If You Want to Recruit Me Meet Me Online

The first place my generation turns if they’re looking to find something or express themselves is the internet. And yet, even though older Americans are using it to find their soulmates (more than a third) and keep up with their friends via Facebook (nearly 70%), they’re not really using it to interact with us.

This is a huge missed opportunity, especially as it relates to helping students make the biggest choice of our young lives: what career to pursue and where to go to college.

Boeing is one of the few employers doing something different. I used my Tallo account to apply for South Carolina STEM Signing Day, where high schoolers like me made a formal commitment to studying STEM, kind of like how athletes formally commit to playing sports at a specific university. Tallo is a platform that’s like LinkedIn for high school and college students, where we can share interests, achievements and activities with colleges and potential employers.

I always knew I wanted to work in aerospace engineering; I’d been making robots and rockets since middle school and competed with teams at local and global competitions. But meeting like-minded students and having my interest in STEM celebrated helped confirm my career goals and give me a clearer picture of what it would take to succeed in the field.

It also literally changed the course of my life. At SC STEM Signing Day, I made it a point to talk to Boeing representatives about what I should do to land my dream job – like should I go to college, where should I go, what should I study, etc. They told me about their new Boeing Scholars program, which provides scholarships for students interested in aerospace to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I applied and was accepted to the inaugural class, along with 21 other students.

Boeing and Tallo helped me make one of the most important decisions of my life, and for that I’m really grateful. But I also realize that many of my classmates don’t have the same opportunities, either because they aren’t aware of them or employers in their intended career fields aren’t taking advantage of such online tools.

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My peers and I thrive online. We’re strategic about what time we post Instagram photos to get the most likes. We put thought into our bios on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms because we know that’s a message about ourselves we’re putting out to the world. We know that what exists on the internet matters, and as a result we put in substantial time and effort to build our personal brand.

We know how to market ourselves socially, and we should be taking advantage of opportunities to market ourselves professionally too, even before we go to college and take our first jobs. Once we do, colleges and potential employers should meet us on these platforms, providing advice and guidance on what it takes to succeed in the field we are interested in, and letting us know about scholarship opportunities and opportunities to get our foot in the door via internships, externships and apprenticeships. This will help us make smart decisions about continuing education – so important because of how expensive it is to attend college today – and helps employers ensure that in a few years, they’ll have plenty of qualified applicants to choose from.

I hope more companies and universities will follow in Boeing and Embry-Riddle’s footsteps. Lots of people say that if you want to shape the next generation, you have to meet them where they’re at. My generation is online, and that’s where educators and business leaders need to meet us.

Alijah McDonald is a first year student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University studying to get his undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering. Throughout high school he was heavily involved with his school’s engineering program and robotics team. Through these programs he has studied the basics of rocket propulsion, robotic systems, and 3D modeling and design. Now as a university student, he has become involved with the university’s rocketry teams, working with motor development and payload integration. Alijah is working towards becoming a senior test engineer in his career and hopes to do so at an aerospace defense contracting company such as Northrop Grumman or Lockheed Martin.

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