Career Fair showcases companies—and Mason students

George Mason University held what it called its biggest Career Fair, Oct. 4-5, with 224 employers and 3,776 students making their way to Dewberry Hall on the Fairfax Campus, said Saskia Clay-Rooks, executive director of University Career Services.

Apple, Amazon, Booz Allen, Capital One, and Facebook were some of the biggest companies recruiting interns and full- and part-time employees. The fair also welcomed first-time participants like the Hershey Company and SPARGO, an event management company, as well as numerous technology, public affairs and non-tech businesses.

For many students, seeking employment can seem daunting. They don’t know who to contact, what to say or even how to look for a job.

“I know that in a year I’m not exactly sure how job hunting will go,” said senior Kowthar Said, who is majoring in applied information technology. “It is extremely nerve-wracking.”

To ease the stress, the university brings businesses and job opportunities directly to its students, who are able to have one-on-one interactions with employers, showcase their skills and hand in their resumes.

When it comes to standing out to an employer though, students need more than just a resume.

“I’d say work on your outgoing personalities,” said Michael Reed, chief programs officer at CenCore. “Career fairs are hard and it can be challenging to break the ice, but if you’re good at talking to people, that’s a great start.”

CenCore, which provides analysis, information technology and security services to the government, has attended fairs at George Mason in the past.

“Obviously the experience they’re getting at the university is going to shape their career paths, but being able to tell people about it is very important,” Reed said. “You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t explain yourself, we’re going to have a tough time getting you started.”

While strengthening social skills is a big part of becoming an ideal candidate, nonverbal skills can also impress an employer.

“Make eye contact shows that you’re not afraid,” said Mitchell Hines, a consultant at Capgemini, a consulting, technology, and outsourcing corporation.  “Be able to communicate, don’t just be staring down at our feet. We want people that are invested in what we have to say.”

Being knowledgeable about a company’s mission also helps.

“I looked up all the different cybersecurity companies that I wanted to talk to beforehand,” Said said. “Being prepared with a lot of questions took a bit of my anxiety away. Besides, most of the recruiters are very approachable.”

Even so, “I think sometimes students forget that we are not their peer,” said Katarina Swanson, a senior research analyst at The Lewin Group, a business management consulting firm. “Be confident, be prepared and be ready to talk. We want people that are genuinely interested in our company, not just those that want a job.”

The next Career Fair is Feb. 21-22, and is open to all Mason students and alumni.