Making a good impression seems to come so naturally to Jonathan Fitch, senior mechanical engineering major, that it’s easy to forget there are some skills we all need to practice.
“I’ve only had four or five interviews in my life, and most of them were not very formal. My first mock interview was very informative. It highlighted all the things I need to work on,” says Fitch, reflecting on a practice interview with Walla Walla University's student development center (SDC) director, David Lindstrom.
“Lindstrom was able to point out behavioral things that could use working on like eye contact, how you gesture and all these things that are very important in the interview process. He points out subtle things that you wouldn’t really catch if you were just practicing on your own or with a friend,” says Fitch.
During his sophomore and junior years, Fitch was manager of the Atlas, a campus business run by the Associated Students of Walla Walla University. He oversaw daily operations of the small shop that sells beverages and is a hub of student activity. Fitch managed 11 employees and a $75,000 annual budget while developing a financial toolkit that will smooth the way for future Atlas managers. This year, while maintaining a full academic load, he is also a research and development engineering intern at Wilkinson Baking Company.
In fact, it was through Fitch’s work with the SDC that he got the nudge to explore opportunities at Wilkinson. “Lindstrom jump-started the whole process in my mind. He connected what he saw were my strengths with the needs at the Wilkinson Baking Company," Fitch says. "When I left that meeting with Lindstrom and went back to work at the Atlas, [the owner of the Wilkinson Baking Company] was there. That definitely cemented it in my mind. He was a regular at the Atlas and came in at the same time every morning. A couple of weeks later, after I had formulated some questions and thought about what I wanted to talk to him about, I just sat and waited for him to come in. He came in right on time, and I started up a conversation with him. Through that conversation, I got an internship. Without Lindstrom, I don’t know if that internship would have happened.”
Throughout the year, Fitch has also worked with Lindstrom on refining his resume. Their conversations have helped Fitch develop a flexible mindset about starting out in the engineering industry while steering him toward specific areas that align with his strengths, such as process engineering, medical device engineering and aerospace engineering.
As graduation draws closer and Fitch’s search for full-time employment intensifies, he foresees expanding his use of SDC services. “I will continue talking with Lindstrom about any opportunities I have, and about future interactions with employers and how I can present myself in the best way," he says. "If it comes time for any sort of negotiation, I think Lindstrom will be very helpful to consult with to see how to approach something like that.”
Fitch says, “I’m looking to see what kinds of opportunities are present right now and from there will just kind of shape my career path as it happens naturally.”