to achieve that experience.

The NTSB is a small agency and with so many people passionate about the mission, vacancies are sometimes hard to come by.  I encourage people to follow and watch for openings, but to also look at all the available options.  Throughout the Federal Government and aviation industry, there are many exciting careers in aviation safety and accident investigation; the path to your dream career may take a different avenue than expected, but never give up on it.


Free Money! Apply for the Co-op/Internship A$$istance Award Today!

Daytona Beach campus students can apply for a Career Services sponsored Co-op/Internship A$$istance Award (financial assistance up to $500) through Career Services to help defray some expenses they may incur when they go on a summer Co-op or Internship experience. Money could be used for gasoline to travel to the industry site, for professional clothes to wear at work, to help pay rent, to pay for lodging when non-reving to Paris, or even to eat at McDonald’s!

Companies and Alumni have made Tax Deductible donations to the Co-op/Internship A$$istance Program in order for Career Services to offer several deserving Co-op/Intern students some extra money for expenses during the summer Co-op/Intern semester.  Some employers even match employee donations! Their generosity has helped to minimize students’ financial concerns; therefore, these students are allowed to get the maximum benefit from the practical work experience. Contributors to this extremely beneficial program include Jet Aviation and Northrop Grumman, an alumna with the NTSB, as well as a number of Embry-Riddle employees. The Award Program began in 2003 and will continue each summer semester, as long as donated funds from generous benefactors are available.  Three students were selected for the Award last summer.

Applicants must comply with University Co-op/Intern policy, have a mandatory advising session, register in EagleHire with an uploaded resume, meet Co-op/Intern eligibility requirements, sign Co-op Student Agreement, and be a full-time Daytona Beach campus student enrolled in the current and past semester in order to be considered. Submission deadline is Wednesday, April 4, 2012.

A RESUME, TRANSCRIPT, and an ESSAY are required documents. The one (1) page essay should answer the following questions:

  1. How important is this financial assistance to you?
  2. How would the Co-op Assistance Award money benefit you in completing your education?
  3. What circumstances, challenges or hardships do you have to conquer before you can graduate from Embry-Riddle?

Requirements can be reviewed on the Daytona Beach Career Services Organization on Blackboard/ERNIE.  Click Co-op/Intern Information for details.

A committee of Career Services staff members will select the winners. Selected students will be awarded a Co-op/Internship A$$istance Award for Summer 2012,  provided the students have been chosen for a Summer 2012 Co-op/Internship and have finalized a Co-op/Intern contract for registration by May 4, 2012.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Joanne Soliman

Joanne Soliman, DB 2007

Joanne Soliman is living the dream of Safety Science graduates, working for the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington, DC as an Operations Research Analyst in the Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention. While working on her BS in Safety Science and Master of Science in Aeronautics, Joanne gained relevant experience by completing two FAA Aircraft Maintenance Division internships through The Washington Center. Additionally, prior to accepting the position with the Federal Aviation Administration, Joanne worked for PAI Consulting, a consulting firm that contracts with the FAA.

How did you get your job with the FAA?

I applied for my current position through the website. The application process in itself is long and daunting. Outside the normal realms of a job application, FAA applications have a section known as Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) which require written answers. Your answers should reflect your ability to execute the duties of the position. However, prior to my application ending up on my hiring manager’s desk for review, it underwent a screening process which is designed to essentially eliminate applicants who do not meet the requirements stated in the position description. In my case it was based both on education and experience. A month after I made it through the screening process, I received an invitation for a face-to-face interview.  In total the entire process from application to swearing-in took about five months.

What is the secret to your success?

I feel the secret to my success thus far has been learning how to fail. It is not only a humbling experience, but it has also helped develop my character as a professional. It has forced me to ask questions when a process I’ve used for completing a task has not produced the necessary results.

What is one piece of career advice you would like to share?

If anything, I have two pieces of career advice. The first would be to get an internship while you are at ERAU. It will give you the opportunity to really understand what is happening in our industry and to take those skills that you have learned in the classroom and apply them to real-life situations.  Secondly, continue to learn; employers want to see that candidates and employees are either developing or sharpening the skills necessary to be successful in their positions. If a learning opportunity comes by, don’t pass it up.

