Careers begin with a smile and a handshake, and students from the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering took those steps into a broader world at the SICE Spring Career Fair at the Monroe Convention Center Jan. 24.
More than 727students had the opportunity to meet with companies in pursuit of internships and full-time employment opportunities with employers throughout the state and the country. The event gave students the chance to meet face-to-face with recruiters and sell their particular skillset.
“I was really impressed with the student turnout,” said Jodie Sackley, director of career services at SICE. “Each semester our students are more prepared and poised, and I think that has a lot to do with them proactively approaching their career development. We encourage students to use our office early in their academic career and often so that they can take advantage of every opportunity that we provide. The career services team here at SICE is passionate about helping students, wherever they are in their career development process.”
It also gave them an advantage over the typical routine of applying for jobs online.
“I was applying to internships online over winter break, and I found it kind of hard,” said Abbie Guest, a junior in informatics who would like to get into the healthcare field. “It took a decent amount of time and research, and now, the employers are here, and I can talk to them face-to-face. It allows me to skip through the application process and give them my resume. Your application is almost just you being here and talking to them.”
Srinithish Kandagadla, a first-year master’s student in the data science program at SICE, was counting on his previous experience to make him stand out.
“Applying outside of a career fair is difficult,” Kandagadla said. “Any projects you have worked on previously are just words on a sheet of paper. My previous experience before my master’s will help me stand out, and by talking to them face-to-face, I’ll have the opportunity to talk about the things I’ve worked on in the past. It really is helpful to bring your ideas to life.”
Work outside of the classroom was a focus for employers. Jordan Bryant, a campus recruiting manager for Uline, which offers shipping supplies, was specifically looking for that trait.
“We’re looking for someone who is motivated and passionate about the work they do,” Bryant said. “We want a self-starter, someone who can show they’re passionate about the field of IT and have done some side projects as well as class requirements. SICE students are very sharp, and we’ve had good success hiring from the IU campus.”
Kat Locascio, an IT college recruiter at Geico IT, said the blend of work inside and outside the classroom was critical.
“We’re looking for someone who is passionate about technology,” Locascio said. “We want someone who wants to learn about it beyond coursework. It’s the type of people who work on their own side projects or really try to understand through internships or additional clubs or resources. That’s always speaking to the fact that beyond having a passion, you have a drive to really complete a project and learn beyond the coursework. That’s always a characteristic we look for.”
Locascio also was impressed with the way the Career Services office had helped her company.
“We’ve had a lot of successes in hiring, and a big part of coming into the game of college recruiting is building relationships,” Locascio said. “SICE’s Career Services office has really gone above and beyond and been really accessible with us to find the right talent. It has been awesome to report back that we’ve been hiring a good amount of their students.”
Many students at the career fair drew on their past experience at the event. Anya Zach, a first-year master’s student in Information Science, visited the fall career fair last September and was more prepared this time around.
“I learned what the atmosphere is like at career fairs,” Zach said. “I figured out what it’s like to just go up to someone and start talking to a potential employer. It was about the environment, and once you get here, you have to go by feel a little bit. Wait until you’re comfortable before you start talking to potential employers so you can make the right impression.”
Freshman Tyler Sterle, an informatics major, knew he didn’t boast the experience of some of the other attendees, but he was excited to get a chance to wade into the hiring process. Sterle was focused on finding a user experience job in human-computer interaction, but he was realistic about what he was up against.
“It’s hard because I’m generally competing with grad students,” Sterle said. “Most people who work with UX have their master’s degree, so I know it might be hard for me to find something. I also figured I might as well take a chance to meet some of these companies and these recruiters so I can build a relationship with some of them.”
Some of the attendees may have been nervous, but the recruiters said it was a focus of theirs to ease that burden a bit.
“We love partnering with IU, and we want to make the candidates comfortable,” said Kara Taylor, a recruiter with Blue Horseshoe. “We’ve all been there. It’s terrifying when you come into a room and see all these employers. We want to learn about what the students have to offer, and we hope to let them know that it’s not as daunting as it may seem.”
The ability to communicate was a key soft skill employers were looking for due to the often customer-focused nature of technology. Multiple recruiters said they were looking for someone who could easily talk about their work, and the students came into the event with strategies that they hoped would make a difference.
Henry Orsborn, a junior in informatics who was looking for an internship in software engineering, took that approach.
“Everyone has their list of companies they want to talk to, and everyone has the company that is their top choice,” Orsborn said. “I’m going to talk to a couple of the companies that I’m interested in first just to relax a little bit, and then I’m going to talk to the company I most hope I can work with. I’ll be thrilled with any of them choices, but you have to warm-up a bit.”
Carleigh Hannon, the senior associate director of career services at SICE, was pleased with the event and is looking forward to the Fall Career Fair, which will be held Sept. 19.
“Employers said the SICE students they met at the career fair were impressive,” Hannon said. “They were described to me as professional, well-informed, humble, and eager. We also had 37 employers register for the Women in IT networking event held before the career fair, and we’re very excited for everyone involved.”