We interviewed Nectar Product Development’s Director of Operations, Shannon McElfresh-Hall, about what the company looks for in engineering graduates. She also provided some advice for people entering the workforce.

About Nectar Product Development: Located in Long Beach, California, Nectar Product Development specializes in medical device development, industrial equipment, and connected devices (ioT) development.

Q: Do you offer internships? If so, how many?

A: Yes, from time to time. We’re a small business, so it depends on the workload at a current time. Typically, we have only one or two interns at a time.

Q: What specific qualities and experience do you look for in an intern candidate?

A: We look for someone who has a strong work ethic, a lot of tenacity, and willing to learn all aspects of business. The intern candidate should have the expectation that they will come in and probably wear a lot of hats. We also really want to find someone who we feel is trustworthy, as interns typically do not have experience to show their history.

Q: What advice would you give recent graduates about to enter the workforce?

A: They should be ready to expect basically anything as entry-level positions often mean that you may be asked to perform duties outside of your discipline. They should also look for mentors in their company to assist and guide them through the initial stages of their career. The best thing for recent grads is to figure out how they can add value to the company they work for. It’s important that recent grads not have a sense of entitlement when they are first hired on because it’s a learning and growth experience when you first enter the workforce.

Q: What is a common mistake recent graduates make while applying to your firm?

A: During the application process, poor grammar or poor presentation on a resume or cover letter is a sure way to get eliminated. During the interview process, recent graduates tend to get very nervous. During that process it’s important to have confidence and be sure of yourself. People tend to lose themselves in nervousness, and it may be difficult for them to articulate what their skills are because they are so nervous.

Q: Can you share a recruiting secret or tip with us?

A: Networking is huge in recruiting. You want to use any outlet you can to find jobs. Work your friends and family, because any connections you have can lead you to an opportunity.

Q: What do you find recent graduates are most surprised by when they enter the workforce?

A: They may find it surprising that they don’t get as much feedback, and don’t have as much time with their mentors that they expect to. They may tend to think they are going to get further in their career sooner than they will. People who are in roles that are higher up have spent years to get where they are and know what they know about their business and role. It may be hard for recent graduates to have perspective as to what others have put in to get where they are at.

Q: What do you think will be the major changes in the engineering field in the next five years?

A: The “internet of things,” which is devices talking to each other, will become more prevalent than it already is. For instance, a monitor sends data to a cloud, and the cloud sends the information to a doctor. There will be a lot more machine data in which machines not only learn data, but interpret the data as well. Engineers must understand how to work with designers to achieve user-centered design.

Q: How would you suggest recent graduates maximize their time with their mentors?

A:It’s important to get straight to the point, and come prepared when meeting your mentors. Know what you want to get accomplished out of having that time with your mentor.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

A: With respect to recruiting, it’s important that people understand they should just be themselves. People are typically drawn to others who are genuine and humble. People with strong work ethics, and a positive attitude are often give more opportunity.