written by special contributor Lance Fleming
Each year, ACU’s College of Business Administration (COBA) graduates students ready to move into professional fields in numerous types of businesses at every level of an organization. Sometimes, it’s in a company run by an ACU alum who wants to help students at their alma mater secure employment. Other times, it’s a global brand looking for the best and the brightest employees.
Whatever the case might be and whatever employers are looking for, more often than not, ACU graduates – and in particular, ACU COBA graduates – are usually at the head of the line when it comes to new hires each summer.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that more than 50 companies from across the state and Oklahoma were represented on Thursday, Oct. 5, for the first joint Career Fair sponsored by COBA and the Department of Engineering and Physics at the Hunter Welcome Center. COBA also has in-house career preparation led by Professional Development and Internship Director Jasmine McCabe-Gossett. Students also have access to the ACU Virtual Career Center with resources to help them create resumes and cover letters.
McCabe-Gossett (2010), who joined COBA last year, sensed a need for a Career Fair. After months of preparation, on October 5, that happened giving COBA students a chance to sit across from potential employers, put their resumes in front of them, and allow them to talk about themselves and what skills they would bring to an organization.
Various companies with both a local and international presence participated in the fair, providing our students with options that appealed to all. Business and technology students were able to engage with companies within the following industries: real estate, hospitality, IT services, consulting, distribution, financial services, sales, healthcare and more. One student noted, “I have never attended a career fair, but it was great! It was so cool to be able to see many different options in internships, companies, and people!”
These companies weren’t just looking for full-time employees, either. Internships have become a way for companies to put a student and potential future employee through an on-the-job interview, a point McCabe-Gossett tried to drive home to some of her students going into the Career Fair.
“We want to connect students with employers, especially students looking for full-time employment,” she said. “But a considerable focus is to connect employers to potential interns. In the lead-up to the event, we hosted several different workshops to help students feel comfortable and confident, starting with a workshop focused on identifying personal values and what it looks like to live out your faith in the workplace authentically. We had a panel of professionals who came in and spoke about that.
“The Career Fair turned out to be geared more toward internships,” McCabe-Gossett said. “During this season, many companies are laying off employees, but we know it’s still strategically important to build a pipeline, and internships are a big part. I told the students not to dismiss the internship experience because it’s a great foundation\opportunity that can open doors for them. Some students were disappointed, but I tried to help re-frame their thinking regarding how you leverage an internship.”
Another area where McCabe-Gossett and others helping her with the Career fair tried to re-form thinking centered around the experiences students might have working as interns or part-time workers at faith-based camps or events. While that experience fits neatly into the ACU experience, sometimes it doesn’t catch the eye of a potential employer, something McCabe-Gossett said she tried to help some students with as they prepare themselves to hit the job market.
“A lot of times, our students have faith-based experiences, so we talked about how to translate those experiences to a compelling resume and what values they can bring to the workplace,” she said. “Those are wonderful experiences, but we also want our students to be able to go toe-to-toe with anyone for any job. This is beyond talking about what you did but digging into how you did your job and the result.”
And this year’s success has McCabe-Gossett already thinking about the 2024 Career Fair.
“We’ve had Meet the Firm Nights in the past, which was specific to accounting majors, and that’s wonderful,” she said. “But I wanted to cast a wider net this year and probably a wider one next year. It was a heavy lift, but I’m glad we did it because I now have this Career Fair to show potential employers. We have ACU alumni who are killing it in the business world, and they’re in positions of power, so why not ask them to come back here and represent their companies? I’m trying to create a playbook to present to alumni who work at Google or AT&T or wherever to help convince them they should come back here and represent their company at future events.”