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Student pursue careers, internships

John-Paul Witt | Thursday, September 11, 2008

Despite the economic woes facing the United States, things were looking up at Wednesday’s Fall Career Expo, which featured 148 companies in the Joyce Center, Career Center director Lee Svete said.

The plethora of companies ranged from “Fortune 500s to small businesses that are looking to grow,” Svete said.

Final numbers on attendees were not available Wednesday night, but the Joyce Center was a crowded mix of hundreds of students and recruiters, as well as Career Center employees dispensing last-minute advice and making introductions.

Although last year’s Fall Career Expo featured more companies, with a tally of 196, students were generally happy with the number of businesses and organizations represented.

“It was encouraging to see so many companies interested in Notre Dame students,” senior theology major Chris Aguilar said.

Many students, like Aguilar, were interested not in typical corporations but in opportunities for service with corporations like the Peace Corps or the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

“Service organizations seemed to be well-represented proportionally,” Aguilar said.

A service-oriented Career and Internship Fair will be held through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) Oct. 1, Svete said.

The busiest booths were financial services companies like KPMG and Deloitte, who each rented three booths-worth of space. Most companies present in the fair had a Midwestern connection and were recruiting for the Chicago area, Svete said, although companies like HSBC and Credit Suisse have offices around the world.

Even students who aren’t seniors, like Saint Mary’s sophomore Megan Smith, found the fair worthwhile. In her first time attending a career fair, Smith said she was impressed by how friendly the companies were, even to students who were not about to graduate.

“I wasn’t sure at first because I know that companies don’t offer many internships to sophomores, but I found one I liked,” Smith said.

Svete advised students to start early in their hunt for internships, since companies are looking especially for sophomores and juniors for summer positions.

“A few years ago, only 20 percent of companies at our career fair would hire interns, but 70 percent of the companies here today were recruiting for interns as well as full-time positions,” Svete said.

Although every company present was recruiting undergraduates, according to the Career Expo leaflet included in Wednesday’s Observer, even Ph.D. students like chemical engineer Changsheng Su had luck finding potential jobs.

“At first I was worried there wouldn’t be anything for me, but companies were interested even though I’m a grad student and an international student. I just need more resumes,” Su said.

Career fairs at Notre Dame have a history of association with the Mendoza College of Business, Svete said, but this fair catered to students of all majors.

“Before this fair, we were seeing 200 students a day [at the Career Center], of all levels and colleges, business, liberal arts, engineering and science,” Svete said.

Arts and Letters students in particular shouldn’t be discouraged when confronted by corporate recruiters, since many accept qualified applicants from all backgrounds into their training programs.

“You have consulting firms – Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company – which people may think of as for business students, but they’re hiring people from all majors,” Svete said.

Svete encouraged students who did not find a suitable position not to lose heart, and instead look forward to January’s Winter Career and Internship Fair.

“For-profit businesses are able to project their hiring needs eight months in advance, but not-for-profit organizations and government agencies won’t know their full-time and summer hiring needs until later in the year, and we expect to see more of them in January,” Svete said.

At companies like international financial services firm Credit Suisse, “good grades are important,” but the company especially looks for new employees who “have an idea of what they’re getting into,” recruiter Sean Turner said. Turner was attending the Expo for the third straight year.

“You need to make sure you like what you’ll be doing – in any job, if you’ll be working 100 hours a week, it doesn’t matter how smart you are, you won’t be good at your job if you don’t like it,” Turner said.