Spartan Spotlight: Dr. B

I am so excited for you to see everything that Dr. B (Dr. Bernadette Friedrich for those of you who have never met her before) has to share. In case you haven't been keeping up: (I suggest catching up as soon as possible.) While I was at a virtual session with the Center last week I had the chance to talk with Dr. B. Everything thing that she shared with me was so insightful and really changed the way I thought about my full time job search. I figured it was only fair to give her some airtime with all of you, with the hopes that you will use her as a potential resource as you continue your employment adventure. Here is what Dr. B had to say when I grilled her with some Spartan Spotlight questions:


My life is like a Beatle’s song – The Long and Winding Road…. Google it!

I grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college with the career goal of being a high school guidance counselor. I got a BS in Mental Health Counseling. I also did a minor in Gerontology, this is the study of aging. I know what does that have to do with high school students. To be honest, it was the path of least resistance. I did have an interest and experience with a lot of old people, and since I was in the minor, my courses were easy to schedule and I didn’t have to think about electives. (We act like we do, but we don’t really think things through all the time either.) Ironically, jobs in social services were slim to none when I graduated from college, but I happen to know someone who had some influence on a job as an Admissions/Social Services Director in a long-term care facility. (See that dumb choice came in handy.)

I had a boss who had an associate’s degree and was making five times what I was. I was annoyed, I was frustrated, and I was bored. Quit that job and went back to school full time! This time I was going to be a Human Resources person in Health Care, my degree was a Masters in Health Services Administration (Think of it as an MBA for the medical field.) I also received an MBA Certificate in Human Resource Management. Funny thing, when I quit my job I had been offered a graduate assistantship working 20 hours a week in the Cooperative Education Office. When I got to work the first day, I was told Good News! We got funding to make this a full time administrative assistant position. Yeah good news, I got health care, free tuition, and more money than I was making at the nursing home. But now I was committed to working full-time and going to school full-time. It was fun! I really do recommend it.

As I continued my studies, our office submitted and received a grant for $250,000 over 5 years. I finished school in two years and stayed another three until our grant money was running out and I didn’t know what my future held. It was at this point that someone faxed me, yes I said fax, a position on Michigan State University. From that perspective, you could say the rest was history. But alas, while I was here I decided since I was across the street from the number one educational program in the country, that maybe I should take advantage and get a Ph.D., so I did. That was the beginning of Dr. B.

What is the most embarrassing thing to happen to you in an interview?:

So I interviewed for an alternative position with a company I was already working for. I may have been a little too relaxed. When they asked me what was one of my strengths I answered, Diplomacy, I have the ability to tell people to go to hell, and have them look forward to the trip! True Story. I didn’t get the job.

What are some of the things you would be doing if you were graduating this year?: I would have a plan to create a hierarchy of companies that I want to approach. Identify the top ten and really focus on them, by creating personalized cover letters, reaching out to potential connections on LinkedIn, and preparing for the worst.

What is the biggest mistake that you see students make the most looking for full time jobs?: Ha, not participating in some kind of experiential education and then being confident that they can get the job of their dreams before graduation, with a huge salary, in the city they love, and doing the “work” that they want. In other words, not managing expectations, and not putting in the work.

What aspects of the job search process do you think students don’t take seriously enough?: The whole thing. Either students think the process is just to throw thousands of resumes and see where they land, or they are so picky that they are not opening themselves up to opportunities that they don’t even know about.

If you could tell every Senior Spartan Engineer one thing, what would it be?

Every email from Dr. B contains a lesson.

I want to thank Dr. B again for taking some time to meet with me as well as answer some questions so we could get to know her a little better.

Now for the big question: "How does getting to know Dr. B better help me with my full time search?" That answer begins with another question: How doesn't it? Dr. B has a position dedicated to helping engineering students further their education outside of the classroom. She has met with an infinite amount of employers and heard countless stories from students about their time at various companies. This makes her the perfect person to reach out to if you just want to chat and learn more about anything related to the professional world of engineering.

In addition, did you see all the education she has accumulated?!?!? Dr. B has held many different positions with different companies and experienced many different positions within completely different fields of both the public and private sector. If you want to know something about what a person with a certain type of job does on a daily basis, I guarantee she has a story for you. I hope that all of you will consider reaching out to her in the future as you go through this process. Dr. B is one of the most personable people I have interacted with, and the perfect person to chat with to provide advice when you hit the wall throughout this adventure. Stay tuned and keep grinding Spartans!

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