Industry/Career Expo Success Story: John Lobdell

By John Lobdell

John is a First Year student in the Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering program at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus

DSC_2692The Industry/Career Expo is one of the most publicized events on campus. Starting from the time you arrive in early fall, you are constantly reminded of it through e-mail, posters, teachers, and even certain organizations. And for good reason–some of the top aerospace companies in the world attend, looking for students to hire as interns or full-time employees. It’s an amazing opportunity–but one that is highly competitive, as hundreds of students are contending for the same positions. It’s really quite frightening to think about the odds of actually obtaining one of these positions; because of this, many students–especially freshmen–feel as though it’s pointless to even try. I was one of those freshmen for a while.

It didn’t take long from the time I arrived on campus to realize how big of an event the Expo was going to be, from all the advertising. Fairly early on, I knew that I wanted to attend, but actually getting an interview–much less a position–with one of these companies was far from my mind. I was a freshman after all, and freshmen don’t get internships. The idea of getting an internship for the summer after my freshman year didn’t even cross my mind until I actually met an upperclassman who had gotten one his freshman year. At first it was just a small thought; I figured it would be a great experience to get an internship my freshman year, but I also thought it highly unfeasible. Then I met several more upperclassman who had gotten internships their freshmen years, and I started to think that maybe it was possible.

At that point, the idea really started to sink in. Rather than just a thought, it became a goal. I realized how unfeasible it was, but I was determined to at least try. That way, even if I failed, I would still have a much better idea of what I needed to do for next year. But I really didn’t know what to expect at the Expo, and had no idea how I should prepare. I decided that the best thing would be to go to one of the Expo preparation sessions, hoping that it would give me at least an idea of what to expect. Little did I realize just how helpful one of these sessions would be. They went over everything from what to expect from the recruiters, to how to format your resume, to what to wear, and everything in between. By the time the Expo came, I had gone to several of the different sessions and was feeling quite prepared. And then, after weeks of waiting and preparation, it was time for the Industry/Career Expo.

On the day of the Expo, I was feeling quite confident. My resume had been polished several times over, I had a nice suit that looked professional, I knew exactly who I wanted to talk to, and I had a general idea what to expect from them. I arrived at the ICI Center, walked in, and suddenly… lost all confidence. How could I honestly have thought that I could get an internship? I hadn’t built up my resume nearly enough to be competitive. I began walking around, eying out the different companies. Finally, I got up the courage to go up to one. Figuring that I was ready, I decided to go to one of the companies that I had researched before the Expo. I got in line and waited until it was finally my turn to talk to one of the recruiters. I walked up, shook his hand, handed him my resume, and got so nervous I couldn’t remember what I was going to say. I mumbled and stuttered every time he asked me a question and am fairly sure that my words were not completely coherent. It was a disaster.

I felt pretty unconfident after I finished talking to that first recruiter. I lost all hope of getting an internship. I was just too nervous to be able to accurately display myself to recruiters. So I decided to just go to various companies and practice talking with them. I went to several companies, but although I was slowly growing more used to talking to the recruiters, I was still nervous, and it was obvious. Soon it came time for me to leave for my first class, so I decided that I would visit one more booth before I left. I had noticed General Electric‘s booth earlier in the day and decided that I would talk to them. As I began walking to the booth, I started to think about some advice that a friend of mine had given me before the Expo. “Be yourself,” he said.  So I decided to go up and talk to the recruiter not as a recruiter, but as a friend…someone I knew. When I got to the booth, I walked up to the recruiter and just had a normal conversation with him. By treating him as a friend, I was able to dispel the nervousness. He asked me a few questions about my resume, and at the end, he pointed to the top of my resume where my phone number was, and asked, “Is this where we can reach you?”

