Developing engineering professionals for future

Oscar Abello

This fall marks the inaugural semester for the College of Engineering’s Professional Development Program (PDP). The purpose of the program is to help those students who have acquired a deep and diverse set of skills, but have not yet been able to bring focus to their career goals. The program is setup as one workshop, one seminar and three individual sessions. A unique part of the program is that participants are asked to sign a contract promising they will partake in each of the five parts. Sessions, seminars and workshops are one hour long each, and schedules are flexible to accommodate those eternally busy engineering students.The program was developed by Patricia Burdo, Director of Professional Development for the College of Engineering. Over the past few years, Burdo has been gathering feedback from past and current engineering students. “Students graduating from the College of Engineering really can do anything, based on their learning experience at Villanova,” Burdo noted, “And that freedom can have a tendency to overwhelm.” The program is designed to help students find their road through that open field, and to find it early. Often students may find themselves at a complete loss for where to go after graduation, despite many job offers and the skill set to succeed at any of them. “Students can be extremely proficient at math and science, but they will come to me and say they don’t know what to do with their life,” Burdo added.When finding themselves dissatisfied with the options in front of them, students may spend months on end waiting for the perfect opportunity. Those months are wasted months; the program is largely designed to eliminate that waste by allowing students to discern what the perfect opportunity looks like for each individual student. After a half-hour orientation session, the first phase of the program is titled, “What Color is your Career?” This critical workshop consists of excerpts and exercises from Richard Bolles’ industry standard, “What Color is your Parachute?” In this first phase students will begin to shed some of those months which might be wasted in the future. During the one-hour session, the participant will be given the tools to discern, perhaps within that one hour, what their personal and ideal career path would be. The session is short but sweet, interactive and designed to tailor to each student’s unique personality and tastes. “Efficiency is essential,” says Burdo. Students need to know what they want, and to know in this short time, rather than a longer, wasteful time later.After identifying a student’s ideal career, the next logical step is to help the student manifest that ideal. Making it real involves true, “professional development.” This means developing the mechanics of resume writing, interviewing, and adapting quickly to a new work environment. “Part of the pitch we made to businesses was that we’d be sending them students prepared to come to the workplace and hit the ground running, as full-fledged professionals,” Burdo said. The success of that pitch has encouraged businesses to identify students through the program for potential internships and future careers. Hence, the next three parts of the program, the “meat,” if you will, concern giving students the tools to be true professionals in the workplace world they will potentially become a part of.Students, of course, would have to compete for those potential positions, and in order to do that they will be required to have a resume, approved by the Careers Services Office, in order to move forward in the program. Resume writing is vital for bringing yourself to your ideal career and marketing yourself to your ideal employer. Employers are also looking for something very specific, and a clearly written, detailed resume can be the start of a long and successful career, or a short and unsatisfying one. The resume development phase may be a workshop or session depending on the individual student’s needs.Once a resume is created, the next step is figuring out where to send it. This part of the program will be conducted as individual sessions and will be based on the previous two parts of the programs. Based on each student’s “color,” and resume, participants will learn how to conduct this often exhausting process now, with supervision and aid, rather than later, alone and haphazardly.”Again, it’s all about saving time,” Burdo said. Today’s is a fast paced world, and finding that perfect opportunity is often time-sensitive.A mock interview is next, wherein participants will learn what to do before, during and after the interview. Students will learn how to research a company and come up with the right questions to ask of their potential employer. This vital skill is needed in order for the potential employee to discern whether or not this is the right opportunity for them. For obvious reasons, this part of the program is conducted as an individual session, or may be conducted during the Career Services Mock Interview Days, Sept. 27 and 28. The final session consists of employers speaking directly with students about how to succeed in the workplace. Participants can learn about core competencies and skill sets necessary to do well in any situation. Students may not have that perfect opportunity available when they graduate; but they can at least succeed in the career that they do choose by having that core set of skills.”We can bring students to the door,” Burdo said. “We can encourage them to open it, and now through this program we are allowing them to learn how to conduct themselves as professionals once they step through.”Upon the successful conclusion of the program, students will be given a Certificate of Completion, and their resumes may be published in a PDP Resume Book, for potential employers to search for potential employees. Three orientation sessions remain for next week, and these are critical due to the unique registration process of the program. They are: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday of next week. For times and more information, look for the ad in the Villanovan or visit