What three traits or skills have made you the most successful in your career?

Organizational Skills: If you are not organized, then I encourage you to get organized.  Being unorganized is a good way to make a bad impression, not to mention the exorbitant amount of time wasted fumbling through thumb drives searching for your part of that project which needs to be delivered to your colleagues or boss. I wasn’t always very organized, but I realized very early on how critical my organizational skills would be to my success in my career. I know where everything is at in my desk, so if someone asks me for a document that they need, I know just where to go to get it.

Critical Thinking Skills: My job requires me to look through thousands of pieces of data every day. I have to be able to sort through the information and analyze the relevance and meaning and relate it to the project or a safety concern which may arise.

Networking: I was surprised at first at the number of ERAU Alumni who lived and worked in the DC area. However, once it became obvious that there was a vast ERAU network here, I began reaching out to people I had not only gone to school with and remembered seeing around campus, but to alumni who attended the Worldwide campus. My networks not only led me to my current position, but I have developed excellent working relationships and friendships.

International Students: Maneuvering Through a Job Search

by Adriana Hall

A job search requires countless hours, patience, dedication and a sense of action.  A job search for an international student requires the same sense of dedication, but there are some added maneuvers to implement into your search to emphasize your skills and accomplishments in this competitive job market.

One of the biggest challenges to finding employment as an international candidate is that many employers in the United States are required by law to hire only U.S. Citizens due to security.  Employers may also be reluctant to hire international candidates because the process can be both intimidating and overwhelming.  In addition, the current economic downturn produces even more competition among candidates for available positions.

The great news is that there are employers who are willing to hire foreign nationals who demonstrate during the recruiting process that they have not only the skills necessary to perform the job, but the personality to fit into the company.   International candidates also have skill sets that they can bring to the job search process to help them stand out from other applicants.

From demonstrating your skills to identifying your qualities, another important part of the job search process as an international applicant is to become familiar with U.S. immigration practices and procedures.  That way, it is easier to talk to employers about immigration policies, which can make the employer feel more confident in the entire process.

Here are some important tips to help international candidates through the job search process.

How do you stand out as an international candidate in this very competitive market?

  • Build a strong cover letter, resume/curriculum vitae (CV, if applying overseas).  The resume is the first impression an employer has of you; it is your own marketing tool
  • Maintain a strong GPA
  • Master the English language.  Enhance your communication skills by talking and speaking up in class, giving presentations, making friends, talking to Americans, taking communication courses, attending Career Services professional development presentations, joining and participating in on-campus organizations and reading newspapers and academic publications
  • Practice interviewing.  The first step to preparing for an interview is having an understanding of your values, skills, qualities and accomplishments  and being able to speak about them to a potential employer
  • Attend career fairs.  Meet recruiters and learn about various companies
  • Pursue internships and co-ops to open doors to possible full-time opportunities

How do you start navigating the job market in the U.S. and overseas?

  • Research companies in your career field that have multinational presences
  • Focus on occupations that most often sponsor international candidates
  • Look for opportunities in your own country
  • Become familiar with bilateral agreements that your country has in terms of employment with other countries
  • Network, Network, Network!  Contact friends, classmates, neighbors, family members, professors, alumni and community members and share your interest in obtaining employment with them.  Knowing the right people is more important than ever.  Alumni are a great resource. Consider creating an account on LinkedIn and actively using the system. You can find alumni from around the world that are in your area of interest and expertise and establish a connection

What skills can you emphasize during any job search interaction?

  • Language skills
  • Ability to adapt to new environments
  • Multi-cultural experiences
  • Global perspective
  • Plus, all your  technical skills, attributes and accomplishments

Job seekers often have the same sense of dedication and commitment to their job searches.  As international candidates seeking employment in the United States, it is important that your job search includes a focus on the hiring process knowledge and an emphasis on skills that differentiate you from other candidates. Use these recommendations to maneuver through the job search process and land a position.

