Hameetman Career Center hosts second all-time career fair

Mia Coleman (senior), left, and Maddie Lubeck (senior), right, are excited to learn about their future career and internship opportunities at Occidental College. Feb. 19, 2019. Nancy Zhou/The Occidental

The Hameetman Career Center (HCC) hosted the Oxy Career Fair Feb. 19 on the Johnson Student Center Quad. The fair featured 58 booths, including representatives from graduate schools, internship programs, private sector businesses, government and non-governmental organizations, according to Jim Tranquada, the college’s director of communications.

According to Associate Vice President and Executive Director of the HCC Cherena Walker, this year’s career fair is only the second career fair in the history of the college. Next year, she hopes to see improvement in the quality and quantity of employers that attend.

Walker said that, prior to 2017, small events with employers in specific fields (a.k.a., “Industry Insight” events), provided the majority of opportunities for students to interact with employers. The 2017 career fair provided the HCC with an opportunity to measure student interest for more expansive programming.

“[In 2017], our employer outreach was not extremely aggressive because it was our first time and we really wanted to gauge whether or not students would even be interested in something like this,” Walker said.

After attending the career fair in 2017, Lauren Chin (senior) was impressed by the number of students who attended this year’s fair and by how many dressed professionally and came prepared with resumes.

“I like how the school brings the career fair to have lots of employers,” Chin said. “I saw a lot of people there, so people are really into it.”

According to Walker, the career fair is important because students get to meet a large number of employers at one time. The experience is also a valuable way for students to practice career-readiness skills. For younger students, the career fair offers an easy way to gain exposure to employers and watch the way that students who are closer to graduation navigate that environment.

The HCC used feedback collected from students via email about the 2017 career fair when searching for the employers that appeared at the 2019 fair. Walker said that while all student suggestions are appreciated and taken seriously, the HCC has trouble bringing certain employers to the college, particularly big companies with name recognition and those in the sciences.

“All of this takes time,” Walker said. “I know that we don’t have the right mix of employers at this stage, but you have to remember that this is the second career fair in Oxy’s history, and because of that we are not on the radar of employers, especially the big-name employers.”

Signage invites employers to check in at Occidental College’s Career Fair. Feb. 19, 2019. Nancy Zhou/The Occidental

According to Walker, many employers prefer to host information sessions instead of attending a career fair, which is more competitive for employers and a larger time commitment. It can also be difficult to convince employers to come to Occidental because of its small size compared to other campuses.

“Really, employers are the drivers,” Walker said. “Students can want them and we can engage them, but the employer decides whether or not they want to come to campus.”

Chin said she felt that although there were not many opportunities for students in her field, she was still able to engage with other employers.

“There weren’t many opportunities for health science majors; there were a lot of nonprofits, especially economic nonprofits,” Chin said. “But there was a little bit of everything. I’m a certified lifeguard, so there was a cool Waterworks [Aquatics] table and I was able to get information. It was really nice because employers that I talked to and signed their sheet had emailed me today [Feb. 21] already.”

Chin would like to see more employers total and more employers that students are interested in. She noticed that some employer tables got very little attention from students, and it might be helpful to have a school-wide survey to gauge student interest in the next career fair’s potential attending employers.

The career fair hosted a couple of large established companies, such as NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). For geology major Ellie Amann (senior), JPL’s presence was the most exciting aspect of the career fair.

“I’m a science major, and I’ve been looking to do more research-based jobs, and [the career fair] didn’t have a lot of research-based jobs, but it did have JPL,” Amann said. “I think that the connection that Occidental, Hameetman Career Center and JPL are trying to make is really interesting and provides a really good opportunity for geo, physics and chemistry majors.”

Walker said that, in the coming years, her goal is to engage more with employers in the sciences, media and entertainment, but all the while ensuring that there remains a good balance of humanities-related employers.

“Our goal is to continue to … add new employers, to continue to diversify our mix of employers, to look at what our students are saying they are interested in and to continue to try to build those relationships,” Walker said.