Business career fair shrinks along with economy

By John McDermott

Activities and Recreation Center Gym 2 will be filled on Monday and Tuesday as 110 businesses and business-affiliated organizations will attend the 15th annual Winter Business Career Fair.

Hosted by Business Career Services of the College of Business, the career fair is scheduled to start at noon both days, allowing all University students the opportunity to meet with recruiters from top business firms.

“The Business Career Fair is set to be a wonderful networking opportunity for students all across campus,” said Brandon Bouwkamp, assistant director for Business Career Services. “It’s a great time to meet employers that are interested in recruiting all of the top talent from the University of Illinois.”

But with the nation currently in an ever-deepening recession, the Business Career Fair will have a different feel than in past years.

“We definitely have felt the impact (of the recession),” said Lois Meerdink, assistant dean for Business Career Services. “We have about a third fewer companies coming to our career fair versus last spring.”

The recession has also affected job-seeking students, as Business Career Services does not predict as many student participants as last year. Rebecca Goben, assistant director for recruitment, expects a smaller crowd.

“We are seeing that not as many students are signing up for those opportunities to be prepared and I feel like some of them are throwing in the towel too soon,” Goben said.

Despite the reduction in available internships and full-time positions, Meerdink stressed that students should remain determined.

“(Students) have to recognize that this a tough market, but if they do nothing, nothing is going to happen,” Meerdink said. “They need to maintain a very positive state of mind and do everything they can to demonstrate they are not the average applicant.”

Many have heeded this advice, such as more than 100 business students that attended Thursday’s “Career Fair Success” workshop.

Maureen O’Connor, junior in Business, attended the workshop and said she recognized the obstacles that the recession has placed in front of students.

“I think now, you have to show the company what you can give to them rather than what they can give to you,” O’Connor said.

Business Career Services urges students to attend the career fair even if they’re worried.

“One of the number one ways of getting a job in this kind of economy is through networking,” Bouwkamp said.