Story by Billy Liggett | Photos by Bennett Scarborough | Video by Bryan Miller
BUIES CREEK — For some students, it served as an opportunity to seek out summer internships or ideas about graduate programs. For graduating seniors, it was a chance to get a foot in the door for the start of their careers.
And for the nearly 50 employers on hand for the recent Campbell University’s Spring Career & Professional Fair it was their first impression of the talent Campbell has to offer.
The College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Lundy-Fetterman School of Business and Career Services teamed up to present the career fair, held on the concourse of the Pope Convocation Center on March 13. The fair featured businesses in a variety of fields, from clinical research to education, communications to health care, and more.
“Campbell’s growing, and I think businesses are realizing this,” said Christy Connolly, student affairs coordinator for Campbell’s pharmacy school and one of the organizers of the event. “This fair is a great way for us to market ourselves and show the world we have great students.”
At a time when a college degree doesn’t necessarily guarantee employment for new graduates — over 6 percent of college grads ages 24 and under nationwide are still seeking a job — Connolly said the fair was valuable to the students who attended because it brought them face to face with companies they may have otherwise never known about or had an opportunity to converse with.
“They realize the importance of networking,” she said. “Obviously, I would love for them to walk away with a job or an internship, but in the very least, they’re coming away with experience in interacting with potential employers. First impressions are so important.”
Though the college years are meant to be enjoyed, it’s never too early to start thinking long term when it comes to a career. It’s also a good idea for freshmen who have secured a major to start thinking about internships early on.
Both thoughts were on the mind of freshman communications studies major Claire Carrington of Fuquay-Varina, who went straight to a table manned by Sanford- and Rocky Mount-based radio stations WLHC and WLQC FM, stations that reach a large portion of central and eastern North Carolina.
“I’d like for this to be a learning experience,” said Carrington, at the time just five minutes into her trek around the concourse. “Internships are required for communications studies majors, so the earlier I can find one, the better.”
WLHC was a good starting point. The station was promoting immediate openings for on-air talent and sales and marketing professionals. Station president Alan Button said his goal was to come away with potential employers and interns who could make an immediate impact.
“We’re always interested in having a regular stream or channel of qualified or interested applicants,” he said. “Our needs change and sometimes unpredictably. So we’re collecting resumes and applications so we’ll have a pool to draw from when the need rises.”
Even research giants like RTP-based LabCorp Research has needs for those in the communications field, according to human resources consultant Parker Pogue. But LabCorp’s main purpose was to meet the students ready to graduate from Campbell’s highly touted pharmacy school.
“It benefits us to be here because we’re getting our name out,” Pogue said. “We’re new to Campbell but we’ve done these fairs in several other schools. So far, it’s gone pretty well for us here. Campbell has some impressive students.”
Another freshman, criminal justice major Stephanie Bailey of Stokesdale, didn’t have high expectations from her first career fair. She simply wanted to introduce herself to “the process” and take it all in.
“It’s eye opening to see all the opportunities that are out there, and it’s never too early to start making connections,” Bailey said. “I’m just a freshman, but making these connections now could really be helpful for me in the future.”
The Next Step
Caleb Michalek of Virginia and Lindsey Stever of Wake Forest — donned in clothes typically saved for the big interview — are counting down the days to graduation. For Stever, grad school awaits. For Michalek, it’s time to venture off into the real world and land a job.
Both have trained for careers in clinical research. Both said the career fair was a valuable experience for them.
“I went in looking at what sort of companies were out there and looking for new grads and what career opportunities are out there for me,” Michalek said. “I asked what they expect from new hires and what I can expect as I start my career. I felt like it was absolutely beneficial. If anything, I gained more networking skills and was introduced to companies I’d never seen before.”
Stever isn’t in a hurry to land a job, as she’ll start classes in Campbell’s pharmacy school in the fall. But the career fair was more about “practice” for her.
“I feel like I’m terrible interacting with people on this kind of level,” she admitted. “So this was all about getting experience and learning to handle professional situations.”
It was also about narrowing her focus for when the time comes that she must start thinking in career terms.
“It’s hard because everything I’ve dipped my toes into, I’ve loved,” she said. “I have a few more years to narrow my options, and this was a start.”
One of the more popular tables was the one manned by Campbell’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, which will welcome its first class of 150 students in its new 96,500-square-foot facility this August. Admissions and student affairs coordinator Angela Westmoreland said she fielded many questions from interested undergrads — questions ranging from “what is osteopathic medicine?” to what all they need to apply and get noticed.
“We’re spending a lot of time describing the difference between a DO [doctor of osteopathic medicine] and an MD,” Westmoreland said. “But in doing so, it’s getting a lot of these students interested in becoming a part of it.”
She said the vast majority of Campbell students and students at the career fair are familiar with the school and what it will mean to the region; but she’s found that excitement is building around the state, and interest has been high at other recent career fairs they’ve attended.
“This is a huge deal for Campbell University and North Carolina,” Westmoreland said. “We’re thrilled to come to fairs like this to promote our school and the idea of osteopathic medicine.”