Later that day, I got a phone call asking if I could come in for an interview the following afternoon. I, of course, accepted. That night, I did as much research on GE as I could in order to prepare for the interview. I wanted to know exactly what to expect. Going into the interview the next day, I was prepared with not only as much information as possible, but also the same mindset that I had when I had talked to the recruiter the previous day. Treating the interviewer as just another person that I can have a normal conversation with helped once again calm my nerves and allow me to accurately represent myself. The interview went well, and I left feeling quite confident. And about a week later, I got the e-mail offering me a summer internship with GE.

It is not impossible for a freshman to get an internship, as I can attest to. If you want one, you will be able to get one; you just need to put in the effort. Many freshmen feel that they don’t have enough experience to get an internship, but the truth of the matter is that companies that hire freshmen interns realize that they won’t have experience. What these companies are looking for is not a vast amount of experience, but passion…passion about what you do and about what they do. And they are also looking for people who can just be themselves. So when you talk to either a recruiter or interviewer, just be yourself, and show off all of your skills and talents. Find a way to weave in what you’re passionate about, in particular if it has to do with the job position. When all you have to go with is a resume, it’s a little more difficult, but the same concept applies. Get involved with clubs and activities that correspond to your major or your desired career. Not only will these things provide invaluable experience, if you are truly passionate about your major, they will also be enjoyable. And having them on your resume will show that passion.

Finally, one of the keys to getting an internship is being prepared. Do your research on whatever companies you may be interested in. And take advantage of Career Services and all that it offers. The sessions on what to expect at the Expo were invaluable to me; I doubt I would have gotten the internship had I not gone to them. They tell you exactly what to expect, and they give you many useful tips to help you get an interview. Make sure your resume has been polished several times over as well; a poorly formatted resume can give a bad impression to recruiters and may keep you from getting the opportunity to express yourself more fully through an interview. I encourage everyone, especially freshmen, to aim for an internship because as long as you are willing to put in the effort, there is nothing stopping you from obtaining one.

Co-op/Internship Spotlight: Steven Bohlemann

photoSteven Bohlemann is a senior in the Aerospace Engineering program, concentrating on Propulsion with a minor in Aircraft Maintenance Science at the Daytona Beach campus. Through his minor, Steven is working on his A&P license. Steven has completed two internships to date and just started his third. His first internship was completed with GE Global Research in Munich during his junior year after a semester of Study Abroad in Germany; his second was with Lufthansa Technik Aircraft Component Services in the United States. Steven will be spending this semester working as a Service Engineering Intern with United Airlines in Houston, TX.

How did you land your internships, and how did you navigate the process?

I obtained the internship with United Airlines in their Service Engineering Department in Houston, TX as a result of the Industry/Career Expo. Make sure to go prepared to the interview; you don’t need to be an expert about the company but know simple facts. Also, the most important advice, I unfortunately realized a little late, is to BE YOURSELF in the interview. I used to think I would have to be exactly who I thought they were looking for, and this always made me really nervous. In my experiences, I have accepted three internships and been offered more; I found I had the best results when I prepared for the interview. While I change my daily attire and behavior to fit the formal occasion, I do not hide who I am. I clearly tell them what I love to do and why I am passionate about it, and if they ask, I tell them my deficiencies as well as dislikes. Remember if you play it safe, like I used to do, you will never be put at the bottom of the pile, but you will remain safely and jobless in the middle of the pile of applicants. You have to stand out. All of us, even us engineers, have unique personalities and sets of skills; let those shine through in an interview.

What have you done, and what will you be doing on your next internship?

I completed my first internship my junior year while I was having the time of my life studying abroad in Germany. I studied there for a semester, and the following semester, I was lucky enough to get an internship with GE in their Research Center in Munich, which at the time was one of their four Global Research Centers in the world. These research centers were where the next leap of technology were created, and it was incredibly awesome to work with those people. I worked in the energy production system department. I learned so much from this internship and really loved it. I became hooked on the internship experience.