Additional Resources

Adriana Hall has a Bachelor of Arts in Languages (Spanish-English) from Colombia-South America and a Master of Science in Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  She has been with ERAU for 9 years. Adriana worked for the Department of State in Colombia at the United States Embassy before moving to the U.S. ��� mr �(�� Career Services.

Alumni Career Spotlight: Thomas Hollinger

Thomas Hollinger, PR/DB 1996

Thomas Hollinger, a 1996 Aerospace Studies graduate, has over 16 years of experience in the aviation industry, primarily in aviation insurance. In 2006, Thomas joined Phoenix Aviation Managers to lead the Pleasure & Business unit. After a few years in this role, Thomas was asked to run the Atlanta regional office and most recently, was promoted to the home office to oversee other operational areas within the company as a Senior Vice President. A commercial multi-engine pilot with an instrument rating, Thomas enjoys flying the company’s Cessna 182 when he gets the chance. Thomas was a panelist on the Alumni Industry Panel this past November and actively recruits Embry-Riddle candidates for entry-level underwriting opportunities within his company.

Not many students know that there are some great opportunities in aviation insurance. Can you share a little about the field?

The field of aviation insurance offers a variety of career opportunities.  These career paths provide great fulfillment for those with a passion for aviation by encompassing close ties to the aviation community while serving in the broader financial sector.  The most common opportunities available for entry into this field are in claims, underwriting or as an insurance broker. Yet, there are many more roles required in the overall insurance operations such as IT, accounting, safety/loss control services, regulatory compliance and more.  Beyond these functional roles, there are many specialties within aviation insurance, each providing a different direction to take in a career path.  These specialties include General Aviation (corporate aircraft, personal aircraft, FBOs, flight schools, charter operators, agricultural, etc.), airlines, manufacturer’s products, workers compensation, satellite/space and reinsurance.

How did you work your way up to the Senior Vice President level?

By developing a genuine interest in learning all facets of the aviation insurance business and applying the knowledge I gained to each subsequent position. This allowed me to progress in my career and take on expanded responsibilities.  While absorbing the many elements of the aviation business, I focused on mastering my direct area of responsibility, taking charge of producing the best possible outcome in that role.  As I progressed in each role, I would measure the results and adjust the strategies and projections in consideration of the various forces at play.  I have taken the same business approach to managing my own career.  As I faced situations along the way, be it an unforeseen organizational change or new potential opportunities, I would perform a thorough analysis and make my decisions based on what gave me the best possible chance to succeed, both professionally and personally.

What do you look for in prospective Underwriting Trainee candidates?

An ideal candidate for an Underwriting Trainee position in general aviation underwriting will have a Bachelor of Science in an aviation-related degree with an element of business administration.  At Phoenix Aviation Managers, having a pilot’s license is preferred but not required unless the candidate wants access to fly the company’s Cessna 182.  A candidate with an aviation background is almost essential and much preferred to having a pure business or insurance background with no exposure to aviation.   While aviation can quickly become contagious, the best formula for becoming an aviation underwriter is by already having experience in and around the aviation environment.  Also, I like to see candidates that express an interest to be involved in aviation insurance for the long haul, with a vision to progress their career in this field.  When I perceive that the candidate is just looking for a temporary diversion while pursuing a professional flying career, then the investment in training and development for the insurance role could prove to be futile.  I look for sincerity in candidates that see the great benefits of having the opportunity to progress in a business career that also allows them to keep their roots firmly planted in aviation by serving an important role in that industry.

What is the best advice that you ever received related to your job search or career?

