Over 600 BMCC students and alumni showed up in business attire, resumes in hand, to attend the Spring 2012 Career Fair sponsored by ASAP and the Center for Career Development.
Having outgrown its usual space in Richard Harris Terrace, the fair was held in BMCC’s spacious gym, where long rows of employer tables were decorated with the school’s signature orange and blue balloons.
Energy was high. An hour before the fair was scheduled to begin, students began cueing up, and cheered loudly as a staff person coached from the sidelines: “Let the employers know you’re here!”
Driada Rivas, Coordinator for BMCC’s Center for Career Development described how the school managed to double the number of participants from last year’s fair.
“We exhausted all the available channels to reach out to students—placing notices on plasma TVs throughout campus, notifying the department chairs, posting news of the career fair on our website, and putting a banner on the BMCC website,” she said.
Shemeka Brathwaite, Employer Relations Specialist added, “It was a big collaborative effort to prepare the students and make sure both the students and the employers had a satisfying experience.”
VIPs and volunteers
Kimberly Chu, a career counselor in the Center for Career Development, coordinated 31 volunteers to help out at the event.
“The student volunteers are a mix of the students ambassadors—who work during the first week of classes, helping new students in their transition to BMCC—as well as students from the Business Enterprise Club and the Latino Honor Society,” she said, adding that students’ volunteer experience with the career fair can be posted on their co-curricular transcript.
“I’m here for the career development office," said volunteer Catherine Hu, a Liberal Arts major. "They helped me with my resume and to get my career goals in place, so I wanted to help them out with the fair.”
Shemeka Brathwaite described another important factor that made the fair go smoothly.
“This year for the first time, we incorporated the ‘VIP pass’—students who pre-registered and got their resume approved, went right to the front of the line to enter the fair,” she said.
Also new this year, “is a link on our website, ‘How to Prepare for a Career Fair’, that has tips about networking and how to dress for success,” she said, and explained that another advantage for students who register with the Center for Career Development, “is gaining access to our online virtual recruiter, and database of employers registered with our Career Express service.”
Including BMCC alumni
“This was the first time we held a luncheon get-together before the career fair,” said Pat Splendore, Director of the Annual Fund and Alumni Affairs.
“I did an email outreach to alumni who graduated from the year 2000 and up," she said, "and Doug Machovic—who graduated from BMCC in 1966, had a long career in the corporate world and is now an adjunct at the college—spoke to them about communication; how to get an interview, and once you’re there, how to maximize the short time you have to make a good impression.”
Adeleke Holder, Administrative Coordinator for Entertainment Cruises in Manhattan, happens to be a BMCC alumna herself, and has attended many of the school’s career fairs on the employer side of the table.
“A lot of our staff are BMCC students,” she said. “We’re pretty close to the school, plus they can fit it around their class schedule.”
How employers benefit
For weeks before the fair, Michael Stahl, Employment Specialist, stood at the top of the escalators at BMCC, handing out flyers.
Reaching out to students is important—“Without him, I probably wouldn’t be here; he helped me with my resume,” said business major Madia Babar—but it’s also critical, he said, to constantly build a base of businesses looking to hire college students.
“It all comes down to pounding the pavement. I go to a lot of events and do outreach to employers,” he said. “The BMCC students are the attraction, but first you have to reach out to businesses from all the various sectors: early childhood education, government, retail, entertainment, finance, and others.”
Many companies return to the BMCC career fair year after year, because of the excellent employees they've found, in the students they’ve hired.
According to Chris Martini, recruitment supervisor for Bright Horizons, a preschool in New York City, “BMCC has a very good early childhood educational program, and we’ve done very well over the years hiring students from this school.”
Vanessa Grullon, Human Resources Manager for Ricky’s drugstore noted that, “There are a lot of different types of people here at the BMCC career fairs that are pretty much the demographics of our customers. Our customers represent all of New York City, and so do the students here.”
Jobs for short- and long-term goals
“This is a great way to get interviews,” said Reina Ayalla, Office Administration major. “I’m looking at retail jobs because their hours are more flexible and I can fit it around my classes. Eventually though, I want to work in education.”
Liberal Arts major Elizabeth Perez has similar concerns. “I’m here because I want to get a part-time job to work around my class schedule and help me support my child,” she said.
Another Liberal Arts major, Tahira Huff, shared that, “I want to work in a retail store, because I like fashion, and I’m hoping to transfer to FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology, after I graduate,” while computer network technology major Chris Bell is "looking at Best Buy for employment, because I love electronics,” he said.
Other students were looking to move from their current job, to something related to their career goals.
Brandon Williams, a Human Services major, is working at McDonald’s, “but I’m looking for a better job, something in my field,” he said, and two student volunteers helped him find the table for the Hope Program, a social service agency.
Liberal Arts major Suzette Kennedy advises, “Never settle for a job. Look for a career. I have a job, but I’m looking for a better job. I’m interested in the entertainment industry,” she said, and was heading over to the BET (Black Entertainment Television), table.
“I want to work in finance, eventually. Right now, I work at a currency exchange part-time, and I’m looking for full-time work,” said Christopher Thomas, Business Administration major, in line at the TD Banking table.
Oreka Lawson, a Business Administration major, was also talking with the TD Banking recruiters. “I’m working now at Paragon department store,” he said, “but I’m hoping to move into banking and work in sales, or as a teller.”
According to his fellow business major Aleem Raja, “I need a job to help pay my expenses for school, and my rent. I’m also looking at careers related to my major. I’m looking at Bank of America, which I think might have accounting positions I would be right for. Also I’m looking at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection table because I have a friend who tells me they have good benefits.”
"Finding out" what's out there
“I’ve never actually worked before, but I want to start building jobs to put on my resume,” said Business Management major Ricky Davies. “I also want to get my workplace habits in place. I’m looking at places like Footlocker, Modell’s and H & M as possible ‘starter jobs’.”
Akil Petioni, Business Administration major is also looking to expand his experience base.
“I’m good at carpentry, data entry, plus I have a sound production company with my cousins,” he said. Open to learning about all kinds of businesses, he was at the Volunteers of America booth. What’s that? “I’m gonna find out,” he said.