At last fall’s Career Fair, Will Alizio was a senior computer science major looking for a job. He connected with Raytheon and landed an internship, which led to a full-time software engineering position after graduation. This week, he was back on campus helping Raytheon recruit new job candidates.
“I get to work on great projects with cutting- edge technologies,” says Alizio, who works in Raytheon’s BBN Technologies division in Cambridge. “It’s a great place. Innovation is encouraged.”
Raytheon was one of 150 companies that came to the Oct. 24 Career Fair at the Campus Recreation Center, the largest Career Fair in seven years and 20 percent bigger than last spring’s recruiting event. Companies traveled from as far as California and several firms returned to campus the next day to conduct follow-up interviews. Organized by the Career Services and Cooperative Education Center, the event attracted Fortune 500 companies, startups and non-profits representing a cross-section of industries including finance, technology, consumer products, health care and law enforcement.
“We have maxed out on every inch of space,” says Patricia Yates, assistant dean of career development.
While the national unemployment rate stands at 7.8 percent, students who gain hands-on professional experience while earning their degrees have much brighter job prospects, Yates says.
“Certainly, students who do co-ops, internships, practicums or other experiential learning will have opportunities,” she says. “What we hear from employers is that our students are hard-working and smart. They come in with the right attitude, prepared to work.”
Recent workshops run by the Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education to prepare students for the event attracted record attendance. The students learned how to craft an elevator speech, got tips for job interviews and fine-tuned their resumes. They were advised to research the companies that interested them.
“You need to have a game plan and identify the companies you are going to target,” Yates says.
Senior Erin Keaney had mapped out her strategy in advance. The plastics engineering major, who has already completed two co-op placements and is now working part-time at a local medical device startup, had a list of five companies she wanted to connect with. Her preparation paid off: Before she had a worked her way through the list, she had already lined up a job interview.
Several employers cited common characteristics they look for in all job candidates: Confidence, enthusiasm, preparedness and strong communication skills.
“Be confident and be strong. Employers can see that. Know a little bit about the company and show that you are interested,” suggests Steve Capraro, a finance manager for Priority Capital and a 2010 alumnus.
Capraro was back on campus recruiting for Priority, which is based in Melrose and arranges financing for small and medium-sized businesses. It was the first time the company had participated in a UMass Lowell Career Fair. Although he majored in criminal justice, Capraro he feels his experience in both the classroom and as a member of the hockey team prepared him for his career.
“You meet people from all walks of life at UMass Lowell and that broadens your thinking,” he says. “And playing hockey, you have that competitive spirit and drive.”
Watch videos from the Career Fair.