To sum it up in a small phrase, “Go for it!”   That’s what I have lived by and I suggest to anyone else seeking an opportunity.  If you see something that you want and you believe in it, you have to go after it and in many cases ask for it.  Opportunities do not seek you out (except for a fortunate few), and when you do find something that suits you, you have to aggressively pursue it.  Embrace that we all become sales people in our career searches, and the product that we sell is ourselves.  When faced with competition for a desirable job, you have to make the extra effort to market yourself as “the candidate” for the position.  In these days where so much recruiting and job posting is done by the internet and email, don’t just be one of many Word docs sitting on someone’s computer or on a server somewhere.  Follow up on what else is required of you for consideration and reemphasize your interest and qualifications.  Do it by email or, even better, by phone if you can.  Getting a phone number may require some resourcefulness, but that can be recognized as a positive too.  Keep in mind that there is always a point of going too far, and there may be some cases where it just wasn’t meant to be.  It’s important to move on.  You should recognize when it’s time to focus your energies and resources on the next “Go for it” opportunity.

Virtual Hiring Event: Tips to Help You Succeed

The 2013 Virtual Hiring Event will be held through the EagleHire Network Monday, February 11—Thursday, February 21, 2013. Candidates can begin preparing to apply for the full-time opportunities posted by previewing positions in the system the weekend prior (February 9-10).

To increase your chances of landing an interview as a result of the Virtual Hiring Event,  follow these tips:

  • Prepare in advance! During the job preview days, you have the chance to view positions without the pressure to apply  at that very moment. Take this time to read through the job postings and mark those you are interested in as “favorites” – this will allow you to go back to the position easily when it is time to apply.
  • Get your resume and cover letter in order. Make sure you have these documents uploaded to the EagleHire Network by February 27 in order to ensure ample time for your resume to be reviewed and approved in the system.
  • Don’t be generic! Once you’ve identified those jobs you wish to apply to, read through the position description and tailor the resume you plan to use for your application specifically for the position.  By personalizing your resume and cover letter, you are telling the employer that you are truly interested in the opportunity…as a result, you are also able to communicate to them that you are the candidate they’ve been seeking for the position.
  • Do not apply for positions where you don’t meet the minimum qualifications. It is frustrating for the employer, and in the vast majority of cases, it’s a waste of your valuable time.
  • Follow all application instructions to the tee! Give them nothing less than exactly what they ask for (resume, cover letter, references, writing samples, etc.) and apply in the manner they prefer (email, website, fax, or snail mail) – failure to do so is an indication to an employer that you do not pay attention to details,  nor do you follow directions.
  • Print out jobs to which you apply. This will help you in referencing the position later, in the event that an employer contacts you for an interview. If contact information is included, you can use that information to follow up  with the recruiter a few weeks later.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute! Make sure you take care of getting your resume online on time and begin applying for jobs as early in the week as possible. This helps to ensure that you can apply for positions at a leisurely pace, minimizing the risk of making mistakes.

For more information about the Virtual Hiring Event, including how to participate, a list of registered companies, event details, and FAQs for job seekers, visit our website:

Co-op/Intern Spotlight: Lauren Guddahl

Lauren Guddahl, BS Aerospace Engineering

In fall 2010, Lauren Guddahl left the United States for Germany to complete an unforgettable engineering internship with MTU Aero Engines. During her time in Germany, she had the chance to learn the culture and the language while gaining new computer skills, exposure to the working world, and practical experience. This past fall, Lauren decided to complete a second internship, this time with United Continental Holdings, dba United Airlines as an Aircraft Structures Intern. Both of these experiences have given Lauren knowledge and perspective that she would likely not otherwise possess, along with some great stories to share in future interviews.

What motivated you to do an internship abroad with MTU Aero Engines?  

In May 2010, I did a study abroad program in Siena, Italy through Embry-Riddle.  I have always loved to travel, and I absolutely fell in love with Italy and the idea of exploring the rest of Europe.  The experience was one I can never forget and definitely changed my life for the better.  Once I returned, however, I decided to focus more on school and my career.  In doing this, I began to actively search for internships.  I was initially searching for something during the summer or spring as I thought I was too late for the fall, but I found out that MTU Aero Engines was still searching for an intern, so I looked into it more closely.  The idea of returning to Europe was extremely enticing, and as I researched the company itself, I became more and more interested in working there.  I know I never would have even considered it if it had not been for the study abroad in Italy, but I still wasn’t too sure about moving to a country where I didn’t know anyone or speak the language!  I applied anyway, and I was ecstatic when I was offered the position.  I had neglected to tell anyone I had even applied for an internship (let alone one in Germany!) so after sharing and discussing the awesome news with my parents, some close friends, and the intern who was working at MTU at the time, I knew that I had to take advantage of such an opportunity.

