The job outlook has brightened for the Class of 2014. Employers plan to hire 8.6 percent more graduates this year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Business, engineering and accounting undergraduate degree holders are considered the hottest commodities on the job market.
, executive director of Rick HearinUniversity Career Services at Rutgers, sat down with Rutgers Today to discuss the continued importance of career fairs and how to maximize your experience as his staff prepares to host the New Jersey Statewide Career and Internship Fair on Friday, May 2, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center on the Busch Campus in Piscataway.
The event is open to the public and nearly 150 employers have confirmed their attendance.
Rutgers Today: Are career fairs still important?
Hearin: Where else can job seekers access multiple employers in one location, in one day, in a short window of time? Some people feel these events are dead because it’s rare to get a job on the spot. But that’s simply not true. Career fairs often generate ongoing conversations that lead to a position. They provide candidates the opportunity to network with employers and to learn about the various organizations that are out there seeking new talent. Our 2013 post-graduation survey showed that many of the top employers of Rutgers undergraduate students attend University Career Services fairs throughout the year, including Verizon, CitiGroup, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson and JP Morgan Chase.
Rutgers Today: Have you noticed any changes in attendance at career fairs since the national job outlook has brightened?
Hearin: Student career fair attendance is up 58 percent this year at Rutgers. Our business, arts and communications fair in February brought more than 100 organizations, while the STEM fair saw more than 130. Both fairs surpassed our expectations. Employers participate in career fairs at larger institutions, even when recruiting budgets are shrinking, because it increases their exposure and helps attract quality candidates.
Rutgers Today: When should students start their job search?
Hearin: We offer students assistance while they are in school and encourage them to take advantage of our services before their senior year. It is almost too late if students don’t begin to prepare for their job search until senior year. Planning earlier helps students achieve more choices versus being limited to taking any job they can get after they graduate. Ideally, students should meet one-on-one with a career specialist during the second semester of their first year to assess their skills and interests, explore career options and work forward from there. This also helps students begin to think about meaningful internship experiences.
Rutgers Today: What else can millennials do to prepare themselves for the work world?
Hearin: We know from multiple sources that involvement in meaningful internship, co-op and part-time experiences lead to positive post-graduation career results. Relevant experience is the new entry-level requirement. Not only do internships help students become accustomed to the world or work, but their experience also helps set them apart when applying for post-undergraduate jobs.
Rutgers Today: What should job seekers do to make the most of a career fair?
Hearin: Put yourself in the position of the recruiter, who meets hundreds of applicants. Ask yourself, “What would make me stand out in their mind?” The quality of your preparation will give you a competitive advantage.
- Start by creating an accurate, proofread resume. Employers use your resume to review your experiences while engaging you in mini, on-the-spot interviews during the fair.
- Research the organizations expected to attend the fair beforehand. You’ll surprise and impress recruiters with your knowledge and your initiative.
- Practice your 30-second “elevator pitch.” If you are succinct and grab an employer’s attention they will be much more likely to remember you and what you can do for their organization.
- Present the best version of yourself to employers by dressing for the job you want. It helps them picture you working in a professional work environment.
- Collect as many business cards as you can so when it’s time to apply for the position, you can reference the conversation you had with the recruiter in your cover letter.
For additional information regarding the New Jersey Statewide Career and Internship Fair, visit careers.rutgers.edu/njstatewide.
- Melissa Blake and Amber E. Hopkins-Jenkins