What Are The Job-Hunting Tips for CAD Professionals?

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Finding your first job in CAD/CAM may not be as difficult as you'd imagined, particularly if you are proficient in a particular CAD system. If you are graduating from a community college or technical institute, your school placement office should be able to help you arrange job interviews. If you are graduating with an engineering degree your college or university can often schedule interviews for you with company recruiters who visit the campus.

Graduates who've been co-op students, alternating semesters on campus with those spent on the job, have a big advantage in getting their first position, according to Dan Rose, president of Placement Services Ltd., (the CAD/CAM Databank), an employment registry service that's a division of Sanford Rose Associates. "Co-op students are looked at first," he says, "regardless of their grade-point average. It's easier to check how well they've done on the job. You can phone their supervisors and get the real low-down on how well they work. You can find out what kinds of hands-on applications students have had. You can learn how a student interacts with different machines."

Another division of Sanford Rose Associates, Opportunity Center, puts on weekly career fairs around the country. Recent graduates or students in their last semester of college, (including CAD/CAM applicants) can attend.

Changing Jobs

If you're an experienced CAD/CAM professional who has performed well for previous employers, finding a more challenging and rewarding position may not be that difficult. Several approaches are possible.

Although it covers openings in many fields besides CAD/CAM, the twice-yearly Career Opportunity Index described above contains detailed information on major employers with recurring employment needs in the United States. Each company profile describes the company's history, size, products or services, typical employment opportunities and requirements, and benefit packages.

Candidates interested in joining vendor companies can find an excellent list, categorized by products and services, in the reference annual published each December by COMPUTER-AIDED ENGINEERING. A copy of the annual costs $5, as do single copies of the monthly magazine.

The December, 1984 Reference Annual, for example, listed 109 vendors of Turnkey CAD/CAM equipment, together with addresses. There were 68 firms offering robots, robotic control, and programming systems; 82 companies offering CAD consulting and system integration; and 59 companies offering CAM consulting and system integration.

Another excellent source of information is Modern Machine Shop's NC/CAM Guidebook, published each January by Modern Machine Shop and available for $10 from Gardner Publications, Inc., 6600 Clough Pike, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.

It's possible to read these materials carefully, pick out a list of companies appropriate to your field of specialization, and write them directly, asking about job openings.

Trade Magazine Advertisements

Firms offering CAD/CAM jobs frequently advertise in trade journals. You'll find a list of periodicals in the Appendix. Check recent issues of magazines for ad listings.

For instance, Litton Data Systems' New Orleans Engineering Design Center was recruiting CAD designers to design, analyze and document electronic equipment using ANVIL 4000 and SCICARD programs. Another company wanted a scientific systems analyst with an M.S. degree who could program in C, FORTRAN, and BASIC languages.

CAD/CAM Data Bank

One no-cost way of registering your availability is to submit your resume to the CAD/CAM Databank Service. "We have well over 100,000 candidates in our databank," says Dan Rose, president of Placement Services Ltd. (PSL), which runs the registry. "At any one time, we probably have over 10,000 candidates with hard CAD/CAM experience."

A one-page form asking for brief information on education, employment history, and geographic preference appears in each issue of certain trade publications: Defense Systems Review, EDN, EDN Career News, Industrial Engineering, Journal of Metals, Machine Design, Materials Engineering, Production Engineering, Semiconductor International, Electronic Packaging and Productions, The Journal of Quality Circles, and COMPUTER-AIDED ENGINEERING.

Several of these journals are published by associations. Industrial Engineering is associated with the Industrial and Systems Engineering Society; Journal of Quality Circles, with the International Association of Quality Circles; and Journal of Metals, with the American Institute of Metallurgical Engineering.

When an employing company runs a recruitment ad of a certain minimum size in any of the listed publications, Rose says, that company is entitled to have PSL run a computer search of its databank. PSL is not an employment agency. Instead, it matches qualified candidates with available positions.

"We ask for at least six months' experience," says Rose, but some companies are even more specific. Northrop in California demands at least 1000 hours experience "on the tube." That experience must include both 2-D and 3-D graphics.

Once the preliminary form and resume reach PSL, the Databank's part-time recruiters contact candidates at night, using an initial phone call to make sure the resume is completed properly.

