Duke’s annual Career Fair often can resemble a trading floor, with its chaotic buzz of sharply dressed young men and women in search of a deal. Despite the shaky economy and a weak job market, this fall’s fair was no different. More than 100 employers filled three levels of the Bryan Center, and they were descended upon by hundreds of students, all looking for a handshake that would secure their post-graduation success.
But the Career Fair isn’t quite the trading floor it used to be. Once dominated by financial and investment firms, the fair fields a more-diverse crop of recruiters these days. Among the traditional financial employers such as Duff & Phelps are booths for outfits such as Abercrombie & Fitch, USA Baseball, and Yext, a tech company run by a Duke alumnus.
That may be a reflection on a financial industry still recovering from meltdown. But it’s also part of an intentional effort to widen the field at the Career Fair, says William Wright-Swadel, Fannie Mitchell Executive Director of career services. He says Duke has expanded the number of employers at the main career fair from sixty-nine four years ago to 109 this year, and his office has been purposeful about shaking the perception that the fair is strictly for the suit-and-tie set.
“We’ve worked to diversify, yet students still think it’s highly investment-firm oriented. But if you look around, that’s not the case,” says Wright-Swadel.
At the same time, Duke’s career center has spun off several smaller, interest-specific fairs throughout the year. The Pratt School of Engineering and the Department of Computer Science co-sponsor Tech Connect, a less formal event geared to connecting students and technology employers. A Nonprofit and Government Career Fair is held in October, while the Career & Summer Opportunities Fair, along with the Just-in-Time Fair, are held in January and April, respectively, for students who need more time to develop their career aspirations.
That doesn’t make the job market any easier. But for anxious seniors, it’s at least a comforting message that there’s more than one road to the job of their dreams.