As the annual Fall Internship and Job Fair at the University of Missouri–St. Louis approached, Jesus Najera was a man with a plan.
“This past week, I laid what I was going to wear,” the junior information systems major said. “I looked at all the companies that are going to be here and what positions they’re looking for – full time, part time or internships.”
In preparation, he developed a thorough list of all the potential employers he wanted to talk with, including major St. Louis area companies such as Boeing, Express Scripts and World Wide Technology. His goal going into the day was to find an IT internship so he could gain experience with real-world projects and the fundamentals of a professional workplace.
Najera was one 525 UMSL students and alumni who attended the event on Friday at the Mark Twain Athletic Center. It featured 250 representatives from 119 employers.
Seniors Morgan Childers and Grace Goedde also came prepared.
“I had about six companies that I was looking for because my major is pretty specific,” said Goedde, an actuarial sciences major.
While the seniors came in with a plan, they also learned to keep an open mind. At last year’s event, Childers, a supply chain major, talked to representatives from Mercy Hospital, even though they were looking for positions unrelated to her major at the time. She walked away from the interaction with the Mercy supply chain manager’s contact information.
Goedde received a similar lesson this year.
“I learned that I can go into more fields than just insurance,” she said. “That’s what I was told, to look into other things like financial advising.”
After hitting the floor, Najera realized he would have to be flexible when talking to potential employers.
“They all have a different approach,” Nanjera said. “Some of them, you’ll go up and they’ll ask you for a resume right away. Some of them won’t even ask for a resume at all. You’ll have some that will ask you to say a little something about yourself so they can get an idea of who you are.”
The attendees’ professional attitudes and preparedness stuck out to employer representatives. Monica Millien, a human resources program manager at World Wide Technology, and Erica May, a talent acquisition manager for Panera Bread, were impressed across the board with UMSL students.
“Everyone is very prepared and dressed appropriately,” May said. “Everyone has a resume and has had very specific things that they’re looking for, which has been nice.”
May noted that it can be a mixed bag when it comes to the preparedness of students at college career fairs, but this year’s attendees made her job much easier.
World Wide Technology has attended the job fair for the last eight years, and Millien said it has been a valuable source of candidates and interns for the company, especially for the IT department.
“We always do a really good job of being able to identify and hire people from UMSL,” Millien said. “It’s really good for us.”
Teresa Balestreri, director of UMSL Career Services, said there was a focus on bringing in a diverse group of employers this year to ensure students from all academic areas had the chance to discuss employment opportunities.
For the second year, attendees could take advantage of The Fairs App, a program available for computers, tablets or smartphones.
“The Fairs App continues to be a key feature that empowers students and alumni to enhance their in-person fair interactions,” Balestreri said. “The app has features with preparation materials, employer profiles with links to employer careers websites, searchable filters on industry and job types and the ability to favorite employers that are automatically highlighted on an interactive map of the fair floor.”
The UMSL Alumni Association also sponsored a LinkedIn photo booth where attendees could get free, professional headshots. During the course of the day, more than 150 headshots were taken.
Balestreri said there was a palpable energy felt among employers, students and UMSL staff alike throughout the day.
“It’s a really good networking environment,” Najera said. “At first, it may be a little intimidating, but you just walk up to a table, and it all goes away.”