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Career Connection 1999 links students, employers

The lure of boxes of Pillsbury cake mix and Kraft macaroni and cheese, pens twisted into the outline of pigs, T-shirts, key rings and hundreds of eye-catching gadgets charmed students Sept. 20-23 at Career Connection 1999. But those students also converged en masse upon the spacious lobby of Engineering Hall, the event's setting, to capitalize on the chance to network with more than 200 potential employers.

The masses at Career Connection

Hundreds of students networked with more than 200 potential employers at Career Connection. (25K JPG)

The four-day event, which included an employer reception, mock interviews and an alumni job-search advice panel, was a gold mine for engineering and computer science students. It offered a chance for them not only to pick up some nifty souvenirs, but to distribute their resumes and glean insight into internships, co-ops, career opportunities and the companies and government agencies providing them.

Likewise, says Jamie Meyer, an employment and recruiting specialist with Eau Claire-based Ayers Associates, Career Connection is a good place for her to make students aware of her company and help recruitment efforts in the long run.

Student visits booth

Students visited many companies' booths and learned more about the types of jobs available in their fields. (21K JPG)

"It's a place to see lots of students at one time," she says, standing in front of her company's colorful booth backdrop. "We're here to answer their questions and give them a contact in the company. Our biggest sources of engineers are UW-Madison and UW-Platteville."

With graduation looming on her horizon, industrial engineering junior Amy Camponeschi was one of the more serious career shoppers. Although she was looking for companies offering cooperatives, she also was trying to get a feel for the kinds of permanent jobs available to her and determine what she might like or not like about each. Camponeschi says that knowing what skills employers desire also will help her plan the courses she'll take her last few semesters.

Brian Boland, too, was laying some groundwork for the future. An electrical and computer engineering and mathematics student, he wanted to learn what jobs would match his interests in hardware design, communications and semiconductors, so that when he graduates in 2001, he knows who to contact and where to go for a job.

Other students, like freshman Leena Rashid, came to "research" a homework assignment in her EPD 101 class, Contemporary Issues in the Engineering Profession. To learn about current trends in engineering and technology, students in that course interviewed representatives from three companies and wrote a paper detailing what they learned.

And these savvy students know what employers are looking for. "Lots of companies want electrical and computer engineering people," concluded Rashid, an ECE student herself. "They're looking for well-rounded, teamwork-oriented people with good interpersonal skills."

During her junior and senior years in high school in Rockford, Illinois, Rashid held internships with Sundstrand, and she stopped at the Motorola and Lucent Technologies booths to explore her options for an internship in the telecommunications or aircraft industries.

Student visits booth

Employers collected resumes and answered questions about their companies. (26K JPG)

Brett Procek, a May 1999 UW-Madison computer science graduate, this year attended Career Connection as a representative of Lucent. Searching for full-time workers, Procek and his booth partner, Bruce Rowland, also a UW-Madison computer science graduate, chatted with students and evaluated how well they communicated.

"Some students are very articulate," Procek says. "You can always tell if they're interested because they ask questions and ask you what you do. If someone asks what I'm doing, that impresses me." Procek says they collected about 300 resumes from students and will see about one-quarter when Lucent returns for interviews Oct. 12-13.

Maureen Broman, a manufacturing project leader with Mercury Marine, Fond du Lac, says she likes to talk to students who aren't sure what they want to do. They're usually good candidates for cooperatives because they are willing to explore new opportunities that might lead to permanent job choices.

And there are many choices. Industrial engineering student Camponeschi estimates that, by the end of the event, she visited with representatives from as many as 50 companies. Like many students, she says she handed out "lots" of resumes. "My friends are saying they had to go back to the [computer] lab to print out more resumes," she laughs.

Career Connection was co-sponsored by Engineering Career Services and the Polygon Engineering Council.