Career conference offers tips, prizes

work it 2013 logo


The fifth annual Work It Career Conference is returning to Eastern Feb. 8., allowing students to directly interact with employers about jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities.

Romeal Watson, Career Services internship coordinator and coordinator of Work It, has been involved with the event for three years. Originally, it was done on a smaller scale, serving 50 to 60 students and only offering a few professionals to sit on discussion panels.

Now in its fifth year, the conference has grown to service about 250 students and brings in dozens of professionals from a variety of disciplines.

“We made that choice because we thought that, for instance, if there was a topic of interviewing and how to interview effectively, why just have one perspective when we can have a variety of people from different disciplines … and they can all add in their pieces,” Watson said.

The morning will start with a welcome speech from Jeff Stafford, a professor of communication. “[He] has been kind of a cornerstone to Eastern’s history,” Watson said. “He’s been around for over 35 years, so he’s huge in this area. His focus is a lot in leadership studies, and so he’s been with us the past three years and has done welcome addresses for us. It’s a good way to get students fired up about the sessions and the rest of the day.”

Students will attend four sessions of their choice in the morning, and those who attend at least two can be entered to win prizes such as gift cards to Macy’s and local salons.

Those interested in learning the keys to landing a worthwhile internship will want to sit in on the session featuring current intern panelists. They will be sharing their experiences as interns based in a wide variety of fields, both internationally and locally.

Other sessions include how to use social networking to engage in employment opportunities, how to maximize volunteer experience and how to transition into professionalism.

A special session is designed specifically for international students.

“For international students who come to Eastern and want to be able to find internships and employment opportunities, we have a panel that’s designated for them too,” Watson said. Panelists for this session include Kara LaSota, the international student adviser for EWU’s international student program, and Matt McCoy, the executive director of International Trade Alliance.

After morning sessions, lunch will be served during a keynote address and then students will mingle with professionals and employers during the career fair.

“We have about 27 employers who are confirmed to show up, and they’re going to be from a variety of different disciplines,” Watson said.

Employers attending the conference include Avista Corporation, Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Outreach Center, Northwestern Mutual Finance Network, Peace Corps, SpokAnimal, Target and Washington State Patrol, among many others.

Students should be prepared to meet potential employers by dressing professionally.

“You’re more likely to attract good opportunities if you’re looking the part,” Watson said.

Damion Donaldson, a national intern recruiter for Inroads, Inc., recently spoke to hopeful Inroads interns at EWU, and offered similar advice. “If you are polished, poised and professional, you stand a great chance to compete,” said Donaldson. “You’re competing locally, nationally and globally, so you have to be sure to bring your A game.”

Both Watson and Donaldson said men should consider dark colored suits and slacks with a tie. Women should make sure necklines and skirt lengths are appropriate. A general rule for skirts is no shorter than slightly above the knee.

“I talk a lot about being able to control the image people see when they look at you,” Watson said. “It’s almost a nonverbal way of communicating, so how can you be aware of that and use it to your advantage? Be as professional as you can.”

Students can add another professional element to their persona by creating business cards, which can be done for free online.

“Most of the employers now are expecting to exchange business cards, or give their business cards out,” Watson said. “A lot of times what they’ll do is they’ll exchange business cards, and then you can send them your résumé, and they can get it to the correct person.”

He said preference differs with every company, so it is a good idea for students to have a few hard copies of their résumés on hand.

Career exploration and professional development are two key reasons to attend the event, according to Watson.

“Some students, freshman and sophomores more specifically, might not necessarily know where they want to go. They might not necessarily know what industries they’re interested in,” he said. “Events like this are a good way for them to talk to professionals, find out what they’re doing, and find out just all the little elements of that job they maybe didn’t think of.”

The fifth annual Work It Career Conference is Feb. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the PUB MPR. Students must register through EagleAxis to attend the conference.