Opportunity knocks at career fair

Michelle Kibiger

Several hundred Institute of Technology students left behind their lab coats and goggles to don suits, ties, skirts and blazers Wednesday. They left behind their computer-generated graphs and models, chemicals and Bunsen burners, and picked up their resume-laden portfolios.
The 1996 IT Career Fair was a laboratory for students to practice their networking skills, rather than their mathematical formulas and the scientific method.
Students handed out copies of their resumes and transcripts to representatives from 80 companies at the fair that have job openings and internships available. Many students walked away with job interviews scheduled for later this year.
Each year, the Society of Women Engineers and Eta Kappa Nu, an electrical engineering honor society, sponsor the career fair.
“If they’re (students) going into a certain field and want to meet someone in their field, they can hit a lot of companies,” said Ben Johnson, Eta Kappa Nu treasurer.
The two clubs began contacting about 400 companies last spring to invite them to the career fair. Club members helped company representatives set up and take down their displays, and arranged meals and parking.
Exhibitors set up information and product displays throughout four floors of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building.
Company representatives talked with students about many fields such as retail and food product manufacturing, aerospace engineering, computer programming and chemical processors.
Some firms sent human resources representatives to set up interviews with students. Other companies sent engineers and researchers to give students an inside look at what goes on during a typical day at work. Representatives wore everything from traditional business suits to polo shirts bearing company logos.
Cargill, a Minnesota-based manufacturing company, regularly sends representatives to the career fair.
Cargill representative Steven Rieke, a University graduate, said Cargill prefers to send graduates to recruit future employees from their alma maters. He said the University is seen as a top place to recruit, particularly because this year IT’s chemical engineering program ranked first in the United States.
“(Companies) have had a lot of really good experiences with University students,” Johnson said.
“The students here are really good. They’re very goal-oriented and serious about their fields,” said Cargill consultant Julie Nekola.
Many students attending the fair said they liked the fair’s informal atmosphere.
“I came more relaxed. I just want to talk to a lot of different companies,” said civil engineering graduate student Natalie Hammer, who will graduate next spring.
Hammer said students generally come to career fairs with a lot of stress.
Some students said they feel pressured to find a job, even though they have not graduated. Electrical engineering senior Jeffrey Geier said his experience working for an electrical repair business would help him find a long-term job. He said students need some real-world experience to compete for jobs after graduation.
“Companies are looking for more than good academic people,” said Mike Witzman, a senior in chemical engineering. “You need that edge that an internship gives you.”