The 23rd annual Washburn University Career and Graduate School Fair was hosted on Wednesday Feb. 16 in the Lee Arena.
The fair was free for both student and non-student members of the community. It provided information about opportunities for prospective graduate students, interns, job seekers as well as those simply seeking information about possible employment opportunities.
There were 85 employers available to answer both general and specific questions about career options, not only for those who have already chosen a career, but also for those who are attempting to determine which career is right for them.
“The purpose of career fairs in general, I think, is twofold,” said Kent McAnnally, director of career services. “One, for the student who’s looking for a job or an internship, it’s an opportunity to talk with employers about what kinds of opportunities they have available and try to make a connection there. The second purpose is for the students who aren’t really sure what they want to do. Maybe they aren’t sure about a major; they aren’t sure about what kind of career path. This is your chance to have 85 employers in one room, and ask questions.”
McAnnally said the fair provides people the opportunity to speak directly to employers about what they are looking for, and that students are given advice about self-improvements that they can make during their time in school in order to make themselves stand out to employers after graduation.
It is important to be aware of appropriate questions to ask recruiters at the fair, as well as which topics to bring up, or to let the employers bring up themselves. Inappropriate questions have been known to ruin one’s chances of being offered a position.
“Ask employers about what’s going to happen next,” said McAnnally. “What specific kinds of opportunities do they have in their organization, maybe about what kind of training they offer for new hires, what kind of people they look for, what characteristics of new hires are they looking for, and obviously you want to ask ‘how can I follow up?'”
McAnnally warned applicants that the last thing they should do is ask about salary and benefits. These things are better discussed after the employer has taken steps to show interest in the applicant. However, even then, the applicant should wait for the employer to bring up pay and benefits.
The recruiters offered advice for anyone interested in their field. However, some stressed the fact that their number of applicants is exponentially greater than their number of openings.
For this reason, it is best not to wait until graduation to examine ones perspective field, and to start networking.
“For the University of Kansas Hospital last year alone, we had 48,401 folks apply,” said Cynthia Smith, recruiter for the University of Kansas Hospital. “If you’re going to wait to apply like everybody else and not take advantage of a career fair where you will be face to face with a recruiter that is recruiting for jobs, that to me is very dire mistake.”
At the fair, many of the recruiters spoke of the importance of networking. Employers usually hire applicants that they already know, which is why it is crucial that students get to know people in their perspective field prior to graduation. Simply asking questions can open doors for invaluable acquaintances.
However, be sure to keep questions genuine; it is important for applicants not to behave as though they already know everything about their field of interest.
“If you don’t know somebody, the best thing to do is to ask questions, because people love to be emulated,” said Smith. “They love to be talked to like they’re the experts, so to me the approach would be: ‘How can I do this? How can I get in? What do I do? How do I get there? These are the things I’ve done so far.'”
Recruiters also mentioned the importance of building a good resume. Smith said that a good resume should include many of what she called “search words”.
An applicant should be sure to look up the job description of the position they are applying for, find key words in the description that describe their skills, and incorporate those “search words” into their resume.
For example, if an employer lists in their description that they are seeking someone who knows how to use Excel, the applicant should be sure to place the word Excel within their resume if applicable.