For the first time since before the start of the pandemic, a University-wide career fair came to campus last week.
More than 70 DMV-based employers in education, health care, engineering and government attended the largest of the fair’s recruitment events Friday, drawing roughly 1,000 students to tables across the Continental and Grand ballrooms on the third floor of the University Student Center. Student Association Senate chairperson pro tempore Demetrius Apostolis, CCAS-U, the executive director of the EXPO’s planning committee, said the SA and the Center for Career Services hosted the GW Career Exploration EXPO, a two-week program of 10 events featuring panels, virtual and in-person recruitment and an alumni brunch on campus.
GW has not hosted a career fair since January 2019, according to the University calendar. The fair brought in more than 100 employers that year and occurred each spring prior. The career center hosted a fair restricted to local startups in February 2020.
Apostolis said a 12-person committee including Apostolis and SA Vice President Yan Xu, met with career center staff weekly over the last four months to organize the event. He said the SA recruited students to attend, while the career center contacted employers.
“It was actually an idea that I had when I was running for Student Association Senate last May,” Apostolis said. “Coming out of the post-COVID world, the in-person career events and allowing students to connect with employers was something that I thought GW was missing.”
The EXPO began Jan. 30 with a virtual resume workshop with the career center. Later in the week, employers and students participated in a virtual recruitment event over Handshake Thursday and an in-person recruitment event Friday spanning the entire third floor of the University Student Center.
The EXPO ended with a brunch between alumni and students Saturday.
Apostolis said the planning committee released a survey and tabled in Kogan Plaza earlier this week to seek student input prior to the fair.
“People just want to interact with employers one on one,” he said.
Apostolis said the career center covered food and setup costs for employers who attended. The SA allocated $4,000 for the event in September, which went toward promotional materials and the alumni brunch Saturday. He said the SA would reallocate unspent money back to the senate’s operating budget, which funds the operations of the legislative body.
Apostolis said about 70 students attended a panel held last week for international students, where author Dan Beaudry spoke about available pathways to employment.
“Honestly, it’s been even a learning experience for members of the planning board, just getting to see how everything works and how they can get jobs as well and preparing students to make sure that they’re all equipped for this process,” he said.
More than 25 students who attended the fair said they were able to connect with employers local to the area and relevant to their fields of study. Students said in-person interactions helped them gauge the atmospheres of companies and helped them build more direct connections.
Hae Joo Yoon, a senior majoring in international affairs, said she hoped to get a better idea of the types of people working at various companies. She said at Friday’s event, she discussed diversity and inclusion with a recruiter from a development fund and received her business card.
“In my job application process, I’ve really struggled with getting a grasp about what kinds of people are working at what kinds of companies,” she said. “And I just want to talk to people to get some more personal connection to see if I can find a place where I would like to partner.”
She said she attended the event after receiving multiple emails from the career center and the SA earlier in the week.
“Honestly, I was a little worried that it would be very intimidating, but it’s really not,” she said.
Gigi Tsastulga, a junior studying finance and data science, said she hoped to find a job that sponsored her as an international student. To work in the U.S., international students must receive sponsorship from an employer to obtain a work visa.
Tsastulga said many companies state they do not sponsor international students on their website or Handshake profile. She said the remaining companies weren’t currently offering positions relevant to her major, meaning she was likely ineligible for a job.
“They don’t have open positions for my major,” she said. “They only have cybersecurity, so I was not good.”
Tsastulga said attending the international student panel with Beaudry, the author of “Power Ties: The International Student’s Guide to Finding a Job in the United States,” provided helpful advice for international students aiming to work in the U.S. after graduating.
More than 20 company representatives at Friday’s event said the EXPO offered employers the chance to advertise job openings to future graduates already based in the D.C. area.
Christopher Bailey, the deputy chief building official for the District’s Department of Buildings, said he attended the career fair to find candidates who can fit the agency’s immediate need for engineers, architects, planners and construction administration. Bailey said he hoped to introduce college students to opportunities in the public sector.
“We also get to see who we’re interviewing,” he said. “It’s a little bit on our side too – it’s a little bit selfish – we actually get to find out if they’re dedicated, find out if they’re interested, find out if they can absorb the regulatory mindset.”
Bailey said the agency hopes to hire engineering students right after they graduate because most engineers enter the private sector.
“If we get some young minds and some really great people that can come on board, that’s great. But think about this in the long term,” he said. “We serve a society, and we need this on a constant rotation basis.”
Christina Vinhack, a senior manager of operations at the American Council for Technology Industry Advisory Council, said she saw consistent interest from students at Friday’s event. She said she saw a wide variety of majors among students.
“The crew here have been extremely welcoming, very generous, helping us all set up and the communication’s been great, so we definitely would love to come to another George Washington fair in the future.”
This article appeared in the February 13, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.