Portland State Advising and Career Services held career and internship fairs last week in Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom. The fairs were divided thematically into an engineering and technology fair, which took place on Thursday, and a second fair on Friday, addressing all majors.
This is the 26th year PSU has organized the career fairs.
“There are three fairs for all majors each year, and two fairs for engineering and technology majors,” said Greg Flores, associate director of the career services. “In 2011 we decided to create an extra fair for this field due to the huge interest of employers and students, who are seeking for people speaking ‘engineering.’”
ACS’s organization for these fairs is an ongoing process. Around 130 companies attended last week’s fair.
“We send out invitations to employers,” Flores said. “They come to meet our students and mostly they are hiring. The students can get firsthand information about the companies and connect with them. Everybody wins.”
About one third of the employers come back every year, and some are newcomers. On Thursday, 55 companies attended the fair.
“We’ve been coming here for five years to look for engaged students,” said David Barwick, technical recruiter at CDK Global. “We offer about 40 internships and want to recruit characters. Fifty percent of last year’s interns started working for us.”
He emphasized that the fair is an opportunity for both sides to learn about each other.
Flores said ACS doesn’t take attendance on the number of successful connections between students and enterprises, but the well-accepted and crowded fair shows its need.
Abby Rojas is an environmental studies major, working on her bachelor’s degree.
“I think the event is great to take a look at types of internships and job options,” she said. “I want to check up on internships for the summer break.”
Alan Phan, who just graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, is in a different situation. “I’m looking for a job in design and manufacturing companies,” he said.
When asked how he gets into touch with potential career contacts, he answered: “I introduce myself and tell them about my accomplishments. Beforehand, I did research on employers I’m interested in. I ask questions about their expectations like skills they are looking for.”
Students motivations for attending professional fairs are different. Some just want to gather information about existing possibilities, and others are seeking concrete work options. A common goal is self-presentation and getting connected professionally. Besides face-to-face contact, Phan said social media networks like LinkedIn or Twitter are helpful for that purpose.
“I found that creating a business Twitter account can be effective to show what thoughts you have about professional topics,” Phan said.
Sonji Young from Cambio Health Solutions discussed the characteristics recruiters look for in potential interns and employees.
“We want to see how willing they are to be brand advocates for themselves,” Young said. “Candidates should start talking to us, show us who they are and what they do outside of their academic life.”
In her opinion, the biggest mistake students can make is judging companies only by their high profile instead of being open-minded.
“I think this generation of job seekers, the digital generation, will reshape the course of the work place, because they are so used to adapting quickly to digital changes,” Young added.