Did you have any challenges to get visas or work authorization from Germany?

As a U.S. citizen, the visa process for working in Germany was theoretically simple.  There is a German consulate in Miami that can issue visas in a few weeks as long as they have proof that I would be working for a company.  While this seemed relatively simple, it was time consuming as I was not able to get proof of my work authorization until I had an official contract and filled out some other documents.  Once I received the contract and other documents, however, I reached my first obstacle: everything was in German!  I unfortunately did not have any knowledge of German prior to this experience, so I was starting to become more and more nervous about the whole ordeal.  Eventually, though, I managed to translate the documents and get everything sent back to MTU, who then was responsible for submitting a request for work authorization on my behalf.  I was told it would take about a week for everything to be processed so that I could apply for my visa, but it took much longer than that because all of the documents had to be originals.  As my start date approached, I thought about backing out so many times.  I was worried about so many things that I look back at now and can’t help but chuckle.

Initially, I was supposed to start working on September 1st.  With the delay in getting my work authorization, I had to push that back until October 1st.  In the interim, I still had not gotten that ever so important document that would allow me to apply for my visa, which was still going to take a few weeks to process.  After speaking with my Human Resources contact at MTU and a few phone calls to the German Embassy, I learned that I could get my visa in Germany on the same day as long as I had the aforementioned work authorization document.  By this time, however, I had already gone back home to New York as summer classes had ended.  In the confusion of trying to get everything ready for moving to Munich for the next five months and going back home, my work authorization had finally been delivered, but to Florida two days before I was supposed to leave for Germany.  Luckily, I was able to have it overnighted to me so I could actually get my visa once I arrived there.

The place I had to go once I was in Germany to get my visa was called the KVR.  I had every intention of getting there first thing in the morning the day after I landed in Germany as I was told it was similar to a DMV structure, but I had the wrong directions to get there!  Munich has an extremely convenient transportation network and it was easy to find where I wanted to go, but I had the wrong address to begin with.  After walking around the neighborhood I thought it was in for a good hour, I finally mustered up some courage to ask someone for directions.  Ordinarily, I would have asked much sooner, but knowing nothing more than basic words in German, my communication skills were extremely limited.  It was an amusing process of pantomiming and pointing, but eventually I ended up in the right place and I was able to get my long sought after visa.  However, the visa was only good for four months.  Once I started working, I had to show that I had entered the country and my visa had been approved in order for MTU to obtain another work authorization document for me which would allow me to extend my visa for the duration of my internship.  At the time, the entire visa process was one of the most stressful and nerve wrecking things I had to deal with.  As I look back on it now, though, the entire thing seems amusing to me as the five months I stayed in Germany working with MTU were some of the most unforgettable experiences!

Tell us about your learning experience, both professionally and personally. Did you find it difficult working/living in a foreign country without speaking the language?

I learned so much more than I could have possibly imagined working at MTU. While I had worked in an office before, this was my first experience working in a technical position.  At first, I was extremely frustrated because I felt that I knew nothing useful to contribute.  While the people in my department were extremely friendly and helpful, it was clear the preferred language was German, which I knew very little of.  As time went on, however, I adapted to my surroundings.

My daily tasks varied from day-to-day after the first few weeks.  I was initially responsible solely for learning UniGraphics, a CAD program similar to CATIA.  Once I mastered the program, I was given various assignments to create new parts, update older ones and their drawings.  After I became more familiar with the company and the manufacturing process, I was given other tasks that would require me to speak with the machinists to collect data from the production floor.  I would then compile this information into an Excel sheet or a PowerPoint presentation.  Other projects I worked on consisted of translating information from German to English.  One of the neat things about working for MTU was that I learned how a company functions, especially when they have branches in different locations.  The production headquarters for MTU is located in Munich, but they have parts being made in Poland as well.  This made it essential for documents used by both branches to be in English as it had been deemed the official language of MTU.

