17 Feb Take it from Tyler: Career fairs work for UND students
Standout marketing senior helps link student job-seekers with potential employers
Tuesday’s Spring 2020 Career Expo drew more employers to Grand Forks’ Alerus Center than any previous career fair had done, according to UND Career Services.
Director Ilene Odegard tallied 167 companies and organizations using 177 total booth spaces.
To keep those numbers trending upward, Career Services created a new internship this semester to maintain a consistent level of outreach to potential employers.
Tyler Head, a UND senior, has been a trailblazer in this new capacity.
From experience, he knows how valuable career fairs at UND can be for future graduates and the people who want to hire them.
Get in early
From the get-go, as a freshman on campus, the Fairmont, Minn., native sensed that attending career fairs was a good idea.
“A lot of people are telling you to go, even if you aren’t looking for a full-time job, and that it’s good to network with people,” said Head of his early exposure. “I realized early on that it was a good way to get your foot in the door and get initial contact for all types of opportunities.”
Getting involved sooner rather than later not only helps get one’s name out there, but also the experience generally helps students prepare for future Career Expos and engagement opportunities, Head said. During the first one or two visits, it’s tough to know what to expect when you walk onto a football-field-sized expanse of booths and recruiters.
Each year, Head picked up pieces of wisdom that he could use the next time. He learned to research companies of interest to him, how to tell employers what he was looking for and how to sharpen his resume, for instance.
Last spring, the pieces fell into place when the marketing major landed an internship with Digi-Key Electronics of Thief River Falls, Minn. The multi-billion-dollar company is the fifth largest electronic components distributor in the world.
After meeting Digi-Key representatives at the Expo and gaining an interview, Head spent his summer commuting daily from Grand Forks to work as a search engine marketing intern. In his role, Head worked with Digi-Key’s paid and organic web marketing across the ocean, in Ireland.
“Getting that opportunity really cemented the idea that career fairs actually work for students,” Head remarked. “The real-world experience helped me understand why internships are an important companion to the classroom experience, and really add value to your education.”
Both sides of the floor
At the Alerus Center, Head was dressed for success, as were the hundreds of other students who were streaming into the check-in area shortly after 12 p.m.
By the end of the afternoon, nearly 800 students had taken part.
Head, despite his range of experience and success found through such events, was treating the Expo like any other opportunity to meet with employers. He was looking forward to seeing the representatives from Digi-Key — people he’d met and worked with during last summer’s stint. Last fall, he’d interviewed with a company in Georgia and also hoped to rekindle that connection, if possible.
“But I think the focus for me is a lot of bigger companies, especially based out of the Twin Cities, which is where I want to end up,” said Head, who wants to find himself in a sales environment among Fortune 500 companies.
Unlike most students who showed up to work the floor at the Career Expo, Head planned to be at the Alerus Center for the full four hours. Through his current internship with Career Services, Head wanted to spend the latter half of the afternoon picking up student feedback. As he’s looking to grow the base of employers coming to UND to recruit, he wants to know what students would like to see. Likewise, he also wants to know which students employers on the scene want to see from UND.
Tasked by Career Services to be an employer liaison, Head has performed beyond expectations, said Odegard. The marketing experience he received at Digi-Key was a great foundation, in addition to the soft skills he brought to the table.
“He’s a natural,” Odegard said. “He’s setting up the structure for this internship to keep going, and it’s been great having him be part of the team.”
Untapped potential in liberal arts
In addition to his employer recruitment directive, Head is trying to bring new employers to UND while communicating the value of hiring students with liberal arts degrees. Odegard said candidates with liberal arts educations are energetic and have lots of ideas that they could bring to companies.
Head agreed. “Looking at employers, they’re starting to realize that many of the jobs can be filled and trained,” including by candidates with liberal arts backgrounds, he said. “The emphasis is shifting from being all about the degree to being more about the qualities students have picked up in getting those degrees.”
Ultimately, he said, there’s something out there for everyone. And making that “something” better-represented at UND career fairs will make it easier for students of all majors to talk to employers about their skillsets, whether technical or broad-based, Head said.
“A lot of students are almost too afraid to talk about what skills they bring to the table,” he said. “I think stepping out of their comfort zones and introducing themselves to an employer is a big step that they need to take.”