By Eric Bennardo
MONROEVILLE, Pa. – Spring break 2015 proved unforgettable for me, as I attended the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Job and Internship Fair (WESTPAC) in search of my first professional job. It was both a stressful, but exciting experience.
It was recommended that I attend this event by Jim Shields, the Penn State New Kensington Career Services Director, as well as several of my fellow upperclassmen. Additionally, there were several other factors that led to me attending the fair. First of all, it was free, therefore money was not an issue. Secondly, it took place at the Monroeville Convention Center, which is less than thirty minutes from my house, so the location was convenient. The final reason as to why I attended was because it took place on the Wednesday during spring break, so I, nor any other Penn State students in attendance had to worry about missing any classes or meetings.
In preparation for the fair, I went to the WESTPAC website and printed out the list of 156 employers attending the job fair. I then made my own list of companies that I felt would be a good fit for me. Next, I finalized my resume and made the appropriate number of copies. While I knew that this would be a worthwhile experience, I had no idea just how rewarding it would actually be.
Once I arrived at the fair and went through registration, I immediately began seeking out the companies I was interested in. This was a very tedious task because of the large amount of company booths that were set up, as well as several hundred job seekers in attendance.
I ended up looking at some companies that I did not initially intend to, including a financial advising firm, Wal-Mart, and Rite Aid. While the conversations I had with the recruiters from these companies were not particularly fruitful, it was still nice to get some more practice approaching a potential employer.
Another unexpected thing happened to me while at the fair. As I was walking down one of the aisles, I saw one of my friends who graduated from the Penn State New Kensington campus in 2014 who was recruiting for her company, PLS Logistics. This company was not on my list, but after talking to her for a couple of minutes, I considered applying for a sales position there.
Once I was finished with PLS, I then made it a priority to seek out the employers I had initially come to see. I managed to talk to several of these companies, such as Comcast, Comcast Spotlight and Prudential. I also spoke to recruiters from the PA Department of Environmental Protection, PA Department of Public Welfare, City of Pittsburgh, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), along with several other state organizations.
While most of the state recruiters did not have a whole lot to offer me, it was good to get my resume out to the variety of companies from various industries. The other companies, however, showed much more interest in me as a soon-to-be communications post-graduate, which was very exciting and motivating for me. The final recruiter that I wanted to visit was UPMC, but when I found the booth there was a long line of anxiously awaiting job applicants. As I was pressed for time, I was unable to wait.
In conclusion, I think it is important for college students to attend career fairs. The first reason it is so important may be the most obvious, which is to find a job. The second, perhaps less obvious reason, is to network with employers and other job seekers.
While finding a job is the primary goal of these events, networking and making connections is just as important. This is because when you make a connection with someone, you then have access to some of their network of connection, which starts a whole new plethora of opportunities for you as you look for the job that will set your career in motion. Therefore, I hope that the next time Jim Shields or a classmate tells you that you should attend a job fair, you will at least consider it. You only have to meet that one right person to get the job of your dreams.