Michael Hitchins, a recruiter with industrial supplies distributor, knows how the Business Career Fair at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth can make connections that pay off for employers and students: a 2007 UMass Dartmouth graduate, he got his current job at the same event five years ago.
"We come back every year to recruit the next leaders in our company," Hitchins said. "We've had great success with the University and we're looking for aggressive, ambitious people who want a career in sales."
Hitchins represented just one of the 35 companies included at Thursday's fair, which included AT&T;, Blount Fine Foods, CVS, Edward Jones, New Bedford Bay Sox, and State Street Financial.
More than 300 students crowded into the Woodland Commons at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Thursday. Their job? To make the connections to get a job after graduation.
Demitria Ferreira, a senior in Marketing with a minor in Portuguese from Fall River, already works as a pharmacy technician at a local Walgreens and has an "amazing" internship at Rockport in Canton, but she's leaving nothing to chance.
"I love my internship and I really hope to have a position there after I graduate," she said, "but I need to keep my options open. I'm here because this could translate into a job. I'm a senior, so this is crunch time."
That professional attitude is showing up more and more in students, according to David LePage of the University's Career Development Center, which is hosting the Fair, who noted that the Fair has grown fast over the past few years.
"In 2009, we had 18 companies and maybe 150 or so students," said LePage. "Today, we have 35 companies and 300 to 400 students, which shows the level of interest from students, which keeps rising year to year."
It's not just students who see networking with possible future employers as an opportunity; businesses see opportunity in recruiting new students.
Karissa Bettencourt manned a table at the Fair for MEDITECH, which has expanded in recent years in the SouthCoast. Bettencourt is actively recruiting for paid interns and co-op students who are paid between $1,500 and $3,000 per month - both with benefits.
"This is a good opportunity to meet new graduates before they graduate," she said while on the lookout for students with software development, sales and business skills. "With our company, we grow from within, so we're building a pipeline of possible new hires who can step right in after they graduate."