Just a few years ago, college graduates were seeking employment with little chances of success.
In 2014, 83 percent of college students did not have a job lined up before graduating and 72.7 percent were looking for one, according to an AfterCollege Career Insight Survey.
In that same survey, students said the best way for colleges to help them become prepared and employable was to provide them with opportunities to network with employers, shifting the focus from not just studying but also getting a job.
USF Career Services is seeking to provide USF students with the chance to do exactly that during its inaugural Career Fair Week. Over the course of four days, students will be able to connect with potential employers through networking and employment opportunities.
Career Fair Week features a different fair each day in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Ballroom. On Tuesday, the Health Professions & Social Services Fair will be held from noon to 5 p.m. The All Majors Fair will be held Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Thursday, the Science, Engineering & Technology fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Accounting Fair will conclude the event Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Peter Thorsett, Career Services communications and marketing officer, said the job market is picking up. The proof, he says, is how many employers will be at this week’s fair.
The event will feature approximately 275 employers spread across the four fairs.
Employers attending this year’s Career Fair are looking to hire USF students and graduates, so much so that employer spots at the fair have sold out. Some of the fairs are even overbooked, with employers spilling out of the MSC Ballroom and onto the second floor. Most of the companies in attendance are new to the fair.
Each company will be manned by mostly human resources representatives. Some will have information for students and others will simply have information regarding the jobs and internships they are offering. The focus for this fair is full-time employment and internships.
A full list of companies attending can be accessed through each student’s Employ-A-Bull account, which is offered through Career Services and allows students to post their resumes and browse companies looking to hire USF students.
Students should expect a full ballroom as well as a few other changes.
The Career Fair is an evolving tradition at USF. Originally it was one fair for all majors. Then, it split into one fair for STEM careers and one for all other majors, followed by an accounting fair. This year, four fairs will take over the MSC for four days.
All of the major-specific consulting staff will be available during the fair to answer questions. The Student Ready Room, a place for students to recollect themselves and rehearse during the fair, will include a bag check that will allow students to roam the fair without having to carry around their backpacks. This room will also be on the second floor of the MSC.
“It’s just been a natural progression over the years to kind of meet the needs of the students and the employers to see what exactly we can do to kind of unite both forces,” said Erica Coste, employer relations coordinator for Career Services.
The difference in the current market is the increase in competition set to emerge from this explosion of opportunities. With this in mind, Career Services has some advice to help students make a good first impression with potential employers.
A student should have a professional outward appearance, a resume to show experience and a one-minute introduction to really create a personal brand.
“We want you to go in there with the best, cleanest presentation of yourself,” Coste said.
The Career Services website recommends attending resume editing sessions and Career Fair workshops. After the fair, they recommend student send thank you letters to employers the students visited and accessing Employ-A-Bull to see if any companies have on-campus interviews scheduled.
Thorsett recommends students attend each fair to seek opportunities that fit their major, even from companies they haven’t previously considered.
“There are kinds of opportunities that people don’t realize are out there,” Thorsett said.
Coste hopes most students leave the fair with employment but also perspectives on how to interact with employers, as well as what employers are looking for.
“I guess the real message is it’s never too early to start your job search especially at our career fair. If you start early and start becoming comfortable with the space and the event itself then the better you’ll be when it’s time to really march in and get the job,” Coste said. “The fairs provide the gateway for the first step (toward a career) and then it’s up to the students to really build on that.”
Another major takeaway is preparedness. Students should not attend only in their senior year or they’ll be overwhelmed, Thorsett said. Early participation ensures students can have their bearings when they are looking for serious full-time employment later on.
For those interested in pursuing further education, a graduate school fair will be held Oct. 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the MSC Ballroom.
Additionally, the annual Statewide Job Fair will take place in Orlando in May. This fair is open to students from multiple Florida universities including USF.