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UMaine Career Fair brings great opportunity to some

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, the University of Maine held its annual Career Fair. This fair is dedicated to helping students, particularly graduating seniors, talk with local employers and get a foot in the door to the career world. 

This year’s Career Fair featured 162 businesses in the New Balance Student Recreation Center. It was free to any student who wanted to go and speak to any of the businesses they were interested in. With 162 businesses represented, that meant a lot of opportunities for the students that attended. These included a variety of companies including banks, hospitals, companies that work with UMaine and a few federal organizations. The Career Fair’s page on UMaine’s website also includes a comprehensive list of all the employers in attendance, supposedly so students can have an idea of which employers they want to talk to before showing up. 

While the Career Fair was a great opportunity for a lot of students, it didn’t necessarily present the same amount of opportunities for some as it did for others. Students who are going into a liberal arts career had a lot fewer employers to speak to than those pursuing a STEM career. For example, there was only one employer at the career fair representing the entirety of the journalism field. While the journalism school at UMaine is much smaller than most STEM majors, that doesn’t mean that they should be relegated to a single employer at a career fair advertised as a great opportunity for the entire school community. 

Many students in liberal arts-related fields didn’t bother attending because the employers felt irrelevant to their fields. Many of them were even large corporations that may have felt like a cop out for students that already face struggles of people wondering how they’re going to use a seemingly useless degree. Not having employers represented in their field may only exacerbate feelings of exclusion in the career world that seems to prioritize STEM careers. 

I have three different fields I am studying, and there were practically no employers that were relevant to any of them, meaning it would have been even more challenging for a student studying only one field in the liberal arts. 

Another thing to consider is the motivations and breadth of the employers who apply to be represented at the career fair. One of the reasons that there were fewer employers in liberal arts fields is because the percentage of them compared to STEM employers is already much lower. However, perhaps that just means the Career Center simply needs to work a little harder at making sure the fair has opportunities and employers of a greater number of fields represented. 

There are other opportunities for students throughout the year though, even though the Career Fair is the largest in quantity and breadth of employers. For example, on March 2, 2023, there will be a Federal Jobs Fair in the Union with employers represented such as the National Park Service, USDA and the FBI. This fair caters and advertises to students interested in working in government related jobs. 

In my opinion one of the biggest problems with the career fair lies not in the select opportunities for some students, but in the way it was advertised. In some aspects, STEM fields can be more competitive, meaning it’s more important for STEM students to have a head start. However, when the career fair is advertised as being useful for all students it can be a huge disappointment to learn that isn’t the case. 

If the Career Center wants to focus on STEM fields for a career fair, then it should be advertised as such so that students know what to expect instead of having to find out that day that certain students have been prioritized based on how much money their graduation gives UMaine. 

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