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Career Fiesta matches jobs, seekers

September 15, 2008

ASU's annual fall Career Fiesta is a little like a speed-dating event.

Over four days, students and alumni can meet and discuss job and internship opportunities with representatives from more than 250 employers.

Have a chat, leave a resume, and go on to the next table. If there is mutual interest, make plans for a more in-depth talk.

The Career Fiesta, scheduled for Sept. 23-26 this year, in the newly renovated Arizona and Ventana ballrooms in the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus, is one of the largest such events in the nation, said Kitty McGrath, director of ASU Career Services.

"Historically, more than 1,000 students are there each of the four days. Most students come for two days."

Though the economy is slow this year, Career Services has not seen a drop in the number of employers who are interested in paying up to $775 for two days of recruiting, noted Elaine Stover, associate director.

Employers may sign up for either Sept. 23-24 or Sept. 25-26. The corporate fee is $775, while non-profits, government agencies and military organizations pay $500 to be there for two days.

In return, the employers receive access to student resumes, an announcement on Sun Devil CareerLink, a display table and table for interviews, lunch and afternoon beverages, and parking for two vehicles.

Plus, they are able to meet a large pool of talented, well-educated prospective employees.

Many of the employers come back year after year, McGrath said. "Nearly 75 percent were here last year, and some companies, like APS, Enterprise and General Mills, are here every year."

The largest group of employers comes from financial services - 37 percent of the total - while government and high-tech/computer are next with 24 and 22 percent.

The employer list is varied, including retail, pharmaceuticals, energy, manufacturing, printing, entertainment, nonprofits, transportation and distribution.

Some of the companies and agencies are household names, such as Frito-Lay, Harley-Davidson, Monsanto, Staples, Hershey, Rolls-Royce, National Security Agency, Peace Corps, Target and Walgreens.

Some are less known, but they are all in the market for good employees.

Career Services helps the students prepare long before Career Fiesta arrives, so they don't feel intimidated by all the choices.

Students can go to the Sun Devil CareerLink before Career Fiesta begins to see which companies and agencies will be there which days, so they can plot their "plan of attack."

"We offer workshops the week before on how to succeed at Career Fiesta," Stover said. "Sometimes walking into a very big room can be overwhelming for the students.

"We also will critique their resumes on the spot, right at Career Fiesta."

Stover said students are advised to bring printed copies of their resume to Career Fiesta, even though many companies will ask students to apply online after Career Fiesta concludes. "They want to know that you're serious," Stover said.

Career Services asks students to bring their Sun Cards to the Career Fiesta, though they are not required for entry. The Sun Card provides data for both Career Services and employers, such as the number of students participating and their areas of study, and career services prints student nametags using the Sun Card information.

Though Career Fiesta is a long day for the recruiters, it’s more than well worth the effort to be there, said Kelly Lerch of Enterprise.

“We like to be able to meet the students face to face, and tell them about our opportunities,” she said. “Smiling and saying the same thing over and over to the students is tiring, so I usually bring a team with me.”

Lerch said many of the students, even though they have been coached, are still shy about approaching the tables. “You have to grab them and talk to them. They don’t know what to expect and what to say.”