PSL recruiters also ask about any companies that candidates don't want to work for, as well as those they'd like to join. "I've always wanted to work for Computer vision," is a typical comment from a candidate. "Can you send my resume to them?"

The CAD/CAM Databank goal: maximize a candidate's exposure, while maintaining confidentiality. Candidates are phoned and files are updated every 90 days," Rose says. "Everyone is talked to at least two or three times while they're listed with our registry."

At no time is there a fee to CAD/CAM Databank registrants for listing or services. Selected search firms around the country also access the CAD/CAM Databank, Rose says, so it's advantageous for career professionals who want to change jobs to be registered.

Executive Search Organizations

Trade journal ads also suggest that job-hunting candidates register with executive search firms. One such company is Beale International, headquartered in Atlanta, (5500 Interstate North Parkway, Suite 470, Atlanta, Georgia 30328, 404-953-1062). "We're a human resource consulting organization," says Joe Blumberg, executive vice president. "Much of the work we do is in the computer services industry. In the CAD/CAM area or artificial intelligence field, we spend most of our time finding people who have the desired skills to fill key positions within our client organizations."

CAD/CAM-related positions that Beale International is often asked to fill include:
  1. CAD/CAM senior software engineers

  2. CAD/CAM software design engineering specialists

  3. supervising engineer

  4. software design manager
"The positions for which we search for candidates could be with companies as varied as Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut, all the way to the Naval Yards in San Diego, and down through Texas," Blumberg says. "General Dynamics has its tank and land vehicle division in Detroit, and its aerospace division in Orlando. Other large companies we've worked for are Martin Marietta and Rockwell."

The matching process begins when a company contacts Beale Inter-national, outlining its requirements for a specific position. But that's not enough for Blumberg. He or his associates will quiz the organization about its culture, looking for specific details that will help them make a better match with prospects.

"We want to know the way the company makes decisions," Blumberg says. "We must know the way it communicates...the way it handles performance reviews, compensation policies, and procedures. We also need to know the degree to which the company accepts personal freedom and interaction with employees and employee groups."

Once they have a list of interested people, Beale International checks backgrounds. "Usually, a candidate must be able to pass a security clearance," he says, "and must be a U.S. citizen. Preferably, the candidate has no character flaws, such as conviction of a felony, or an unsound financial status."

After pre-screening, Beale International brings candidates still in the running to Atlanta or Boston for interviews, or sends a representative to visit them. Finally, Beale International puts together a package of information and submits it to the client, with the recommendation that certain candidates be interviewed. "The client takes it from there," Blumberg says, "although we may coordinate the appointment, and may get involved with negotiating any offers of employment."

In CAD/CAM, Blumberg says, it's difficult to find enough qualified people. He'd like to see candidates with at least two years of experience... preferably three to five years... and says that persons with 10 years of good, solid experience, with career progression can command $60,000 to $90,000.

Another CAD/CAM recruiting agency that works primarily with experienced CAD/CAM persons is CAD/CAM Personnel Inc. (P.O. Box 7266, Charlotte, North Carolina 28217, 704-529-5500). Owner and operations manager Bill Wright says his agency places primarily system managers, mechanical designers, surface solids modelers, printed circuit board designers, and NC programmers. In addition, his company places candidates with the vendors of the CAD/CAM systems, in positions such as application engineer and customer support.

Wright has certain "requirements" when he's interviewing candidates...a sizeable job, since he screens over 1000 resumes a year. "Don't be indecisive," he advises. "I can pick up your lack of job stability or lack of a direct career plan. Don't be wishy washy on what you want. If you can't convince me you're serious, how can I present you to a client?"

Wright favors specialization. "It's much harder to place a candidate if he's light on three major CAD systems, instead of being a whiz at one particular system," he says.

When a job candidate mass-mails a resume to headhunters, Wright advises, include a cover letter. "Tell the agency your present salary, and your acceptable minimum. Rank your geographic preferences 1, 2, and 3, in order of your most desirable. Indicate any areas you will not consider-'will not accept West Coast job.' Be sure you include contact information on how to reach you, including day and evening phone numbers, and whether you prefer to be called on the job or at home."

Aerospace CAD/CAM jobs require four-year degrees, Wright says, but otherwise, degrees have less importance than actual experience. Qualified women or minority candidates have an advantage, he feels. Many companies have government contracts with affirmative action clauses, he says. They're eager to hire experienced professionals to help meet quotas.
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