Career advice from Jeff Veatch

“We still have far to go before we fully recover,” Jeff Veatch says about the nation’s overall employment outlook.

“I just think there is a lot of uncertainty. Election year, economy, Europe, healthcare laws — businesses are definitely nervous about the current economic state and are playing safe right now.”

Jeff Veatch
Apex Systems’ Jeff Veatch says that networking is key during the job hunt.

Hiring up for temp workers

Companies are reacting to the uncertainty by hiring more temporary employees, rather than full-time staff, he says. “This has helped get people back to work, but not in the same capacity as they were before the economic downturn.” Thus, job reports — which had lower numbers than expected in June — do not reflect a true comparison of before and after, he notes.

“The trend for the past few years has been companies relying on temporary employees to expand their staff to meet short-term needs. Until businesses can get some stability and can start to have a clearer view of the future, I think things will follow the same path.”

Strong job prospects in IT

For those with information technology skills, however, job prospects are strong, he says. “Even when companies are going through hard times, they still must have their IT systems working well. Also, they can put off upgrading their systems only so long. So, it’s a great field, and we see a major upside.”

The IT skills that companies seek are “all over the map,” Veatch says, but applicants with “higher-end” expertise are in greater demand. Also, he notes, “attitude is everything.”

Extra-curriculars offer competitive advantage

He explains that in his early years hiring employees for Apex, he tended to focus on applicants’ ability. “If they could perform well, I wasn’t as concerned with their attitude. But as I matured, I realized that some of the most successful people weren’t necessarily the most talented — they were the ones with the biggest heart and the most fight.”

His company recruits at Pamplin’s Business Horizons career fair, and Veatch thinks the college and university prepare students very well for employment. “But as important as book smarts are, we also look strongly for what else they did. Were they student athletes, class officers, involved in social fraternities? Were they in leadership roles? While I learned a lot as student, I learned equally from what I did outside of class.”

Links to community are critical

His Pamplin education, he says, gave him a solid base for the business world and a broad view of how businesses operate, while his finance courses in particular helped gear him up to launch Apex. “But it’s the whole Virginia Tech experience that helped form me into who I am today,” he says. “There is a real sense of community and family that is surprising to get from a large school. We still go to many football games and enjoy visiting the campus with my family and friends.”

Veatch’s career advice to students: “Network. Get to know your classmates well. Use the alumni network. Many times, the job is filled before an advertisement gets posted, so you need to get in early. Often, it is a friend or family member who will refer you to a job, so hang on to all those business cards!”

Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Magazine Fall 2012

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