As our seniors make plans for (and sometimes stress over) their next steps after graduation, we at Ursinus continually look to better support them in making places for themselves in the world beyond the College. Accordingly, the annual Job, Internship and Networking Fair held in the Floy Lewis Bakes Field House is growing into an important academic, community and alumni partnership that offers broad experiences for students beyond the campus.
This event is coordinated by our Career Services Office and draws large numbers of students, employers and alumni. The 450 students who attended this year’s February 8th Fair had opportunities ahead of time to hone their resumes and participate in mock interviews. On the day of the Fair, employers were invited to an opening lunch with faculty and staff, who described our programs and promoted our students. The luncheon is a unique feature of our Fair not offered at other colleges, and our employers consistently tell us they enjoy the opportunity to be oriented by faculty and staff. Last year we hosted 43 employers; this year we had a record 80 employers from a variety of disciplines and industries. I am happy to report that 26 of the companies were represented by Ursinus alumni.
You can view the booklet distributed to students at the Fair. It lists all of the employers, along with a chart indicating whether an employer was seeking full-time workers, part-timers, summer employees, or interns.
According to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI) at Michigan State University, the employment outlook for college graduates is improving. A survey CERI released last November predicts an increase in jobs available to college graduates, and a majority of employer respondents indicated they would seek more interns during the year. The report concludes, “The pressure will continue to mount for more accountability among higher education institutions to demonstrate their relevancy for preparing students to engage in meaningful employment after graduation.”
It is my hope that our campus and our surrounding community will continue to embrace career-focused activities and experiential education as consistent with our liberal arts mission, and that we can continue to attract alumni to the process. Career Services Director Carla Rinde seeks to create a culture of involvement whereby alumni bring their businesses and students together by sharing job and internship opportunities. Many Ursinus alumni work at national companies that will recruit at our campus only if an employee encourages such connections be made.
Employers who attended the Fair report that it was a valuable experience. Monica Fielder, Class of 1995, who is director of Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Services at Foundations Behavioral Health, says she found the Job Fair “a wonderful and energizing experience… Being a former Ursinus student, I eagerly register and attend each year, knowing the quality students who attend Ursinus will be an asset to the organization I am representing. I am a proud alumna, and attending these job fairs just makes me even prouder to have graduated from this college.” She adds, “I walk away from each job fair with a folder full of resumes.”
Kraft Foods’ Retail Merchandising Supervisor Leah Sakowski, Class of 2009, had this to say: “Students were prepared with everything from elevator speeches to well written resumes. I know first hand how well-equipped Ursinus students are to enter the workforce, so I was not surprised about the caliber of students; however, it made me proud to see that my colleagues were equally impressed (without any bias!). Kraft Foods has continuously had Ursinus on the radar when it comes to recruiting: we were excited to walk away with a number of potential candidates.”
I want to encourage more underclassmen to attend this event. Employers at the Fair were seeking not only candidates for full-time work, but part-timers, summer employees, and interns. Seeking post-baccalaureate opportunities should not begin in the senior year. The Career Services Office, in addition to sponsoring the Job, Internship and Networking Fair, also informs the campus of similar fairs in Philadelphia, at regional venues, and for specific fields such as non-profits. These events are as much about internships as they are about jobs. These opportunities enable underclassmen to avail themselves of networks and gain experience in fields of interest. It is harder for graduates who do not have relevant experiences to become employed after graduation. Graduate programs also appreciate relevant field experience. Even a simple chat with a potential employer to ask which classes and campus experiences will best prepare them for a field is a way to begin assessing one’s purpose in life.
Please take a look at some photos of the Job, Internship and Networking Fair on the Ursinus web site.
As we proceed with strategic planning for Ursinus’ future, an event like the Fair helps ensure that students have opportunity to prepare for what happens after graduation.