Career fair at Columbia Convention Center attracts more employers than in 2013

lroyals@thestate.comFebruary 19, 2014 

Midlands area jobs fair earlier in 2014.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Graduates of this generation can thank the recession for at least one thing.

With the economy improving, companies are looking to fill more positions than in previous years as they beef up staff from the lean days of the worst recession in a lifetime.

“One year ago we had 25 positions to fill. This year we have doubled that to 50,” said Nancie Bragg, human resources generalist for E-Z-Go, an Augusta-based golf car manufacturer that was participating Wednesday in a career fair at the University of South Carolina. “We have been able to grow every year. We have a lot of marketing and engineering internships available, but we also have full-time positions offered.”

Nearly 1,400 students and 163 employers – from retailers to IT companies – filled the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center for the university’s spring 2014 career fair Wednesday afternoon hoping to make a match, according to Thomas Halasz, director of the USC Career Center.

“We had 130 employers attend … last year,” he wrote in an email. “Having a 25 percent increase in employer attendance is fantastic.”

Company representatives said they aim to fill the growing number of positions with candidates who are flexible, innovative and driven.

“We want people with energy who have potential for growth,” Brandon Hines, store manager for Walmart on Forest Drive, said.

“Adaptability is also huge,” said Valerie Wyatt, a human resources representative for E-Z-Go’s Leadership Development Program. “Someone who is willing to work with the needs of employers is important.”

However, with increased participation comes increased competition for applicants. And students are looking for ways to stand out.

“Over three years I’ve probably sent out 40 to 50 applications for internships,” said Ryan Hayes, 21, a senior advertising major at USC. “I’ve heard back from maybe 25 percent of those. And some of those were even just to tell me no.”

Though internships help, some students don’t feel that that’s what gives the edge anymore.

“Companies don’t even consider people who don’t have at least one internship under their belt,” Hayes said. “Zero internships really means zero consideration for the job nowadays.”

Students find that most of their success with finding internships is attributed to their connections.

“Career fairs like this are helpful for some people with getting internships, but truly it is usually about who you know,” said Samuel Robertson, a 21-year-old junior and electrical engineering major at USC.

Company representatives also say networking is important.

“If a student reaches out to us and takes part in an internship with us, they have better visibility for a full-time job,” Gossett said.

Career fairs are a place where these connections can begin.

“I’m hoping the career fair can give me more job options later,” said Jarrett Eason, 20, a junior sport management major at USC. “These connections now are what get people jobs later.”

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