The USC Viterbi School of Engineering Career Fair is upon us. With the career fair a little less than a week away, today marks the beginning of the preparation: editing resumes, touching base with recruiters, and applying to job opportunities online. The day of the career fair will be hectic. Sporting over 100 companies and the entire engineering school, the career fair is best conquered when prepared with a game plan to become employed.

So, what is my game plan? Ideally, I would love to return to Northrop Grumman for a summer internship between completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Astronautical Engineering and starting my Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. At last year’s USC career fair, Northrop Grumman, much to my surprise, offered me an internship at the career fair. The first Northrop employee I met was Nelson Cade, an aerospace systems engineer who immediately made me feel welcome in the Northrop Grumman family. Nelson and I discussed systems engineering and how the process of designing, integrating, and launching rockets through USC’s Rocket Propulsion Lab mirrors Northrop’s systems engineering. After a long informal interview, Nelson introduced me to Steve Fox, the head hiring manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. Steve proceeded to offer me an internship position, and the rest is history. I spent an amazing summer working in Redondo Beach for Steve and Nelson on satellite integration and test. One hour at the career fair had a fantastic impact on my career.

One year later, and the game plan has changed little: Go to the career fair, get a great job. Returning to Northrop Grumman is my top choice, but I am also interested in expanding my understanding of the aerospace industry. Why close “career doors” before I even know what opportunities, company cultures, or amazing projects lie on the other side of those doors? Keeping this philosophy in mind, I am making a conscious effort to explore three major career themes: research, start-ups, and corporate aerospace. In the research field, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Sandia National Labs have piqued my interest. In the start-up environment, Tesla, SpaceX, Hyperloop, and Blue Origin all provide unique and interesting opportunities with hot tech companies on the rise. In corporate aerospace, Northrop Grumman is the obvious front runner, but Boeing’s Commercial Space Transportation program and Lockheed Martin’s Snuck Works make good cases to look elsewhere.

A Rendering of the Boeing CST in Space -- pretty cool!

A Rendering of the Boeing CST in Space — pretty cool!

In the end, the career fair can be boiled down to one word: experience. For many, the career fair provides a job experience. My hope is that the career fair provides me a life experience, an internship opportunity that can allow me to explore a different aspect of the aerospace industry while allowing me to grow as both an engineering and adult.

Follow me on Twitter (@USC_Coco) with updates as I go through the internship process! Best of luck to all those also searching for an internship.

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Astronautical Engineering, Class of 2016, Learn more on his profile here!