Careers Expert: Bob Orndorff, Penn State
Bob Orndorff has been with Penn State for 12 years!
Bob Orndorff is the Associate Director for Recruiting and Employer Relations at Pennsylvania State University. Orndorff has been at Penn State for 12 years, but before that he also did his doctoral work there, specialising in career development. Because Penn State is a large university with over 35,000 undergraduates (including 9,000 engineering undergraduates), Orndorff has helped place thousands of student engineers in their ideal roles during his career.
He is in charge of cultivating relationships with different employers and overseeing the university-wide career counseling staff as well as connecting the general career service department with each college within the university. Here are his insights and top tips to take advantage of your college’s career services:
How do your engineering students typically find internships and fulltime employment?
Because of the last couple years being a bit unstable, engineering has always been in the most demand here at Penn State. And so our engineering students first and foremost have an advantage of employers coming right here on campus by way of our career fairs and by way of our ongoing on-campus interview program. They’re recruiting full-time candidates as well as for internships and co-ops.
Also, most engineering programs really push the co-ops and internships. There has been an increase nationally of the conversion rate from intern to fulltime positions, so that’s obviously something we coach our students on to make the most of those internships because it very well could be a job offer at the end of it coming your way.
Are there any online resources you direct Penn State engineers to?
NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) is a great service. They have on their website a lot of surveys of recruiters.
What are your best tips for engineering students to use their school’s alumni network?
You look at Penn State being so large and you look at about half a million alumni out there over the country. And because the College of Engineering is so big, a significant percentage of those alums are in an engineering field. Another key strategy besides our on-campus recruitment is coaching engineering students on how to approach all of those engineering-related alums who are out there. We’ve been coaching them to engage with those alums through LinkedIn; it’s a more efficient way to begin the networking process. There’s a Penn State Alumni LinkedIn group that has between 40 and 50 thousand members. What a gold mine there and it’s easy to identify engineering grads in areas of interest.
Why do employers enjoy hiring Penn State engineers?
There’s just a lot of need for engineers these days, like alternative energy in our area. A couple years ago, the Wall Street Journal did an article on employers and who they’ve had the most success recruiting talent from and we were flattered that Penn State was number one on that list. First of all, it’s because of the size; there are plenty of engineering majors. Also, they feel that Penn State students are used to large organisations so they’ve learned to take initiative and take self-responsibility. And the third area is the teamwork and the work ethic: we have so many clubs and organisations, so students learn to be good team players. Penn State students know they have to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Those were the reasons noted in that report and that I’d agree to as well.
How has the recruiting process changed since you began at Penn State 12 years ago?
I would say the biggest change is that employers are increasingly coming to say they want to get to know our engineering students in greater depth to make more educated decisions about who to hire, so we want to get more involved in your campus. We have the Learning Factory, where there are company-based projects and a group of four or five engineering students are on one project in partnership with the employers. The employers serve as mentors; they get to know the students. Usually one or two students get hired. It’s a deeper interaction with our students. They’re coming to student clubs a lot more and talking with faculty. Before it used to be, they would show up once a year and do interviews and now what they’re seeing is longer-term relationships with these students. It’s not just recruiting, it’s mentoring and networking. They are spending more time making sure they’re hiring the right folks.
Which companies are the top employers of Penn State engineers?
A few really active fulltime employers for our engineers include Westinghouse, Amazon.com, Microsoft, IBM, Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Johnson &Johnson, Boeing, Northrop Grumman. Siemens, Alcoa, Volvo and Shell.
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