For the sea of Penn State students clad in business suits and wearing puzzled, tight expressions on their faces, pursuit of a secure job upon graduation was the motivation to attend the annual three-day career fair held at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Students weaving through lines continually checked their portfolios while waiting to talk to recruiters from companies such as General Electric, Exxon and Target. Inside, some had color-coded floor maps, detailed lists of attending companies and, of course, stacks of resumes.
According to the Economic Policy Institute’s May 2014 study, 14.5 percent of workers under the age of 25 are unemployed. For attending students, the goal is to avoid falling into that statistic.
About 540 companies participated the event in hopes of selecting the best among the 9,000 students seeking internships, co-ops and full-time jobs.
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For Torrence Traynham, university specialist for ADP, a New Jersey business outsourcing solutions company, the key is building relationships with students and creating internship opportunities that develop into full-time jobs.
“We try to fill up our internship pipeline,” Traynham said. “We almost want to do away with full-time entry-level jobs.”
That way, the company can essentially conduct a 10- to 12-week interview and provide a sense of security for the students as they return to school for their final year.
Traynham, in his third year representing ADP at fall career days, said Penn State students offer a well-roundedness he doesn’t always see at the other six to eight Northeast university career fairs he attends.
He expects to speak to about 150 students a day and said Penn State students come prepared to talk to him, having researched the company ahead of time.
After a week on campus working with Penn State through the Smeal College of Business and speaking to more than 400 students at the fair itself, he just hoped his voice would last through the end of the week.
Penn State senior John Rodgers, a petroleum and natural gas engineering major, experienced a more talkative atmosphere between students and recruiters at this year’s event in general.
In the three years he’s attended, Rodgers has persistently dressed in a suit, studied the list of attending companies and stood in long lines to land a summer internship. This year, he said, recruiters seemed more personable and willing to talk.
Between final resume prep and conducting research on his nine targeted companies, Rodgers estimated he’d spent three hours preparing.
Career Fair Coordinator Sherry Rice said research such as Rodgers’ was the most important aspect of a student’s overall preparedness for the event.
She said recruiters value a student who is engaged, ready to have a knowledgeable conversation about the company and what fit they might provide if hired.
Rice manages a team of Career Service employees and student volunteers and works with Jordan Center staff to operate an organized event where students can make the best connections possible.
In recent years, the number of students attending has increased, especially on “internship day,” Rice said.
“We’re finding that students are becoming more aware that that internship is really key and really valuable,” she said.