Career fair brings employers to students

Center for Career and Calling puts on 1st in-person career fair in four years

Ella Beth Sessions, Staff Writer

A student talks with a representative from the Washington State Department of Transportation during the career fair in Upper Gwinn on Wednesday, April 12, 2023. (Josilyn Walker)

On April 12, employers and students gathered for 2023’s in-person Career Fair. Aimed to provide connections for SPU students, the fair placed a total of 57 employers at booths within Upper Gwinn. Students of all ages milled through the crowd of companies, exchanging emails, providing resumes and making conversation.

Megan Korsak, office and events coordinator for the CCC, was part of the team that prepared to put on the career fair for the past seven weeks.

“Our employer relations manager reached individually out to 500 odd organizations over the last few months, via email mostly, but also in person,” Korsak said. “We wanted to build relationships, present opportunities and make sure we’re networking with employers in and outside the area.”

PeiLing Zou is set to graduate this fall with a Master of Science in data analytics for business.

“I’m looking for my target companies for some data analytics jobs,” Zou said. “I’ll go and talk with the business jobs to check what they offer.”

The businesses occupying booths and talking with students ranged from government agencies to grocery stores. Students were faced with opportunities in religious non-profits, healthcare, river floating, the Secret Service, and even a childcare organization accompanied by their very own pug (named Mando).

Despite all the different businesses, Travis Lee, a junior computer science major, still struggled to find employers within his specific target.

“I’m looking for software engineering internships. As a student, I know it can be kind of hard to find internships,” Lee said. “I’ve talked to a variety of companies including the SSA Marines, the Boys and Girls Club and Salem Health Care. I’m just looking to get my feet wet.”

Software and tech companies were largely absent from this year’s career fair because of recent layoffs and changes within the tech industry and an increasing shift to online networking and jobs.

“We’re hoping to use the data analytics that we get from posting with the #SPUCareerFair2023 to leverage employers in the future,” Korsak said. “Our opportunity is to show large organizations like Microsoft what we can do, so we can build those relationships in the future. It was harder to get them in because they can’t fiscally justify showing up.”

The Center for Career and Calling also provided separate spaces and resources outside the crowded fair area, including indoor and outdoor furniture, a photo booth and bingo. Additionally, an advice booth was ready to help with resume, conversational and dress-related advice.

“We wanted to make sure that we were trying to hit those anxiety triggers for students and support them as best we can,” Korsak said. “Networking in general is anxiety riddling, so we built it to be like a ‘coach’s corner’,” Korsak said. 

The advice booth, manned solely by students, provided attendants of the fair with questions to ask employers in conversation lulls and tips and tricks to boost success and combat any student anxiety.

“Everyone is so professional, so I just force myself to talk with them and introduce myself,” Zou said. “Because I’m an international student, I’m really excited to check what opportunities we have at SPU.”

To boost confidence and professional appearance, students could even rent a blazer at the professional dress station.

“One of the big insecurities is dress – this is all donated clothing from faculty and staff. It was pretty profound the amount of response we got,” Korsak said.

The CCC expressed excitement to see such an abundance of employers and students in person building relationships, facilitating and networking connections, and ultimately moving toward success in business and career.

“There’s a really wide variety of companies here,” Lee said. “It’s been fun to meet so many different people.”