I also enjoyed the work environment at MTU.  There were many facilities available for workers such as a gym, library, and a supermarket.  There was only one cafeteria within a reasonable distance for employees without a car, which was on the “campus,” but it had amazing food for a subsidized cost.  At least once a week, traditional German food was served, which allowed me to try a new cuisine without spending too much money.  Scheduling was extremely lax compared to the work structure most people are familiar with: 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.  The only thing that mattered at MTU was that you had an average working time of 35 hours per week.  This was especially nice since I would occasionally have a project that I would work on for several days without seeing daylight, but then I could have a three or four day weekend without taking any time off.

While I did learn a lot of technical terms and about the manufacturing process, I learned much more about myself as an individual.  I have always been rather independent, but I never realized how much I could do on my own if I had to.  I also never appreciated how much I do need people.  I wouldn’t classify myself as a loner by any standard, but I do enjoy time to myself more than most people deem reasonable.  Being forced to be alone, however, was a completely new concept for me and one I most definitely did not enjoy.

Additionally, I discovered how nice complete strangers could be.  Assumptions are made that most people are generally cold to the rest of the world simply because they just don’t care.  While on several of my many weekend trips throughout Western Europe, I was graciously helped by a local (or someone who at least knew the area well enough) when I was looking at a map or clearly lost.  I didn’t even have to ask for help – it was automatically given to me by a passerby who could tell I was a tourist.  When I was stranded at a train station for an evening on my way to Prague, two café owners allowed me to wait inside and gave me a full meal and hot tea even though they were closed because it was cold outside.  While most of us would do these things for people we know, we are less likely to offer our compassion to strangers.  It shocked me how common it was elsewhere, though.  Of course there are those people who wouldn’t help, but I found that most people would and it has become one of my goals to follow that mentality.

When I first arrived in Germany, I was extremely excited about everything that not being able to communicate with people didn’t exactly cross my mind as becoming a difficulty.  After a few days, however, it all hit me at once.  As I mentioned, people at MTU could speak English, but it was not preferred.  When I was involved in a conversation, my co-workers would try to teach me words and phrases, but it was still frustrating for both parties.  It did make things extremely difficult at first, but eventually we found an effective way to communicate.  Outside of MTU, many people could speak English.  I did pick up the important phrases and a bit more of the basic conversations, but I have to admit, if there is one language to know, it is definitely English.  This may be an extremely arrogant viewpoint for all native English speakers, but it is the most commonly spoken language and is the most probable reason for why English speaking countries do not take learning a foreign language as seriously as others in my opinion.  Most of Europe requires two languages to be studied in addition to the native one.

I see that you are doing a second internship with United Airlines currently.  What are the benefits you will take away from these two internships when looking for a full-time career?

My internship with Continental/United (I use the two names with a backslash because I was there during the official time when the FAA approved the merger of the two airlines) in the fall was also an amazing experience.  The opportunities I had from working with them are innumerable.  Having an inside look to what goes on in more than one company gave me a lot of insight on certain aspects regarding daily operational procedures.  While I was treated well at both companies and loved what I was doing in both positions, I definitely felt more involved with Continental/United.  Since I was part of the technical operations department, I was legally considered a Continental employee until the merger was FAA official on November 30, 2011.  Whether this feeling was due to the fact that I could generally understand all of the conversations that took place around me, I had more technical experience at that point, or I was more interested in the structures side of aircraft than engines could all be considered, but it is definitely something that will help me decide what type of full-time position I would like once I graduate.

I believe that having the interview and practical experiences will also assist me in searching for a job because I will have an idea of the general questions an employer might ask me.  I will be able to describe in detail certain projects I worked on, which might give me a leading edge over another prospective employee.  I know I had my doubts about doing both of my internships, but I am more than grateful that I took advantage of the offers because there are so many more things that I learned on my internships that I feel could never really be learned in school.  There is definitely not enough hands on experience when you are in school, and that’s what I valued most about working with MTU and Continental/United.