My second internship was with Lufthansa Technik Aircraft Component Services in the United States. This one was far less technical when compared to my GE experience, but it was great to get another perspective on how the business and technical world coexist. I did a lot of reliability and performance studies of various components which was then presented to customers where financial consequences were discussed.

My third internship will be with United Airlines with their Service Engineering Department in Houston, TX. I am really excited to be able to call a hangar filled with airplanes, including the new 787, the office where I work.

What advice do you have for students seeking an internship?

Do not wait; I regret not going to Career Services my freshman and sophomore years and not attending the career fairs. While you most likely will not get an internship your freshmen year, get out there and practice. I used to be a very shy person and was super awkward in these type of situations. The only way you are going to get over those feelings of fear and intimidation is to PRACTICE. Put yourself in uncomfortable and foreign situations; you will inevitably learn and grow from the experience.

Did your international status cause you any challenges in attaining an internship in Germany?

It was hard to get an internship in Germany as my conversational German was pretty fluent, but I severely lacked technical German language skill, which made it harder, but not impossible, to get a position. Where there is a will there is a way, and I got an internship and overcame the language barrier. My co-workers were patient and very helpful. I was even able at the end of the internship to give a 15 minute technical presentation in German, all thanks to their help and patience with me during my internship. Here in the US, I had no problem as I am an American citizen.

What are your career aspirations and have they changed since you started your internships?

Other than being able to accumulate technical knowledge and skills from internships, these experiences have also helped me decide what I want and what I do not want to do. For example, I never thought I would’ve liked to work in Research and Development, as I mistakenly used to think it would be boring and not hands-on enough for me. I was hesitant to accept my internship at GE’s research center, but ultimately I said, I am here in Germany to expose myself to new adventures, so I decided to accept the offer. There is almost no other event in my life that has influenced me more professionally and personally than my internship at GE. I desire to ultimately work in field service/support engineering or R&D. I like that both career paths are exciting in their own respects. I would either like to be part of a team in R&D which may develop the next technological breakthrough or in field service engineering where you never know what you will be doing that day, as you cannot predict the problem that lands on your desk. From my own experiences, I have realized I love creating and building devices which are solutions to difficult, out of the norm problems, and I enjoy thinking outside of the box.

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

Umm…why in the world is someone contemplating if they should or should not do an internship? As respectfully as possible, I would say it would be ridiculous and, frankly, not smart to pass up the opportunity to do an internship. The whole purpose of going to school is to become educated to ultimately land a job in the real world. While school gives you a great foundation, it amounts to very little if it is not coupled with real world, practical experience which can be achieved through an internship. Through an internship you convert the raw knowledge learned in school into practical useful knowledge and a set of skills for your career. Doing an internship does not remotely guarantee a job; it does provide you the opportunity to set yourself apart from the next candidate, and hopefully with some luck, it is enough to get your dream job.

Please tell us about your learning experiences, both professionally and personally. What are the benefits you will take away from these experiences?

I have been at ERAU now for 5 years; I am pursuing my Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering with AOC in propulsion and a minor in Aviation Maintenance Science (obtaining my A&P License). When I look back on my college experience, I think of all the fun I had being part of the university soccer team, going to study abroad, great memories from various clubs, fun times with friends, and my internship experiences. These are the best times of our lives, so I cannot say enough, we should get out there and experience all that we can. Now is the time to try and pursue your different interests and truly see where your passion lies.

I can say my life changed when I went to study abroad, an experience which is by far the best decision I have made in my life. Not only did I have the most fun of my life, I grew as a person academically, professionally, and personally. My internship at GE Global Research Center in Munich was a great learning experience, as I was working for an American company in Germany, and my colleagues were from all over the world, to just name a few: Spain, Ireland, England,  Germany, America, Kenya, China, Mexico, Italy, Singapore and many more. This proved challenging in the beginning, as each culture was different, but what I took away was there were many different ways to get to the right answer, and you didn’t always have the right one. I learned how to work with a group of multicultural people and concluded that a diverse team may have initial short term obstacles, but I believe they are more effective and stronger in the long term than a culturally homogenous team. When employers ask me about a hard experience I went through or why I think I am a strong team player, I have a myriad of stories to provide them of evidence through the EXPERIENCE I had of living, studying and working abroad.

