Career Fair: Connections for the Future

Students waiting to connect at Career Fair
Students waiting to connect at Career Fair

The front hallway at the SDC was crowded with students in formal clothes, straight backs and some signs of nerves. They crowded around tables littered with nametags and maps of the Multipurpose Room, where more than 200 companies were lined up to recruit interns, co-ops, and full-time employees. Many of them were drawing lines and circles on their maps, figuring out how to wind their way through the room and talk with all the employers they came to see.

Watching the flood of fresh faces was Robert Peters with the Michigan Works! office. “Are you looking for work in Michigan?” he asked passersby.

“The biggest thing is that everyone thinks we’re the unemployment office,” he said. “We’re not. We’re the em-ployment office. You could spend the rest of your life just looking at job ads. Or, you can come to someone like us, where we stay on top of those things and find the right jobs for your skills. Michigan Tech Career Services is so good at getting all these companies here at such a big event. We keep our eyes open for the smaller companies who maybe can’t travel or are just starting up.

“It’s about having that connection," Peters said. "Our job is to connect these very skilled workers to the Michigan companies looking for them.”

Connections turned out to be the theme of the day. A few steps down the hall, just inside the Multipurpose Room, Julie Way, assistant director for career development education in Tech’s Career Services office, was simultaneously directing traffic, arranging an interview between a student and an employer who got stuck in some bad weather, and pointing a late-arriving company toward their booth.

“Sorry,” she breathed, taking a moment off from her phone. “Just look around us. The career fair is one big networking event, and networking is the best way to further your career. People hire people they know, trust and like, and this is a chance to get known.

“You have to connect.”

Across from Julie, over what is usually the running track, was Dave Thomas with DTE Energy. He and two of his colleagues were working their way through lines of students, resumes in-hand.

“We love events like this,” Thomas explained. “Tech’s Career Fair caters both to us and to the students, giving both of us what we need. Being here, I mean, you’ve got bright kids, great programs—it’s a no-brainer.”

Thomas's company doesn’t do as many interviews on-campus as some, but rather reports back to other people in the company with people they’ll want to talk to. “The three of us are all from different offices, but each department then might be looking for something different. I’ll get a great chemical engineering student, take down some contact information and resume highlights and call up that department in Pennsylvania. ‘Hey, I’ve got somebody you need to talk to.’ We can’t guess what they’ll need, but we know good students when we see them.

“And we see a lot of them here.”

Down a few booths, equally busy, was Darcy Schneider with Jackson National Life Insurance. Her company looks mostly for programming interns, but one of Tech’s business degree programs has their attention as well. “We definitely look at MIS (management information systems) students,” she said. “That combination of computer knowledge and skills and business acumen is great.”

In one corner, next to the long lines for Mercury Marine, Duo Security had three posters of program code up. Spot the bug and win a prize, the sign read, next to lines of code: if ( {. Students from the Detroit area, China, Rhinelander, India and Minnesota were standing around it, looking for the errors in their common language.

At a table surrounded by little foam locomotives, Mark Mersereau with CN was hard at work recruiting engineers. “Electrical,” he said. “We need some mechanical engineers and some civils, but we’re really here looking at electricals. We’re looking for managers, people who can be comfortable telling a 50-year old what to do. A lot of them seem ready. Some have already done it.”

An interviewee leans on the table a bit too far, and two of the foam locomotives tumble over. “Looks like we’ve got a derailment there!” Merserau said with a laugh. “That’s a good opportunity to make a management decision.”

As the lines continued to grow in the afternoon, Jim Turnquist, director of career services, took a few moments to reflect on what the commotion in the room really meant.

“This is a chance for students to get to know these companies and to get past being nervous about looking for a job,” he said. “Seeking a job, wanting to work, that’s a great thing, and companies want to see that. In there, those companies are getting to know our students, to know them and trust them. The way to a career is to be recommended by someone who knows you and trusts you and your ability.

“That’s why connections are so important.”

He smiles as a new batch of students come into the room, maps labeled and circled with the companies where they want to connect.

“So important.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.