A record number of more than 1,600 students attended Lehigh University’s 2015 fall Career Fair – a 47 percent increase in attendance from last year. The Career Fair was held September 17 in the largest indoor space on campus, Rauch Field House, and hosted representatives from 158 companies.
Many students, from first-years to seniors to graduate students, attended the Career Fair to learn about new companies or industries, scope out prospective employers, and gather information and inspiration about the careers they would like to pursue. The record-breaking student attendance this year can, in part, be attributed to the increase in underclassmen who came to get acquainted with the employers and inquire about internships.
An annual event hosted by Lehigh’s Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD), the Career Fair serves to facilitate the process of networking and helps build relationships between students and prospective employers. Connections made could turn into potential interviews, which may lead to job or internships offers. Many Lehigh alumni come back to campus to recruit for their companies.
Rich Freed, director of Employer Outreach and Operations, explained the process CCPD offers each fall for students who are looking for job or internship opportunities:
Step One: Résumé Marathon
Students can attend a Résumé Marathon, where counselors review their résumés in preparation for the fair.
Step Two: Career Fair
At the Career Fair, students meet with prospective employers to introduce themselves, learn about job and internship opportunities, and leave behind their polished résumés.
Step Three: Recruiting Day
During CCPD’s Recruiting Day, held the day after the Career Fair, students who make an impression are invited back by companies for an on-campus interview.
An Increase in Employers
According to Tom Dowd, director of Career and Professional Development, last year’s Career Fair saw a 50 percent increase in employers. Dowd said this was due to a change in the way Lehigh recruits employers who attend the fair. In the past, CCPD would reach out to companies that had attended the event during the previous two years. However, two years ago they enlarged the pool by inviting companies who attended from the previous five years. There has also been an increase in employer outreach efforts to attract more new and long-term employers to the fair.
“This helped to improve the employer numbers, as career fairs are easy for them to attend and often lead to successful interactions,” Freed said.
For example, Microsoft came to campus for the first time three years ago. They were so impressed with the quality of students that they continued to come to the Career Fair and began to do on-campus recruitment. Many other companies follow this cyclical recruiting relationship.
From Job Fair to Career Fair
According to Freed, the first job fair at Lehigh was held in the late 1980s in Iacocca Hall. This was the premiere marketing event for companies during which they were able to promote their services and encourage students to seek employment with them.
In the late 1990s, the event was moved to the Rauch Field House on Goodman Campus, which allowed for a more professional trade show-type setting, where employers could set up booths and displays promoting their firms. Soon after, a cognizant effort was made to shift the job fair to a career fair, which was more focused on informing students about prospective employers, rather than simply finding jobs.
“Some students do find job opportunities at the Career Fair, but the aim is mostly to create connections,” Freed said.
During the 2007 Career Fair, a record number of 202 employers were in attendance. However, during the economic recession and stock market crisis that occurred the following year, the number of companies dropped to approximately 100. Freed said Lehigh maintained its relationships with those companies based on its good reputation with students and alumni.
In spring 2008, at the height of the recession, CCPD decided to start a spring Career Fair, to better address the needs of students in the College of Arts and Sciences. The spring event, which is held in Grace Hall, is more geared toward careers in nonprofit, healthcare, marketing, and public relations industries.
Freed said that the biggest change the Career Fair has undergone over the years is its size.
“Attendance by employers at the Career Fair ebbs and flows depending upon the economy, but there has always been a good turnout with students,” he said. “In the past, the event drew mostly juniors and seniors, but it is increasingly becoming more mixed in terms of class years.”
- Klaudia Jazwinska ’18
Photos by Ryan Hulvat