This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 30, 2009 - No one needs a lesson in how bad the economy is when companies like Google and Microsoft are laying off thousands. Is anyone hiring? How can you find jobs?
The first question gets a yes. And to try to answer the second, we went to the job fair that the University of Missouri St. Louis. There, more than 80 businesses had set up shop and said they were hiring.
"I was talking to employers this morning and they still have opportunities," said Teresa Balestreri, UMSL director of Career Services.
Balestreri said that graduates can expect to spend three to six months in the job search process. According to her, job seekers need a total approach to career planning and going to a job fair is just one aspect of that.
UMSL provides a career and internship database and workshops on such things as job-hunting strategies and how to write a resume. "It is difficult for job seekers," Balestreri warned. But plenty of fields were looking for help at the job fair.
One such field was financial planning.
AXA Advisors was scouting for their St. Louis offices. "We are growing," Senior Vice President Western Division Mark Sears said.
Sears said his company was not looking for a particular degree, noting that people with backgrounds in business, law, accounting and teaching do well at AXA Advisors.
Cornerstone Financial Group was also hiring. "We are up 60 percent this year," said Dawn Lynch, recruiting director for the company.
Most job seekers at the fair had donned the dark-suit uniform and carried binders full of notes and resumes. Yet, they were a diverse group with people still in college, graduates and even people who had jobs but were looking for something better or more secure.
Dwane Davis, who is working toward his master's in education, was at the fair even though he has found a job in his field. "I'm exploring other opportunities," Davis said. "To see what opportunities are for the next years."
Donna Hollingsworth had been employed by a downtown law firm that broke up, leaving her without a job. She has been doing temp work while looking for an administrative position at another law firm. "I heard about this on television," Hollingsworth said. "I hope I land a job."
Financial planning was not the only field hiring. Local businesses like Swank Motion Pictures, Enterprise Rent a Car and Patriot Machines Inc. had tables and opportunities at the fair.
Also there were the Marines. "We are upping our numbers," Gunnery Sgt. Homero Garza said.
Garza said that students can enroll when they are still in college and receive financial help. Or the Marines offer college loan repayment. And who are the few the Marines want to sign up? Lawyers, pilots and commanding officers. "We are looking for a little bit of everything," Garza said.
The next UMSL job fair will be March 13 for teachers, presenting an opportunity to interview with many school districts. It, too, will be in the gym at the Mark Twain Athletic and Fitness and will be free for pre-registered UMSL students and alumni, $5 for unregistered students and $10 to the public.
Brett Lohmeyer is a student at Meramec and an intern with The Beacon.