In a day and age where people are buying tickets to Broadway shows a year in advance and camping out for weeks to get their hands on the latest piece of technology, it could be hard to believe that one of the toughest tickets to secure is for a college career fair.
The employers still calling WPI’s Career Development Center (CDC) and inquiring about having a booth at this year’s Fall Career Fair—which has been full for over a month (with a wait list)—would say differently.
“We reached capacity earlier than ever before,” says Bailey Rand, assistant director of employer relations at the CDC. “There’s lots of company interest. It’s a good sign for our students, and the state of the economy, as well.”
This year’s Career Fair will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 20, from noon to 4 p.m. in the Sports & Recreation Center. WPI will welcome 197 employers to campus, ranging from large, established companies like ExxonMobil, Amazon Robotics, and PepsiCo, to startups and fast-growth companies, including iboss (this year’s Platinum Sponsor of the fair), DraftKings, and Toast, Inc., all of which are ready to meet and network with WPI’s talented students and alumni.
“There will be something for everyone across all industries,” Rand says. “There’s going to be a lot going on.”
One of the biggest student events on campus each year, the Fall Career Fair will see over 2,500 student and alumni attendees. With so much going on, it could be easy for students to feel overwhelmed, but the CDC has taken steps to ensure a smooth, successful day for all.
Students and alumni are encouraged to download the career fair app, “The Fairs App,” which includes a wealth of resources, including a list of participating companies and links to the CDC’s tip sheets. Rand also encourages students to research companies through Handshake that they’re interested in talking with, practice their elevator pitches, and polish up their resumes before the fair.
It’s a lot to prepare for, but WPI’s students and alumni aren’t the only ones who spend a good deal of time planning for the Career Fair—the CDC’s staff members are just as busy in the days, weeks, and even months leading up to the big day.
According to Rand, preparations begin at least three months in advance, with the CDC’s employer team working to confirm reservations and space, organizing registration for employers, and taking care of logistical details. Once students return to campus in the fall, the focus shifts to preparing them to have a successful experience at the fair. CDC peer advisors run workshops on why it’s beneficial for students to attend the Career Fair; members of the CDC’s student/alumni team host resume workshops and mock interviews; and employers even participate in panels and resume critiques to give students an inside look at just what will catch an employer’s eye.
While the Career Fair is commonly known as a CDC event, Rand is quick to explain that although the CDC spearheads the event, it’s really a group effort among various offices on campus, from Events, Facilities, and Catering to IT, Campus Police Student Activities, and the Academic Technology Center. “We absolutely could not do it without everyone on campus,” she says.
The day is sure to be fast-paced and full of nerves and excitement, and Rand is already looking forward to her favorite part of the fair: the community. The Career Fair is where she and the other CDC staff members finally get to meet employers they’ve been talking with through email or phone face-to-face, or catch up with those they haven’t seen since last year. It also provides an opportunity to meet and interact with other WPI departments, staff members, and alumni throughout the day, people she might not meet otherwise.
“The community surrounding the Career Fair is something a lot of people might not expect, but it’s definitely my favorite part,” she says.
And if the employers who return to campus to recruit (about 75 percent of whom are WPI alumni) are any indication, she’s not the only one who feels that way.
- By Allison Racicot