At GE, I was lucky to work as part of a team of scientists who took me under their wings, and they strongly impacted the person I am today and the professional I hope to be one day. I can say, I got my second internship as a result of my study abroad experience; they really liked that.  I took the lessons from GE to Lufthansa Technik, where I was mentored as well and was able to continue to develop my professional skills. These skills are invaluable to my career, and you do not learn these in school. You have to go out and experience these lessons, and hopefully, you do this before you begin your full time career.

Also, from my internship experience  and help from my advisor, I realized it would be a good choice for me to get my Airframe and Powerplant license to complement my engineering degree. I would have never done this had it not been for my time at GE, where I saw the value of not just designing some theoretical device, but also the ability to build it and comprehend the difficulties that come with constructing and maintaining components. I have definitely seen the benefit of pursuing my A&P license along with my engineering degree from employers this past career fair, as this was often the topic of conversation when I conversed with them.

I hope more students embark on adventures while in college, if that be through studying abroad, getting an internship, or putting themselves in some type of new foreign environment/experience, because not only will this make them a better professional  but also a more well-rounded person. One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” I believe we should live life to the fullest and experience all we can while in college, and that includes doing an INTERNSHIP!

Alumni Career Spotlight: Susan (DiLella) Herbert

Susan (DiLella) Herbert, DB 2002

Susan (DiLella) Herbert graduated from Embry-Riddle in 2002 with an Associate of  Science in Aircraft Maintenance Technology. As a student, Susan worked in the overhaul shop at Embry-Riddle during the last six months of her program. She took a job after graduation with Atlantic Southeast Airlines (Delta Connection, now known as ExpressJet), where she was a Line Maintenance Mechanic for a year and half before being promoted to Lead Mechanic in charge of a group of six mechanics. In September 2006, after four years at ASA, Susan left to join GE Aviation in Durham, NC where she has been for the past five and a half years. Today, Susan is an Assembly and Test Technician, assembling the CFM-56 – 5B/7B engines.

What made you decide to pursue a career in aviation maintenance?

When I was a kid, we got to fly a lot; I always loved to fly on airplanes, as it was just so much fun. I also loved to take things apart and put them back together. So when I was deciding what I wanted to do for a career in my junior year of high school, I came to Embry-Riddle and took a tour of the maintenance department, and I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do. I knew I would be good at it, and I would enjoy doing it.

What do you do in your role as an Assembly and Test Technician for GE Aviation?

In my role as an assembly and test technician, I build the CFM-56 5B/7B engine, which entails everything from building the sub assemblies or piece parts of the engine to taking all the piece parts and putting them together to form a core assembly or the entire engine. I have also taken on the responsibility of work station owner; I am responsible for the maintenance of a grind machine, which we use to cut our shroud sub assembly to meet a specific dimension.

Do you have any advice for candidates who are seeking work in the field of aviation maintenance?

My advice to candidates seeking a job in maintenance would be, do not limit yourself to just looking near the area where you live as there are so many opportunities out there that you might not know about. Keep in touch with your fellow alumni; aviation is a small industry, and you will find that networking is also a great way find out about job opportunities.

How has your Embry-Riddle degree helped you in the course of your career?

Embry-Riddle has helped me because employers find it impressive that I went to this amazing school. They know that I received a great education. I have also run into many people in this industry who went to Embry-Riddle, and we enjoy reminiscing about when we were attending there and what teachers we had. Because of that I have been able to network with my fellow alumni.

What are your long-term goals for the future?

My long term goals are to get my bachelor’s degree in Aviation Management and to continue to grow my career here at GE Aviation.

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