From Student to Professional: W. J. Wilde

Graduating and job searching can be stressful and confusing. Where do you start? How do people actually land a job? Is  there are right way to do this? It can become overwhelming. You may feel like you’re the only one who is facing this challenge, but other people feel the same way you do. They’re asking the same questions and dealing with the same worries.

The Career Development Center has been asking some of those exact questions of people who have been there and done that: your professors. They shared their stories about transitioning from student to entry-level employee and gave some advice to students who are starting their job search, graduating, or thinking about life after college.

Check out what W. J. Wilde, Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, had to say about his experience going from full-time student into the workforce.

Career Development Center: What exactly was your first entry-level job?

W. J. Wilde: I had a couple of summer positions. My parents lived in Las Vegas, so I sent a few applications out and found a company out in Las Vegas, so that I could live at home that summer. It got me three months of good experience doing some, it wasn’t real engineering work, but it was in the area and industry and I was working with engineers. Since I’m in the transportation area, I did a lot of traffic accounts, did some auto CAD work, and did some basic things that students still do when they do summer jobs.

My first real job was a little bit different than most since I was working on my Ph.D. at the University of Texas in Austin. I was working for a company at the time that had a lot of ties to the university. And so I knew some of the people there and started working on a contract basis as a contractor where I just submitted an invoice at the end of the month. Whether I worked 10 or 20 hours a week I just submitted an invoice and they wrote me a check. Then I had to pay the self-employment taxes as well

C.D.C.: What was the transition going from a student into the workforce like?

W.J.W.: Mine was over a couple of years, because I was a student still and then working more and more at the company until I graduated. Then I went full time with them. So I was part time 20-30 hours a week while I was finishing up school.

C.D.C.: What’s one thing you wish you would have known when trying to get an entry level job?


W.J.W.: I guess what I would have known was getting to know more of the people in the company or the people that I would be working with.  Another thing I wish I would have known earlier was to do a little more research about what the going rate was for hourly rates when I started and then salary later on. It took me a while. It was probably after I’d been there a few years that I learned where to find out that information.

C.D.C.: Is there any advice you’d give college students who are starting to look for jobs? 

W.J.W.: Learn about the company. Learn about what they do so when you interview you are knowledgeable about what they do and who they are, but not too much that it sounds like you memorized it all. I think some students do that, they’re a little bit overachieving in that area, then they research and memorize everything. They have some questions they’ve memorized to ask. You have to be careful that this doesn’t come across as just doing this from memory. You have to be more conversational. I think for students sometimes that’s hard, but it’s a just a skill you have to learn.

Dr. W. J. Wilde, Professor of Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering



If you are interested in discussing more options after college stop by the Career Development Center from 1-4 PM for QuickStop or make an appointment. We’ll be happy to help you with any job searching, grad school, interviewing questions, and more!

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