Logo: University of Southern California

Opportunity Knocks for Students Ready to Dive into the Job Market

An estimated 1,500-2,000 students showed up for the Viterbi School's semi-annual Career Fair, ready to talk with recruiters.

February 21, 2009 —

An estimated 1,500 - 2,000 students showed up for the Viterbi School’s semi-annual Career Fair on February 19 to meet with recruiters from some industry heavy weights, such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Lockheed Martin and Sony Entertainment, among many others.

Career Fair 3
Ron Reid of Raytheon Co., left, talks to recent graduate Paul Hsiung during the Career Fair.   (Claudia Melendez photo)

“Students really enjoy having their own career fair,” said Kristen Todd, director of Career Services at the Viterbi School. “Of course, there are always concerns when we have lines separating the graduate students from the undergraduate students, because everyone wants to make sure they get a spot in line and a chance to talk to the recruiters.  But in general, the feedback we got was very positive.”

USC’s Engineering Career Fair is put on twice a year — in the fall and the spring — by the Viterbi School’s Office of Career Services.  Recruiters look at the fair as an excellent opportunity to increase their company's visibility among top engineering students.  And for the students, this is the perfect time to start talking to potential employers and learn that first impressions count!

Students are advised to dress in business-casual attire and have a one- or two-minute presentation to give potential employers, in addition to their resumes. Preliminary interviews with company representatives can lead to second interviews and possible internships.

This spring’s fair was moe subdued than previous career fairs, due to the poor economy and a scarcity of jobs. Many of the attendees said there were fewer prospective employers and fewer openings available.

Anshul Dhawan, who is earning a master’s degree in computer science, said he had begun touring the booths early in the morning looking for summer internships, but didn’t find any companies hiring students for full-time jobs.

“The companies that have come here are just taking our resumes and giving us information about the work they do,” said Jay Shah, also a master’s student in computer science. “They’re not really looking to hire anyone. But I find that these career fairs are important because at least you get the chance to put your resume in front of prospective employers.”
Career Fair 2
Hundreds of students lined up to talk with recruiters  from many companies during the afternoon fair in Archimedes Plaza.  (Claudia Melendez photo)

Xiaojia Liu, a master’s degree student in electrical engineering, echoed the same sentiments.  “I’ve been here since 10 a.m. It’s difficult to get anything this time. There aren’t too many opportunities.”

But Fernando Ramirez, a recruiter for Qualcomm, noted that the power of a Trojan degree was nothing insignificant.  “Last year, 70 percent of the interns became full-time employees, and a good portion of them were from USC.”

He said Qualcomm was looking primarily for summer interns, but that they had not reduced the number of internships they had available compared to last summer.

Some recruiters emphasized that the Viterbi School’s worldwide reputation would give graduates an edge in the job market, despite the weak economy.

“This is the fourth straight year that we’ve come here, “said Mike Blackmore, a recruiter with URS Corp. “The quality of the engineering program meets our expectations. We are looking for candidates mainly in civil, environmental and chemical engineering.”
The Viterbi School’s Career Planning and Placement Center also revived an former program this spring, called “Trojans Hiring Trojans,” where alumni are encouraged to participate in job fairs to recruit graduating seniors.  One of those alums, Ryan de Busk, was recruiting for Northrop Grumman and could relate to nervous job-seekers.

Career Fair 1
Anshul Dhawan, left, a first-year graduate student in computer science, drops off his resume with Lisa Pham of Sandisk.  (Claudia Melendez photo)

“I understand the concerns of students perfectly because I am a USC graduate and not long ago I was in their place, standing in these lines,” he said.

The Viterbi School’s Career Services Center is a full-service program, assisting engineering students throughout the entire job search process, from resume writing to salary negotiations.  “Whether you are a first-semester freshman, a graduating senior, or a graduate student, our office can help,” the Career Services website states.   

For complete information about career assistance, visit the Career Planning and Placement Center or go to the Career Services Center at http://viterbi.usc.edu/students/.

--Claudia Melendez