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Opportunity Awaits: Career Services hosts annual career fair

(March 19, 2024) - With graduation for the Class of 2024 just on the horizon, finding the coveted first post-college job has become a hot topic on campus once again.

Students engage with a representative from Waffle House at the 2024 Jobs & Graduate School Fair

And fortunately for those looking, the Office of Career Services had them covered.

Clayton State University’s annual Job & Graduate School Fair was held on Thursday, March 14, at the Student Activities Center Ballroom and saw hundreds of Lakers flock in to speak with eager representatives from more than 50 professional organizations.

“When people ask where our students work, you have AT&T, WellStar, the State of Georgia,” said Bridgette McDonald, the university’s director of Career Services. “You have Enterprise Mobility, who is the number one hiring employer of college graduates. There’s something for every major at this career fair. That’s what makes it special.”

When it came to pulling out the stops, McDonald said she and her team didn’t hold back.

In addition to emailing more than 3,000 employers about attending, Career Services also organized free headshots to be taken for the students’ online portfolios.

Clayton State’s Professional Clothing Closet also provided students with professional attire to wear to the career fair, if needed. Some Lakers were even given suit jackets just outside the doors to the event before going in and speaking with employers.

“The usage from last year to this year is up over 450 percent,” McDonald said. “Due to our corporate partners, we’re able to purchase suits and professional attire. So, we give them a jacket or what they need to actually have a great impression in front of the employers.”

One such employer was incredibly impressed with all she saw, especially given that her prior line of work was right in line with the day’s events.

Before joining the Georgia Dept. of Corrections, Correctional Officer Sarita Smith worked in the “campus arena” of talent acquisition, often being put in charge of organizing college job fairs.

After experiencing her first career fair at Clayton State, she said it was nothing short of “special.”

 “Events like this provide a vast opportunity for younger folks looking to establish careers,” Smith said. “You have the state here, AT&T, Henry County ... these are organizations where a younger person can come in, move up the ladder, and have substantial careers that they enjoy. I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of it.”

13-year Enterprise Talent Acquisition Manager Neci Sampleton also agreed with Smith, saying that even in her seventh year coming to the event and recruiting at Clayton State University, it’s still “amazing” to be in the position of offering real-world experience to all students.

“I find it valuable to provide them with skills to interview better, but also to provide them with the opportunity to get a career started and move forward from their college career,” Sampleton said. “Whatever skills or knowledge I can impart in some of the students to help them prepare for that – that’s what I’m here for.”

When it comes to skills in leadership, it’s harder to find a better example than in Sgt. Andra Sykes with the Henry County Police Department – a man with 17 years’ experience in protecting his community.

As he looked over the buzzing ballroom, he reflected on how grateful he was to be there and to have the chance to assist all students who approached him.

“My heart is into stuff like this,” Sykes said. “I enjoy coming to job fairs and especially meeting the young people who are our future. Anything I can do to try and help lead them in the right direction, I’m all about giving them that information.”

Sykes also spoke passionately about students who may still have no idea where they want to start professionally following, not just the career fair, but their academic careers.

His advice? Simply “talk to everybody.”

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and step outside of the box,” Sykes said. “You may have gone to school for one thing, but there may be a better position or job for you outside of that box. Don’t be afraid to do that.”

Clayton State Class of 2022 Alumna Jannise Gray, now working for DeKalb Public Health, further shared the sergeant’s sentiment and offered further advice to Lakers to ensure they land a strong first job after graduation.

Keeping one’s LinkedIn page up to date as well sharing all experiences – no matter how small they may seem – can be done anywhere, including off campus.

But she highly encouraged students to take full advantage of the university’s Career Services office, saying it’s the best resource one can find while on campus.

“They’re amazing individuals who are dedicated to ensure the success of these students,” Gray said. “They’re committed to making sure they get you fit into a position. That speaks to the dedication of Clayton State employees, but also to the professionals we have in that center.”

McDonald, like the employers and students in attendance, was all smiles at the Job & Graduate School Fair, which is seen by many in Career Services as their office’s biggest chance to put both its incredible dedication to students as well as its strong relations with surrounding organizations on full display.

As another year’s fair ended in success, to McDonald, the day’s biggest triumph was still the dedicated effort put forth by her team.

She was also especially grateful to Randall Snell, Career Services’ assistant director of Employer Relations, for coordinating the event, as well.

“I’m super proud,” McDonald said. “I love our team. They’re great to work with and they love our students. That’s the thing – our office loves the Clayton State student and alumni population, and we will do anything for them.” 

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