How To Turn Your FIRST Experience into Your STEM Dream Job

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Guest Blog from Ilene Rein, Job Search Strategist & Executive Recruiter, Pounding Pavement 101 


Attention FIRST students and alumni! I want to show you how you can take your FIRST® experience and turbocharge it towards amazing career paths! Showcasing your FIRST experience can be the key that opens up opportunities for your dream job in STEM. 

FIRST equips you with the knowledge, skills, and tools to successfully transition from the early process of learning STEM concepts to readiness for meaningful career positions in STEM fields. From students and volunteers to mentors and sponsors - FIRST empowers everyone with the tools for career success. 


I’m Ilene Rein, an experienced Job Search Strategist and Executive Recruiter, and I'm here to provide guidance and answers for you to succeed in your career journey! My goal is to share my insider secrets from my view as an Executive Recruiter to teach you how to market yourself to employers to exponentially increase your chances of getting noticed and hired rapidly! 


The questions I hear all the time are:  

  • I apply for jobs, why am I not getting calls?  
  • Why don't my interviews turn into offers?  
  • Where and how do I search for a job? 


So, what are Recruiters really looking for in candidates? 

Recruiters are eager to meet candidates like you who have participated in FIRST! 


With your involvement in FIRST, you are not only constructing robots and making an impact in your community. You are preparing for your career journey by gaining valuable experience applicable to the working world! You are developing the same abilities and skills fundamental for success in the workplace - from engineering to business plans to marketing, outreach, presentation, interviews, production, problem-solving, writing essays, and Coopertition®. And most importantly, practicing Gracious Professionalism®. 


Recruiters are looking for EXPERIENCE. 

People entering the job market often ask me:  

'How can I stand out if I don't have any experience?' 


YOU DO have experience.  


Through your FIRST robotics involvement, you have developed the unique skillset, abilities, and drive to immediately make a contribution to any company. Your classroom education provides you with the fundamentals, but your experience in applying this knowledge sets you apart as a superior job applicant. Through tackling complex problems, creating innovative designs, and crafting unique components from scratch, you have proven yourself skilled enough to make a real impact in any work environment! 


Recruiters are looking for LEADERS. 

Showing potential employers that you can succeed in a leadership position is paramount for career opportunities and future growth. By taking on leadership roles, you demonstrate to Recruiters that you have ambition and dependability - highly valued traits among employers.. Not only will taking leadership roles give you an advantage over other candidates, but it can also increase your confidence when interviewing for roles - giving employers a clear indication of why YOU are the perfect candidate for their company. 


Recruiters are looking for RESPONSIBILITY. 

Recruiters are searching for dynamic candidates driven to make a difference. As a FIRST participant, you have been continuously challenged to take on larger scopes of responsibility - molding you into an impactful contender for any job! 


During your early years, your responsibility may have only been to arrive on time. Waking up early and taking the bus at 5:00 am is difficult - for students and adults alike! As you progressed in FIRST, you may have wanted to challenge yourself, aiming for more responsibility and leadership roles. After graduation, you came back to volunteer or mentor. Your continued responsibility growth will impress any employer! 


Recruiters are looking for COMMUNICATORS. 

Participating on a FIRST team or as a volunteer requires communication and collaboration. Together, great things are always within reach. Working in a bubble provides nothing but an illusion - communication and cooperation are essential to generate superior results that go further than any individual can achieve independently.  


Recruiters are looking for COMMITMENT. 

Recruiters are seeking individuals who go the extra mile in their commitments. Anyone truly committed to successfully achieving the set goal knows it takes discipline, hard work, and dedication. Whether it's staying up late with a robot build, racing to complete and submit an award essay before the deadline, or planning and executing an event, these are the type of experiences that set you apart from other job applicants.  


Employers want to understand how potential employees spend their free time. There's no better way to demonstrate this than by showcasing that you are positively impacting the local community and the world and contributing to the science and technology community.  


For those managing a full-time job and/or school, dedicating extra hours to the FIRST community is no small feat. The commitment required shows true dedication to STEM initiatives - admirable qualities employers recognize! Volunteering 40+ hours per week during Build Season alongside your existing responsibilities speaks volumes about your commitment and abilities. Companies will take notice when they see this kind of commitment in your job application. 


Do you see how your knowledge and abilities obtained through your FIRST experience can be a great advantage when applying for jobs? 

When you attend your next FIRST event or you are building in your workshop, you will view your FIRST experience from an entirely different viewpoint. Take the time to absorb what you are seeing and doing; you will have an entirely new perspective on FIRST programs, the participants, activities, and how it can apply to skills that companies are looking for in candidates.  


Have I shown you how important your FIRST experience is in landing your next career opportunity? 

In upcoming blogs, videos and presentations, I will offer advice on careers, job searching, resumes, and interview preparation. 

This April in Houston, at the 2023 FIRST Championship presented by BAE Systems, I will be a conference presenter discussing career topics to help you land your dream job in STEM. I hope to see you there in person!  

We’ll have more blogs and videos over the next few months - be sure to keep an eye out!  

Good luck with your job search! 


Written by Ilene Rein 
Job Search Strategist & Executive Recruiter 

Pounding Pavement 101