With the end of the year approaching, and only two challenges remaining in our Mission: Packaging program, we asked our students to seek the wisdom of those who came before them – that is, packaging studies graduates from their universities. Each student interviewed an alumna to seek out the nuggets of wisdom that comes with hindsight and experience, in the hopes of learning something about what to expect from their future career in packaging. Take a look at what they gleamed:
Caroline: Gaining Insight
It’s important to gain as much insight as possible about the Packaging Industry prior to joining the work force. As a student, I learn about the science and technical aspects to packaging but through connections with former students who were in my position not too long ago, I’m able to gain a better perspective. For this mission, I interviewed an alumnus from the University of Florida, Lindsey Ramkellawan, who recently graduated with a Packaging Engineering degree and is working in the packaging industry. The following outlines the advice she gave me:
Q1: What is some advice that you would give someone considering a degree in packaging?
A: I would suggest that prospective students research the various aspects of the industry such as CPG vs. Pharmaceutical vs. Electronic or R&D vs. Manufacturing to understand what the different employment and education opportunities out there are. Students don’t need to decide on which field they want to go into, but it is nice to gain exposure to prospective options. I also advise exploring the different packages at stores and seeing how many products are touched by packaging engineers.
Q2: What is some advice that you would give a packaging student on how to position themselves for employment after graduation?
A: I would advise every student to get an internship or co-op with a company regardless of how it will affect their graduation date or pay scale. I think having a that experience with a company is extremely valuable and many companies look for work experience. Furthermore, I suggest taking part in competitions and joining the school’s club since that puts them in contact with professionals. Competitions allows students real world experience solving packaging problems.
Q3: What qualities do packaging professionals look for when hiring new employees?
A: Packaging professionals look for experience, problem solving abilities, general workplace experience, and how well the employee gets along with others.
Q4: How would you recommend making a good impression and standing out against colleagues to position yourself for advancement within the company where you are employed?
A: I would suggest taking on responsibilities. Try to learn as much as you can and take on extra responsibilities to stand out. Don’t shy away from the work because it is out of your comfort level. Asking questions is encouraged and shows your interest in the material and company advancement. Many students are afraid of asking questions when in a workplace because they think it makes them seem like they do not know the industry, but questions are encouraged and appreciated!
Tristen: There’s No Better Teacher than Experience
I had the opportunity to speak to Mehul Asparota, a recent graduate from the Rutgers Packaging Engineering Program. I had many take-aways from my talk with him, but I’d like to share the three most important with you:
The first was what to consider when choosing my career in packaging. The most important thing for you to evaluate is whether you are going to enjoy it. By working 40 hours a week for at least 50 weeks a year, you are spending over 30% of your life on your career. If it’s not something you enjoy, then you’ll essentially waste your life by being unhappy for the bulk of it. With that said, Packaging is an incredibly diverse field, allowing you to explore many different industries and positions. It’s a great place to continue searching for your passion while developing a competitive skillset because of how broad the field can be.
Second was that the key to success is networking. Nothing will get you further in life than who you know, and who they know. By developing relationships with the peers and professionals around you, you can build the foundation for an immense network that will grow with your career.
Finally, he brought to light what many companies are looking for in new employees and how to differentiate myself. Employees want to know what kind of value you are going to bring to their company and the biggest thing they’re looking at today is your ideas, or rather your potential for generating ideas. Companies are seeking individuals that are problem solvers, have a clear technical understanding, and are great at innovating. It’s important to showcase these skills through projects where you’ve produced tangible results, both on your resume and in interviews.