Career fair helps some but not all

Sylvester Waters said he doesn’t want to be a security guard when he graduates from college.

But the senior criminal justice student from Tallahassee said the job opportunities at Wednesday’s Career Expo at the Tallahassee Leon County Civic Center didn’t offer much else for students in his field.

“It’s a far stretch,” Waters said. “It’s good for business and [computer information systems] students, but for students with social science degrees, there’s not a lot out there.”

Raymond Pandley, assistant director of the Career Center, said the opportunities are available, but students outside the business and engineering realms aren’t bothering to look.

“You never know how your major can be used,” Pandley said. “Takeda Pharmaceuticals is interviewing CIS majors, but you’d never know it if you didn’t go to the Career Expo.”

This semester’s career fair featured 100 companies – from the Alabama Department of Transportation to Wells Fargo Financial – that hoped to recruit the nearly 1,300 students in attendance. Some organizations, such as the National Minority Golf Foundation, came to Tallahassee in hopes of scooping student journalists, engineers, lawyers and others.

“We basically recruit every single degree that you could consider,” said NMGF program director John Robinson. “A lot of them never thought they would have a career in golf.”

Most of the hundreds who mingled about from booth to booth Wednesday morning were business, engineering and computer information systems students. But some of them said others don’t participate in the career fair because they hear there’s nothing there for them.

“If they don’t come out for themselves, they’ll never know,” said Qiana Gwens, a senior business administration student from Gary, Ind. “Life is what you make of it.”

Pandley said major-specific career fairs are nice, but students who focus solely on these fairs are limiting themselves, especially when it means ignoring the companies who are actively seeking FAMU students.

“You guys are missing out on a whole other sector of the market,” Pandley said. “FAMU’s reputation is known in corporate America. That’s why the corporations come.”

Recruiters agree.

“FAMU’s one of our key schools,” said Jon Jones, a Lockheed Martin representative who graduated from the University in 1968.

Other representatives from returning companies said they keep hiring FAMU students for internships and permanent positions because they do well.

Ed Hall, Target’s district assets protection team leader, said two recent FAMU hires now run their own stores in Tampa and Dallas. Target hired between five and 10 FAMU students at the fall expo.

This was Waters’ third career fair. After walking around for 30 minutes, he carried bags of information and his hands were full of pamphlets.

“I’ve been giving my resume out, so hopefully I’ll be getting more phone calls for interviews,” Waters said.

Gwens encouraged everyone to participate in the expo, which is supposed to happen again Sept. 15.

“It’s like a lotto,” she said. “You can’t win if you don’t play.

“What do you have to lose? It’s just a couple of hours out of the day.”

Tanya Caldwell can be reached at