Abby Simmons is currently in what most people would consider the “on-ramp” to her professional career. The May 2021 mechanical engineering graduate recently started a two-year rotational program with Volvo in Ridgeville, South Carolina. Over the next 24 months, Simmons will learn and work as a shop engineer, production supervisor and more, while getting up to speed on all that Volvo has to offer. But if it weren’t for the guidance and advice from one CEC mentor, this excellent student might’ve missed her exit to opportunity.
Simmons was a second-semester senior with three internships under her belt when she first heard about the CEC’s new Mentor in March program, a 4-week virtual opportunity for students and alumni to engage with one another. Although her time in college was ending, Simmons knew one of her biggest tasks, finding a job, was still to come.
“One of the greatest take-aways from my internships, as well as advice learned from the Career Center, was the importance of networking,” said Simmons. “As graduation was drawing closer, I loved the idea of connecting with an alum who could help me navigate the post-grad job search process.”
Through Mentor in March, Simmons was paired with CEC alumna Colishia Dunbar, a mechanical engineering graduate and Senior Associate Application Engineer at Hubbell Power Systems. The pair began the program’s curriculum alongside more than 50 other participants. Each week focused on different themes like on-campus resources and professional development.
“It was wonderful because my mentee and I were on the same page and always came prepared,” said Dunbar. “Our conversations flowed easily, and she wasn’t bashful about asking for advice and what she would like for us to discuss during our next meeting.”
It was during one of those meetings that Dunbar asked Simmons if she had ever considered a rotational program. That conversation led to a resume review, an application and then Simmons got word she’d been selected for an interview at Volvo.
“Colishia went above and beyond to help me prepare by researching common Volvo interview questions for our practice, a few of which ended up being actual interview questions,” said Simmons. “With her help, I felt confident and relaxed during my interview. Before graduation, I received and accepted an offer for the position. It wouldn’t have been possible without Colishia and the CEC Mentor in March program!”
Although the program was only for one month, Dunbar and Simmons have stayed in touch. Both women agreed that the program helped them gain leadership skills and allowed for thoughtful reflection. They hope others will consider joining future mentorship opportunities, including the upcoming Mentor Match program in October 2021.
“You can reap the benefits of developing strengths and overcoming weaknesses, as well as having that guidance, reassurance and support,” said Dunbar.
“You have everything to gain, and nothing to lose,” said Simmons. “Your network is like interlocking puzzle pieces, and your mentor might know someone who’s looking to hire someone just like you!”