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Second annual career fair sees growth in student participation

Courtesy of GW Marketing and Creative Services
Students mingle with employers during this year’s GW Career Expo.

Student Government Association leaders collaborated with the Center for Career Services earlier this month to put on the second-annual Career Expo since the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw an uptick in student participation.

Kelley Bishop, the associate vice provost for career services, said 67 employers and roughly 1,100 students participated in this year’s Career Expo — which included seven events and spanned from Feb. 13 to Feb. 16 — marking a 34.4 percent growth rate in attendance from last year’s fair. Bishop said every employer said they had a positive experience at the event, while 75 percent of employers indicated they planned to interview at least one student they met at the fair, according to a survey the office distributed to employers after the fair.

Kelley also said 70 percent of employers said they intended to hire someone they met at the Expo. About 86 percent of surveyed students said they felt prepared for their conversations with employers, Kelley said.

“The 2024 Career Expo was incredibly successful, thanks to our collaboration with the Student Government Association,” Bishop said.

This is the second career fair to take place since 2019, before the pandemic interrupted the fair’s regular operations. Last year, more than 70 employers and roughly 1,000 students attended the 10 events spanning two weeks.

Demetrius Apostolis, the executive director of the Career Expo, said the Expo planning process — which began in August — was more structured than last year’s “trial run” because the planning team learned from past mistakes. He said the team increased exposure for the Expo by ramping up Instagram advertisements and putting up posters and graphics around campus.

“Even people that aren’t really too familiar with the SGA are starting to really recognize this as an event that helps students,” Apostolis, who is also the SGA vice president, said.

Some of the employers at the event included the U.S. Department of State, Maryland Department of Transportation, the FBI and the Peace Corps, according to Handshake.

Apostolis said he is working to create a foundation that will allow the Expo to continue in the following years by ensuring there is a “consistent cycle” of funding and leaders interested in planning the event because there was no guarantee for the fair’s funds previously. He said he plans to introduce the Career Exploration Expo Longevity Act at the SGA Senate meeting Monday.

If passed, the measure will guarantee $4,000 in SGA funding for the Career Expo per year and give the team organizing the Expo independence from the SGA.

The Expo began with a Capitol Hill staffer panel Tuesday, followed by an international student job search event Wednesday and a STEM and intelligence panel Thursday. A highlighted event featuring Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), a GW alum, was initially going to take place Thursday evening but was canceled by the representative.

Students expressed concerns that the Expo, which spanned four hours Feb. 16, was too crowded, making it difficult to talk to employers at competitive enterprises.

Katelyn Karner, a junior majoring in history who attended the fair, said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the number of opportunities for humanities majors at the fair given the usual focus on international affairs and STEM major opportunities at career fairs. She said she brainstormed potential pathways of employment while exploring tables at the career fair despite already having a set path in mind of becoming a Park Ranger for the National Park Service.

“People don’t typically think history is a super employable major, but there were certainly plenty of opportunities and people I could talk to being a humanities student,” Karner said.

Karner said the venue was very crowded at the start of the event and there were times when attendees had to wait in line which was “semi-frustrating” and prevented her from talking one on one with employers. She said next year’s event planners could allot times for groups of students to peruse the fair to “keep the flow more steady.”

“It’s almost very competitive all of a sudden with the random person you were standing behind,” Karner said. “At the same time, it was good to see and exciting to see so many people kind of getting out there.”

Giselle Sethi, a sophomore double majoring in political science and international affairs, said she attended the fair after receiving a notification about the event on Handshake and felt the event “exceeded my expectations.” She said the fair was STEM-heavy but that she found job opportunities that fit her interests after talking to recruiters about how their offerings might intersect with her passions.

“On a surface level, it didn’t seem like I would be able to find anything, but the opportunity that the Expo presented to talk to people who actually work there and ask them that question and have them be like ‘We have something that relates to that,’ that was helpful,” Sethi said.

Sethi said she appreciated the fair’s representation of women among employers in typically “male-dominated” fields such as government and economy-related areas.

Marwa Medjahev, a first-year majoring in international affairs, said she attended the career fair to learn what skill sets are “applicable” to her degree and to narrow down potential career and internship opportunities within organizations. She said talking to recruiters from the FBI and CIA informed her of the flexibility of their internships which she was unaware of prior to the fair.

“If I want to shoot for an internship for summer 2025, these are the types of things I should look out for and the skills I should improve in,” Medjahev said. “That was the biggest takeaway I got from the career fair.”

Medjahev said despite connecting with two other employers she was interested in before the start of the fair, she was unable to talk to the recruiter at the Department of State table due to the “insane” line and difficult navigation.

“It was a little overwhelming, it felt like it could have been spaced out better,” Medjahev said.

Hannah Marr and Abby Ruggles contributed reporting.

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