Outside Exhibit Hall C at the Central Florida Fair Expo Park in Orlando, a certain blue and gold adorned bus pulled up just after noon on Wednesday. The doors swung open. Almost immediately, 28 men and women stepped off the Beacon College vehicle armed with resumes and interview questions.
Dressed in sports coats and ties, banker suits, dresses, or other business attire, these students clearly meant business. With good reason. Today was a chance to shine. For those really on their game, a chance to collect a bona fide job offer.
Inside Exhibit Hall C, 98 talent-hungry companies looked to sample the 2,500 job hunters expected to attend the Central Florida Job Fair, an event presented by the Central Florida Employment Council, a division of Christian HELP.
For jobseekers, the CFEC event treats them to a virtual employer smorgasbord featuring myriad industries from all over the map. Corporate Davids stood next to goliaths like Spectrum, Walt Disney World, Marriott Vacation club, Massey Services, Inc. and New York Life, all in search of the perfect pieces to complete their employment puzzles.
The Career Development Center coordinated the event with career development instructor Laurie Staiger as a real-life proving ground for students steeped in Beacon’s four-year career program, the college’s unique process by which students identify their strengths and interests, enjoy structured hands-on experiences, and develop and work towards high, but achievable career goals.
It was “a great opportunity for students to expose themselves, apply their 30-sec commercial and sell their skills to employers who are looking for jobseekers,” said Dinorah Ramos, director of the Career Development Center.
“It’s also a way to lose the fear of making that first contact with someone,” Ramos added. “Job fairs serve as an environment to network and build relationships with employers. It’s a way to prepare the path to success.”
Indeed, an average of 1,000 fairgoers have landed jobs after each event since CFEC began holding job fairs in 1994, said Paulette Weir, CFEC marketing director. Last year, 6,000 people found work through the job fairs, she said.
“We encourage [jobseekers] to visit all the employers and share their skill sets,” Weir said. “They may be surprised at the opportunities available here today.”
The day provided a peek into the global marketplace’s diversity. Students flitted like hummingbirds from employer to employer, scoping out opportunities and drilling down to discover unexpected career paths at well-known companies.
Michael Parr, 23, a senior business major, stood patiently in the long line to discover prospects at Walt Disney World.
In short time, the interviewing safari paid off for senior Samuel Robinson. Already working as a computer consultant, he was “looking for more involved” work.
Within an hour, made the rounds and netted four job offers, including one from New Horizons Computer Learning Center, which involved beefing up veterans’ computer skills to help them charge with confidence into the job market.
Along that line, Robinson’s learning differences don’t wither his job-seeking confidence.
“I do tell them [recruiters] that I do have a bit of a learning difficulty,” Robinson, a 24-year-old business major, said, “but I do not let that stop me and I still hand them my resume and hope that they can decide for themselves what I’m truly capable of.”
Whether they received job offers, follow-up interview requests, or just an encouraging handshake, students walked away from the mega-job fair experience with more than free pens, cups, magnets and other corporate swag.
Hope Glesener, 23-year-old senior and human services major, interviewed with an onsite hiring manager with the YMCA of Central Florida. The mostly childcare-heavy positions available did not appeal to her, but she still found value in the interactions.
“It is good experience,” Glesener said. “You can network, and get to figure out what you want to do, what will work and won’t work. It’s fantastic.”