The Greenville Convention Center was abuzz with job seekers last week as East Carolina University hosted its 2008 Spring Career Fair. Students eager to make a good impression had the rare opportunity to meet with 165 potential employers representing industries ranging from elementary education to financial planning.
A wide cross section of companies—including a dozen of the Fortune 500, school districts, and government agencies—sought to add to their work forces some of ECU’s finest impending graduates in the fields of education, technology, business, and hospitality. The Department of Construction Management will hold its fair, traditionally one of the largest in the country, on February 27, 2008, at the Greenville Hilton. ECU’s Division of Health Sciences holds its career fair each fall.
If this year’s fair is any indication, ECU’s reputation as a producer of quality teachers is still holding strong. Nearly 80 public and private schools, including most of the districts in North Carolina, were represented and even some out-of-state districts traveled to Greenville with hopes of luring away some of ECU’s abundant riches.
“I got to talk to a number of people in different categories, different majors,” said Don White, recruiter for Suffolk County Schools in Virginia. “It’s a big university [and] we saw a lot of people we’d be interested in pursuing.”
But the in-state schools are not letting ECU’s future teachers get way without a fight. They certainly understand the quality of ECU graduates, and they keep coming back year after year to make sure they stay in North Carolina.
“I’ve been coming [to East Carolina], personally, for 10 years,” said Mary Gunderson, coordinator of teacher recruitment for Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, and herself an ECU graduate.
“We’ve had success placing ECU graduates in our district. We’ve had good luck with them in terms of their ability to come in as a first-year teacher and be successful,” she said.
And while many schools were content with speaking with students and collecting resumes, others were serious about filling open positions with ECU alumni.
“We are looking for a band director. We will hire someone today if we find the right person,” said Leeann McGirt, principal at Mayfield Elementary and recruiter for nearby Jones County Schools.
Other industries also appreciate the fertile recruiting ground that is East Carolina University. The hospitality industry was well represented at this year’s fair with recruiters from some of the region’s best-known resorts, including the Biltmore Estate, Pinehurst, LLC, and the Umstead Hotel and Spa. Also on hand were representatives from international companies like Hyatt Hotels and Resorts and Marriot International.
“Marriott’s been a longtime recruiter at East Carolina University, specifically within the hospitality program,” said Karl Atlow of Marriot International. “I think they have a high understanding of the technical aspects of our industry, and I think the faculty does a wonderful job in teaching them the importance of customer service. These individuals, these young kids, have a passion for the industry, and that’s why we continue to come back every year.”
An interesting aspect to the career fair was how students, regardless of the proximity to graduation, took advantage of the opportunity to meet with industry professionals.
David Rucker, a junior business management major from Statesville, North Carolina, hopes for a career in the hospitality industry after he graduates next May. He has attended the past two career fairs because of their excellent environment for networking.
“I got to talk to a lot of recruiters about possible job opportunities and I was able to get a lot of information about what I would need [to enter the field] coming straight out of college,” he said. “I was able to pass out my resume and get my name out there so that when [recruiters] come back they will already know me.”
Sophomore Rachel Obrenski was attending the spring career fair for her Field Experience in Hospitality Management I class. As part of a project, she was to interview the representatives from Texas Steakhouse and Saloon, and although she wasn’t actively seeking employment, she was impressed by what she saw at the fair. “It looks like it’s going to be fun. There are lots of people to talk to. You can definitely spend a whole day here,” she said.
But in the end, it all comes down to landing that first job. Ashley Stephens, a senior high school math education major from Hickory, North Carolina, attended the fair armed with a few dozen copies of her resume and the hope that all of her hard work the past four years at ECU would bear fruit.
“I was extremely excited and a bit overwhelmed,” she said of her experience at the fair.
It is easy to be overwhelmed when you receive six job offers in the span of a few hours. The high demand for secondary mathematics teachers across the state made Stephens a hot commodity.
“I received opportunities to work in Burke County, Newton-Conover City Schools, Robeson County, Johnston County, Montgomery County, and Iredell County,” said Stephens.
Not every student left the Spring Career Fair with a job offer in hand, but all were able to take with them the invaluable experience of speaking face to face with so many industry professionals—something they would have otherwise been unable to obtain outside of an event as large and diverse as the 2008 ECU Spring Career Fair.
Said Stephens, “The career fair gave me confidence in myself and allowed me to be more hopeful for the future.”