This is a guest blog entry written by Alejandra Fuentes. If you want to read more stories, visit viterbiadmission.usc.edu/latinxlives.
Hi everybody, my name is Alejandra Fuentes and I am a Manufacturing Engineer at Medtronic. I graduated from USC in 2019 with a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering. I currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Yes, I miss the weather!) where I work manufacturing batteries for all Medtronic medical devices, including pacemakers. I was born in Lima, Peru and raised in Chicago, Illinois (the city, not the suburbs). During my time at USC, I participated in Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Break on 2 Latin Dance Team, and was a Freshman Academy coach.
Through my involvement at USC, I often talked about the transition to college and adapting in the beginning, but I never got the chance to talk about what happens after USC. Now that I have graduated, I wanted to share some of my experiences finding jobs and navigating an industry that I knew no one in.
Scoring my first internship was harder than I anticipated. By my junior year, I only had one summer left to find relevant work experience before I graduated. At this time, most of my classmates had traveled abroad or done research on campus (both which I highly recommend!), yet I only had my leadership experience from serving on a variety of different Executive Boards on campus. However, instead of focusing on what I did not have, I focused on the skills that I already possessed. I learned how to take my leadership experience and translate it into tangible skills that would help me in an engineering role. Whether it’s budgeting, planning events, or leading a committee, these abilities are also sought out in the engineering field and make for a well-rounded engineer. With this new trick, I used the Trojan and SHPE network to land a 6-month co-op and a summer internship, exceeding all my expectations.
”The best thing to do is to start early and do your research before the conference. All companies are different, so finding out what type of positions companies are recruiting for and when they’re recruiting is important.
Personally, I found that finding a full-time job was much harder than finding internships. The main reason is that you go through multiple rounds of interviews, whereas internships are just one or two short rounds. This meant that on top of trying to graduate (finally), working on my senior design project, and balancing my extracurriculars, I also had to make time for several hours of interviews, recruitment events, fly-outs, and conferences. In short: looking for a full-time job is a job in itself. What helped me was starting early and having a plan with all the companies I could apply for. After reaching out to my network, I started applying online. One great tip that I received was to ask the university recruiter if they could put me in contact with the HR recruiter for a specific job role I had found. This is how I was able to get two more interviews in Minnesota. And last but not least, I also went to conferences! My biggest advice is to apply online BEFORE the conference. Many companies open up a “position” online just for that event so that they can pre-screen candidates and schedule interviews before the conference. During my pre-screening interview, I mentioned that I was looking for a role specifically in Minnesota and the recruiter was able to schedule me for an interview with a Minnesota manager (spoiler alert: I now work for him!).
The best thing to do is to start early and do your research before the conference. All companies are different, so finding out what type of positions companies are recruiting for and when they’re recruiting is important. And do not be scared to share what type of role you are looking for. It actually helps recruiters find roles for you rather than having to randomly choose. By specifying I was looking for a manufacturing position in Minnesota, the HR recruiter at the conference was able to directly pair me with a manager offering that position. In the end, it’s a win-win for you and the company.
All in all, searching for jobs may be slightly overwhelming, but you made it this far so you got this! A little preparation can go a long way in helping you reach your goals and have a plan for after college.
And please… call your mom (or dad, sibling, loved one). They really do want to hear from you!