Opportunity loomed large and Jack Klein embraced it. How could he not? Eighty companies offering internship, job and career possibilities packed the Monroe Convention Center on Sept. 22 and -- thanks to the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering’s Fall Career Fair -- this freshman computer science major was all in.
“This is amazing,” he said. “Talking to all my friends, I haven’t heard that they’ve had anything like this so far. It’s a great advantage to go to this and have so many opportunities.”
The fair’s return to in-person interaction after a couple of years of pandemic-forced virtual events was a big hit for the 1,543 participating students and well over a hundred company recruiters (including many Luddy alumni) from all over the Midwest. Gold sponsor employers were AbbVie, Belden, Caterpillar, Deloitte, Intellias and Trimedx.
“Here we can have one-to-one conversations, get to know about them and their company and what opportunities they have,” says Aarushi Slathia, a data science masters student. “Getting that personal feel is very helpful.”
For Carleigh Hannon, director of career services, this opportunity couldn’t have returned soon enough.
“It’s been wonderful to see the students back in person, all polished, looking their best and connecting with employers,” she says. “The handshakes are back. The elevator pitches and handing over your resume are back. It’s great to see students shine. They did virtually, but you can see the energy in person.”
Mallory Weber vouched for that. She’s a Luddy School graduate back as a recruiter for Elanco, an animal health company that specializes in veterinary medication and animal vaccines. She was there recruiting summer interns in various IT roles, which are project oriented and give practical experience.
“We’ve had a great time recruiting here in the past,” she says. “We find the Luddy Career Fair brings in awesome, well-rounded talent. We have quite a few Luddy grads working for us.”
That could be big for students such as Alayne Davis, a junior informatics major seeking a summer internship to fulfill her capstone requirement.
“I want to talk to a bunch of employers and see what they do and become familiar with their companies,” she said. “Build real-world experience for what I want to do later on.
“This helps to get a jump start on that. Get my name out there for internships or jobs. And it’s nice to talk to people in person. You can connect better than through a screen.”
Luddy’s career fair has always been a recruiting gold mine for Jack Shiller of Ohio-based Defense Finance and Accounting Service. They offer paid internships for up to two years that can lead to career placement.
“We have a lot of IU recruits,” he said. “We look to further that relationship. Our IT area and technology and operations areas are looking for robotics, information assurance, data analytics skill sets. Specifically, we’reat Luddy looking for artificial intelligence and automation skills.”
The return to in-person events means, “We can cover a lot more material,” said fellow Defense Finance recruiter Cheryl Lamb. “With virtual events, there are limitations. You might not get all your questions answered. We have more one on one with students.”
Finding answers topped Slathia’s topped priority list.
“I have not decided my role. This is my first time at a fair like this, so there’s a lot to explore and figure out. I want to do data science at a good company.”
Another company with a long history of hiring Luddy School graduates is Americaneagle.com, a web design, development and digital marketing agency.
“We’ve been coming to Luddy for many years,” said Americaneagle.com recruiter Erin Frobish, “and have gotten some fantastic students. We’ve always had a great experience.
“We’re looking for people with pure science backgrounds, engineering backgrounds. Anything that can help build websites for our clients.”
The Navy also has a strong Luddy connection given its needs in computer science and Intel. Commitments range from two to four years.
“The Luddy Career Fair has always been good with what the Navy has to offer,” said Chris Stamps, Navy officer recruiter. “We get good applicants. Pretty much every program Luddy has to offer has done well with anything the Navy can offer them.”
Stamps said he usually gets seven to eight commitments from Luddy’s in-person fairs, but targeted nine to 10 this time because Luddy graduates are “great fits.”
Hannon isn’t surprised.
“A lot of students felt that pressure to have a great day, be successful and have the information they need,” she said. “The employers are making an investment to come back to Bloomington. They have a lot of choices. There are a lot of recruiting strategy changes with the virtual world. I appreciate the value they put in hiring our students. We wanted to make sure this was a great day.”
Mission accomplished, and it comes from all the pre-fair preparation.
“We ask employers about positions and locations, things students are interested in,” Hannon said. “We also ask hard questions about culture. Do you have mentorship programs? How will you invest in our students even after they graduate? Will this just be a short-term gig, or will it be a long-term fit for them where they can really grow beyond their time at Luddy?”
As one of 96 freshmen to attend, Klein has plenty of time to consider those options.
“I’m looking for anything that allows me to use analysis to connect the business world with technology. I’m trying to see what’s out there, maybe not for this summer, but future ones.
“I’m getting used to this. I’ll come back as a sophomore and better know how to talk to recruiters and what questions to ask.”
Recruiters made the most of this opportunity, said Trisha Doyle, assistant director of employer relations.
“Throughout the day, employers shared that they love the energy of an in-person career fair, and the opportunity to connect with students and learn more about them," she said. "The face-to-face communications allow them to determine if the students would be a good fit for the company culture, plus learn about their skills and interest in specific positions.”
In the end, said Julia Newnum, assistant director of career services, it’s all about the students.
“My favorite part about Career fair day is seeing all the hard work of our Luddy students come to fruition. Seeing students making connections and presenting themselves in a confident and professional manner makes it all worthwhile”.
Luddy will host a spring fair, and Hannon can’t wait.
“We’ve gotten incredible feedback,” she said. “It’s amazing how many Luddy alumni are interested in coming back and hiring current students. They are connecting and helping students find the right fit. They help students explore how their major can be successful at other places. I think that Luddy connection really shines through.”