What advice would you give students who are contemplating doing an internship experience?

DO IT!  There is no substitution for an internship!  I truly believe everyone could gain something from an internship, and I can’t understand why it is not a requirement for all majors to have one.  At orientation my freshman year, one of the speakers told us one thing I will never forget: “There are two things every student should do while in college: a study abroad and an internship.”  I could not agree more with these words, especially now.  The experience, knowledge, and contacts you gain are not comparable to what you learn in school.  It also gives you insight to what you may or may not want to do.  I thoroughly enjoyed using CATIA every day of my EGR 120 class, and I thought my internship with MTU was going to be just as enjoyable.  I did appreciate the experience, but I learned it is definitely not what I want a career in.

The fundamentals and theories are important and essential for getting any position, but experience is also necessary.  While I am aware that most students do not want to postpone graduating a semester later than originally anticipated (I was one of those people not too long ago), it is completely worth it!  You go to school to get a job – if you’re being offered job experience while you are still in school – there is no reason to decline it.  I have too many friends who were extremely successful in school, but they have graduated and cannot secure a job or get accepted into a graduate program because they lack experience.  An internship gives you exactly that!

Body Language Revealed

by Kristy Amburgey

The last interviewee fidgeted and made me nervous.  This one talked too fast and said too much.  He cleared his throat every few words.  That guy looked off into the distance as if he was trying to see through the wall.  One person maintained eye contact, which was great, but she only maintained eye contact with one person and avoided looking at the others.  That earlier guy practically had his feet propped up on the chair and appeared way too casual.

This group of interviewers heard your answers, but they also observed more than what you said.  They were looking at your non-verbal cues, or body language, to learn just as much about you as what you said.  Even though your answers were appropriate, you may have lost out on the job solely based on your body language.

Sure, your answers are important, and the information you state is valuable in the evaluation process.  But your answers combined with your body language gives the interviewers a more complete picture of you as a candidate. Just like providing concrete examples from your past when you answer a question, you can support and prove what you say with positive, confident body language.

Here are some of the negative non-verbal cues communicated and how the actions may be perceived during interviews.  These actions should be minimized or avoided as best you can.

  • Crossing arms (or holding objects in front of your body) = unapproachable or defensive
  • Sitting in your seat casually, leaning back = not taking this conversation seriously
  • Sitting on the edge of your seat = uncomfortable or anxious
  • Not maintaining consistent eye contact =  uncomfortable or not interested in what is being said
  • Looking off into the corners of the room or at the floor =  unprepared, unfocused or making up an answer
  • Fidgeting (or tapping your foot or fingers, playing with a pen or jewelry) = anxiety or boredom
  • Nail biting (or twirling strands of hair) = nervous
  • Slouching = unsure of yourself
  • Hands on your hip = aggressive
  • Inappropriate dress (sloppy grooming, too much cologne) = unprofessional or unaware of the expectations of a work environment
  • Being immobile or rigid = scared
  • Hanging your head = unconfident or insecure
  • Speaking too quietly or too quickly (or clearing throat too often) = nervous or not wanting to be noticed
  • Speaking in a monotone voice = not interested in the subject matter or not enthusiastic
  • Touching the face or hiding your mouth with your hand (or shrugging) = not giving truthful information

Here are some tips related to positive non-verbal communication to implement into your interview.

  • Smile
  • Maintain eye contact with everyone present without staring
  • Dress professionally, adhering to industry and company standards of professional dress
  • Sitting and standing up straight
  • Nod your head to engage the person or to confirm you understand him or her
  • Keep your speaking voice even but expressive especially when conveying enthusiasm and passion

What you say with your hands, facial expressions, eyes, movements and more conveys many different messages.   Even though you may not be able to prevent yourself from all your conscious or unconscious tics, you can work, via practice, observation and feedback, on minimizing your negative non-verbal clues and maximizing your body language to convey positive information.  Make sure you leave the interviewers raving about your confidence, knowledge, personality and attitude through what you said and what you did not say.

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.


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