LACEY - About 500 job seekers attended a career fair Tuesday at Saint Martin's University, an event at which university and college career officials emphasized that internships and volunteer opportunities are more important than ever in a tough job market.
Tuesday’s four-hour career fair was co-sponsored by Saint Martin’s and The Evergreen State College. About 40 people were waiting in line to get in at 11 a.m., and attendance was steady throughout the day, said Ann Adams, director of Saint Martin’s career services office.
About 100 vendors also attended, including local employers Heritage Bank and Olympia Federal Savings, as well as other statewide universities and school districts.
For recent graduates and the soon-to-graduate, it’s important to “lay the groundwork” for finding a job, including making that face-to-face contact at a job fair or securing an internship, Adams said. “There are jobs for people with the right skills, but they need to make that personal contact,” she said. “When they (employers) know the right person, they’ll make that (hiring) decision.”
Anelise Cruz, 20, a junior at Saint Martin’s, doesn’t need a job at the moment but attended the fair to prepare for when she does need one.
“When you’re not looking for work, it’s good practice,” said Adams about Cruz’s visit to the career fair.
Jolene Matta, 37, is a student at Saint Martin’s who plans to graduate with a master’s degree in education. She has been looking for work for about two months and was grateful for the chance to meet employers face-to-face because most of her job search has been online, Matta said.
In her hunt for a job, she has received a lot of “thanks, but no thanks” responses, but she’s not giving up yet, Matta said.
The South Sound job market seems a little worse this year than last year, partly because of the state’s budget problems, Adams said.
“Everything is on hold,” she said.
Mychael Heuer, interim director of Evergreen’s career development center, was a little more hopeful about the South Sound’s economy, saying retailers such as REI have come to the area, and there has been some state hiring. Still, he too said the job market remains a challenge and that prospective students need to volunteer and get internships. “Get that experience as soon as you can.”
The career fair also was open to the public.
Doug Wangen, 48, of Chehalis, has been out of work since September. In that time, he has applied for 80 to 90 jobs and had seven interviews. On Tuesday, he met two or three prospective employers that might be a good fit, he said.
One person was hired on the spot Tuesday. Although his name was not disclosed, Adams of Saint Martin’s said a recent graduate was hired by the state Department of Revenue.