April 2023

For students thinking about life after college, the recent job and internship fair offered some reassurance: More than 200 employers were there, with representatives staffing tables that filled a large hall at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Jeremiah Staten
Jeremiah Staten, Northwestern student

Consider Jeremiah Staten, a student at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul, who wasn’t sure he’d attend. Then one of his contacts in the career development office nudged him. And he’s glad she did.

“My job fair experience was really good. I met a variety of people and I’m interviewing for six internship opportunities all because of the job fair,” Staten said. “I also made valuable connections I hope to use in the future, so I’m very pleased.”

A junior majoring in marketing with a design minor, Staten hopes to work in the professional sports industry, perhaps in community relations. He's excited to land an internship that will prepare him for work and provide real life work experience – things students can’t get in a classroom.

Organized by the Minnesota Private College Career Consortium for students at the Council’s member institutions, the fair hit a roadblock with the pandemic. After being virtual in 2021 and a hybrid event in 2022, it has come back strong. The event offers a unique opportunity for students to impress recruiters who seek to fill jobs and internships.

In-person value

Kate Errickson and Kate Houston
Left to right: Kate Errickson, Securian Financial Talent Acquisition Consultant, and Kate Houston, Ameriprise Director of Talent Acquisition

While much of a job search can progress online, the in-person nature of the fair is so valuable, said Kate Errickson, Securian Financial’s talent acquisition consultant for campus recruitment, who was at the event. Compared to an online event, she said the March fair made it easier to build rapport and gave students an instant connection with corporate recruiters.

“Having in-person events makes it easier to pick up on each other’s ‘vibe’ and energy,” Errickson said. “While we do most of our hiring in the fall, I definitely met some promising candidates and will notify them for future openings and opportunities for next summer when they open up.”

The March fair went well and the turnout was strong, despite it having to be rescheduled because of a snowstorm, said Kate Houston, Ameriprise director of talent acquisition. And again, she sees the pluses of being in-person — for the students as well.

“We participate in in-person, virtual and dual events which are good for students located a distance away, but the in-person job fair allows students to interact with members of multiple departments at our company booth,” said Houston. “Students can also interact with more companies and see what’s available.”

According to Houston, many students want in-person events in order to identify companies’ values, cultures and social responsibility initiatives. Students want to personally interact with and gauge company representatives to gain a better understanding of what it would be like to work there.

Staten, the student at the University of Northwestern, concurred.

“Having this event in-person makes sense because there’s an authenticity, energy and connection you can’t make in a Zoom call. It’s very important to do this in person,” he said. “An in-person event allows you to get a real, genuine feel for the company, a better understanding of the atmosphere and an employer’s personality.”

Bethel student lands internship

Michael Murphy
Michael Murphy, Bethel student

When Bethel University’s Michael Murphy attended the fair, he believed he already had a sales internship with a local paint manufacturer locked up for this summer. But while at the event, the business marketing major learned that plan had fallen through. But he ended up finding a sales internship with State Farm Insurance at the fair — at his last stop of the day.

“The fair went well and I was very pleased. I talked to everyone I wanted to and gave out several resumes,” said Murphy. “It’s a very useful resource. My goal was to find an internship and I did.”

Murphy strongly believes in-person events are much more valuable than remote events. He appreciates the opportunity to shake a recruiter’s hand and make eye contact in-person. The opportunity to wear a suit and tie also made it feel like a more professional environment than a Zoom event.

His advice to students attending similar events in the future is to bring lots of resumes, have an “elevator pitch” to describe yourself, and take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.

“I wouldn’t have attended if it was a remote event. In person, it’s easy to speak, see body language, and look someone in the eye,” adds Murphy. “This is a great resource even if you already have an internship – or think you have one.”

Preparing for the fair

Attending an event like the fair could feel daunting for some, or just exciting for others. Either way, Ameriprise’s Kate Houston’s advice starts with the basics. Along with bringing printed copies of their updated resume, students should update their LinkedIn profile and plan to use it to connect with recruiters at the event. A key step, she said, is for students to prepare by researching organizations that will be at the fair and making a game plan to meet with representatives of the companies they’re interested in. College career center staff help students with all these steps.

“Private schools offer a wide range of majors and students can explore a variety of career paths. Private college students bring great, well-rounded educations that match a variety of opportunities Ameriprise offers,” Houston said.

Both Houston and Securian’s Kate Errickson said they appreciate the strengths of private college students, including verbal and written communication and problem-solving skills.

My advice for those attending in-person job fairs is that it’s O.K. for students to be nervous, but go in with confidence,” Errickson said. “Employers are there to speak to you, get to know your authentic self, and learn what brought you to the event.”

By Tom Brandes