Emily Gray, CASNR director of Career Services

CASNR Career Fair on October 1 Marks Thirtieth Year
Résumé Workshop for Students Set for September 25

The thirtieth annual CASNR Career Fair takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday, October 1, in Brehm Animal Science Arena. To help students prepare, CASNR is hosting a Résumé Doctor workshop from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday, September 25 in 156-157 Plant Biotechnology Building. There will be free pizza for participants courtesy of the UTIA chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the international honor society of agriculture.

Here, Emily Gray, CASNR director of Career Services, discusses the Career Fair with Margot Emery of UTIA Marketing and Communications.

What does the thirtieth anniversary mean to you?

I’ve been here fifteen years and when I think about the fair, it’s gone on as long before I was here as since I started. I think it’s pretty amazing that it’s continued. It’s a great opportunity for our students to get really good contacts with employers. A lot of students get internships and, later, full-time jobs as a direct result of meeting employers at the fair.
Some people say career fairs are outdated; everything is done online so why hold a fair? I still think that personal, face-to-face interaction is important. A lot of times an employer can tell a great deal about a student just by talking with him or her one to one rather than simply getting a résumé online and not having that personal contact. For students, the interactions definitely contribute to their communications skills, maybe boost their self-esteem, and give them a little more confidence in talking with people. These skills will help them in interview situations.

UTK is trending toward what we do, which is a targeted fair. Ours is a niche fair for our majors in CASNR because our majors are unique and a lot of employers only want to hire our majors rather than come to a big fair where they see a thousand students, a lot of whom don’t fit their needs.

How geographically dispersed are the recruiters who come here?
We’re getting more and more diversity in terms of location among employers. While a lot are in the South, over the years we’re getting more and more from outside the region. I have met a lot of companies, including big grain and feed companies as well as others from the Midwest and western states, at an annual professional roundtable. We’re getting a lot more attention from those companies now.

What demand do the students experience?
Our students do encounter lots of opportunities, particularly majors like food science and turfgrass management. These graduates are very much in demand right now and tend to have multiple offers in place before they graduate. Not all of our majors have those huge demands right now, but, in general, ag-related fields are in high demand. A lot of our students go on to grad school, so when you look at statistics for placement of our majors, you’ll see a big percentage not looking for a full-time job when they get their bachelor’s. They’re going on to a professional or grad school.

Internships allow students the opportunity to get experience in the field. Almost all of our bachelor’s degree majors require an internship. Some students complete one internship, and then, as they near graduation, they’ll take another just to get more experience.

CASNR hosts a résumé workshop in the run-up to the Career Fair. Talk about the pairing of that and why you think it’s important.

We want to help our students be well-prepared to meet with employers and have a good résumé to present to them at the fair. That's one thing that we have determined over the years, that students can benefit from preparation, so we’ve partnered with UTK Career Services to do a workshop usually a week before our Career Fair. This year it’s September 25. We’ve named it Résumé Doctor. It kind of implies that we’re going to doctor up or help your résumé. We set up for two hours and invite students to bring a résumé. It gives us a chance to sit down one-on-one, review the résumé, and make suggestions for them. It’s been very successful. The Institute’s chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, http://gsd.tennessee.edu the international honor society of agriculture, sponsors the workshop. They provide pizza and soft drinks, so that's a draw for students, as well. It’s a nice way for Gamma Sigma Delta to provide a service to our students and help advance them in their careers.

I understand some employers are alums returning to campus.

We do have alumni who are recruiters, and that's a great way for our students to interact with our alums. We’ve started giving these employers an alumni ribbon to wear at the fair to recognize them, and that's been a nice touch. Our alums are such good recruiters. They’re our best advertisement. A lot of them have very recently earned degrees and gotten good jobs, and it’s really great when they come back and represent their company. They can relate to our students and do very well with them. It’s a win-win for all of us. They’re a great example for our students and great representatives of their companies. They can say, ‘I was in your spot two years ago and now I’m doing this job.’ They can give students a lot of good insight into what to expect on the job.

Has the fair changed across those thirty years?

The basic event has not changed very much. We still have companies who set up their booths. They’re there to provide students with information about their opportunities. But the logistics have become more efficient because each year we learn what works best. We do prepare our students through the workshop. We provide them information about professional dress, and we advise them to learn about a company that interests them in advance of the fair. Recruiters expect students to know something about their companies. Students now have online access to the list of organizations coming to the fair, so they can research the companies in advance. Another thing that is relatively new is that student groups prepare and provide lunch to the recruiters, as well as sell lunches to other people that day. It’s a fundraiser for the student groups and also gets them visibility with the employers. Sigma Alpha agricultural professional sorority and the Poultry Club are hosts this year.

Our fair traditionally has been during the fall, but we also have companies visit campus to meet with students at other times. We arrange a networking session when they come.

How do faculty support the fair?

We encourage faculty to use part of their class time to let students come to the fair or to put the fair on their syllabus as an event to go to if they’re not having class on that day. Some faculty members have made assignments related to the fair, such as asking students to attend and do a write-up about a company represented there. One professor gives students extra credit for coming. Another brings his entire class to the fair each year. We also encourage our faculty to attend and visit with the employers. The recruiters are impressed, and faculty are sometimes surprised by who is there.

For more information on the CASNR Career Fair and the college’s Career Services, contact Emily Gray at 865-974-8502 or ecgray@tennessee.edu.