By Nicole Van Den Heuvel
This Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the Center for Career Development will host the fall career expo at the Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center, the largest ever at Rice. Over 135 companies are coming to recruit students for both internships and full-time opportunities. Students should think openly about the Career Expo and take advantage of this one-stop shopping to explore different industries, companies and job opportunities. If these companies are here, it means they want Rice talent.Some misconceptions surround the Career Expo, including that the expo is only for engineers and computer science majors. While some companies are looking for these majors, many of these same companies are looking for all majors. Why? Because they know the value of a Rice education and understand that students from Rice are analytical thinkers, problem-solvers, communicators and people who can be taught new skills. That is how the CCD markets Rice students to employers. While some technical positions do require specialized knowledge like an engineering degree, the key factor for securing most positions is not the applicant's major. Students who land an internship or job do so because they have been able to demonstrate that they have the skillset or potential to learn the skillset a company wants and because they have shown they can work in a team and are a cultural fit for the company. Further, the more students can demonstrate that they have done their research beforehand, the more likely they are to secure an interview, which will ideally lead to a job offer. Many students also disregard the Career Expo because they are planning on going to graduate school and feel they do not need an internship. However, only personal gain can result from experience with an internship. An internship might validate a student's choice to go directly to graduate school, but it might alternatively be the impetus to take a year off and work, to postpone graduate school for a longer period, or even to forego graduate school entirely and go straight into industry. In any of these cases, the student will have gained another valuable perspective and learned something new. Further, students should know that an internship need not be tied to their area of study for it to be of value. Also, freshmen and sophomores commonly think the Career Expo is only for upperclassmen, but that is a misconception. More and more companies want to develop and source talent before students reach their junior year. If nothing else, the expo is a great place for underclassmen to practice career pitches, ask questions and make connections. The fact is that the earlier students engage with the CCD and begin the job search process, the more likely they are to have jobs at graduation.Many upperclassmen also put off attending the Career Expo until the spring semester because they are busy and feel they cannot take the time to do it in the fall. However, it often takes more than a semester to land a job, and waiting until after graduation to begin job hunting means less access to the built-in resources at Rice and more time and stress in the end. I would advise students attending the Career Expo to research companies they may be interested in beforehand and to allow for at least an hour at the expo. Students can visit ccd.rice.edu/expo for a detailed list of companies that will be at the Career Expo and the majors each company is looking for. It is also important for students to dress professionally and bring copies of their resume to the expo. The CCD will have an OWL Mentor Nest at the expo where students can practice their pitches before meeting with companies. The expo is a much more worthwhile experience when students remain open-minded and talk to companies who might not be on their initial list.