Fall Career Fairs produce opportunities to kick-start your career

In Workforce Alignment by MASU Guest

[Note: MASU is pleased to offer OPtimizing EDucation as a platform for our various committees to share their insight in their fields. Our first guest post is written by Kerin Borland and Steve Patchin, the career services directors at the University of Michigan and Michigan Technological University, respectively. Enjoy!]

A spring survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 97 percent of the companies would be on college campuses hiring in the fall of 2017. Demand for space at upcoming Fall Career Fairs of public universities in the state of Michigan supports this strong demand for 2017-2018 graduates as well as current students seeking co-ops/internships. But what does recruiting look like on these campuses?

Most campuses hold at least two career fairs annually. Smaller schools like Michigan Tech hold all-majors Career Fairs, hosting between 220-340 companies each. There is a movement toward more targeted niche fairs. Some of these include: UM’s Consulting and Finance Fair, Saginaw Valley State University’s (SVSU) Accounting and Finance Employment Fair, or Oakland University’s (OU) Engineering and IT Career Fair. Wayne Thibodeau, Senior Director of OU Career Services estimated fair attendance as 36 percent seniors, 24 percent juniors, 12 percent master’s students with all others representing the remaining 10 percent.

Career Fairs benefit both students and employers by:

  1. Offering students the opportunity to distinguish themselves vs. simply submitting applications through organizational websites.
  2. Allowing students to practice interpersonal/communications skills that are sought after by recruiters.
  3. Providing an opportunity for students to “stretch” beyond their comfort zones through interactions with professionals.

Mike Major, Director of Career Services at SVSU, sums up the value of attending career fairs: “Our office advises students that the top three traits organizations look for in new candidates are interpersonal communication, problem solving/critical thinking, and the ability to perform under stress. By attending an employment (career) fair, students can demonstrate all of these desirable traits.”

Technological aids for Career Fairs

This digital generation is attracted to technology platforms that help them navigate job fairs by locating recruiters interested in their majors, gathering information on participating companies, and mapping their strategy to engage with employers. Apps made available by career services include Career Fair Plus (MTU), Handshake (OU), Career Fair Essentials (UM), and The Fairs App (FSU). Kerin Borland, Director of UM’s University Career Center, notes, “While information about employer participation is available weeks before each fair, most downloads of the app happen the night before each event.”

Employer/Student engagement outside Career Fairs

Industry recruiters are becoming very creative as they seek to informally engage with students. Verizon hosts bowling nights at SVSU. Ford Motor Co. conducts Euchre tournaments at MTU.  Central Michigan University hosts Employer Spotlights, events that highlight career opportunities at a variety of organizations.

Other events hosted by employers are designed to help develop students’ understanding of the skills and talents employers are seeking. At UM, companies are incorporating workshops and speakers from industry during their new Consulting and Finance Fair. Other companies are sponsoring Career Fair Prep events (OU), where recruiters teach students skills to stand out from the pack. Companies also participate in Industry Days (MTU) where recruiters teach students about career paths within their industry. These events also “de-escalate” the stress of the process and allow students to engage with recruiters in a “lower-risk” setting. These informal opportunities also allow employers to create buzz on campuses about their organization, with the end goal of attracting a diverse and talented candidate pool.

Trends and the role of Career Services

Everything happens faster today. With recruiting platforms, social media, and mobile apps, information and processes move quickly. The impact on the recruiting schedule is noticeable. Recruiters anxiously await the start of new academic years to begin interacting with students. Fall, on many campuses, is the busiest time for recruitment activity. This timing has an impact on students. The role of the career center is to find that balance between meeting recruiters’ aggressive schedules, while giving all students the opportunity to be sufficiently prepared, have quality materials that showcase their backgrounds, and understand the range of opportunities for which they wish to be considered.

Kerin Borland is the Director of the Career Center at the University of Michigan. She can be reached at kborland@umich.edu.

Steve Patchin is the Director of the Career Center at Michigan Technological University. He can be reached at shpatchi@mtu.edu.