St. Thomas flips the script with a reverse job fair

Some engineering students at the University of St. Thomas are flipping the script when it comes to finding their first job.

Their university is using a different approach to the typical college job fair. It's called a reverse career fair.

Instead of companies setting up booths to recruit employment candidates, it's the students marketing themselves to potential employers.

As a senior in college, Jenna Michaud is just beginning to dip her toe into the job market. She says she enjoys the school's unique version of the job fair.

"It's interesting to say the least," said Michaud "It's not what you really expect, but you do make a lot of connections this way."

About 130 engineering students attended the fair. Each student set up a display with their skills, experience, and interests as well as their resumes and business cards. Then, representatives from different companies worked the room talking to students they were interested in for possible jobs and internships.

"We have a flipped system here where all of the smaller companies have equal footing with the bigger companies and you really get a personal chance to meet the students face-to-face," St. Thomas Dean of Engineering Don Weinkauf said.

Employers say the format allows them to focus on the students who fit their business while the students get practice marketing themselves and showing they are more than just a resume.

"You see people walk by and you smile and they look at your board and they keep walking and you're like maybe the next one. It happens," said junior Jordan Ferrazzo. "Then you get a couple who do talk to you. Makes it worth it. But there are some of those awkward moments for sure."

But Michaud hopes the reverse job fair leads to her being the opposite of unemployed after she graduates.

"That would be fantastic obviously, but at the very least get ideas and connections and places to go when it is time to start looking more aggressively for a job," said Michaud.

St. Thomas leaders say the school held its first reverse career fair over a decade ago and it gets bigger every year. As far as they know, they're the only school in the area to host an event like this.