All parties embrace ‘reverse’ career fair

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Aroostook Republican photo/Mark Putnam
    Wendy Maple and Andrew Churchill, representing MMG, interview Reverse Career Fair participant Alyssa Kilcollins of Washburn, who majors in business administration at UMPI.

AAI-led event delivers employers to students

    CARIBOU — The Reverse Career Fair held at the Wellness Center in Caribou and hosted by Aroostook Aspirations Initiative (AAI), University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI), and University of Maine at Fort Kent (UMFK), was hailed a huge success. Twenty-eight top notch students from the two universities set up elaborate booths to pitch themselves into a position. The event had over 40 employers in attendance, most with current open positions at their companies.

    The Reverse Career Fair, an idea that originated with the research Tammy Delisle from UMFK did over the summer, takes the idea of a traditional career fair and reverses it. Students spend time creating a booth, writing a resume, and ordering business cards.
    The students, who applied for the opportunity to have a booth at the event, were ready with an “elevator pitch” for employers, and many were excited about the ability to meet with several prospective employers in Aroostook.
    Of the 28 students in attendance, 26 stated they definitely hoped to land a position that would allow them to remain in Aroostook. Majors from business to environmental studies were in attendance. Students wanted the time to connect with businesses in Aroostook and were surprised by just how many opportunities there are in The County.
    Cody Tompkins, an UMPI student, liked the concept behind the Reverse Career Fair. “It’s an opportunity to be able to connect with potential employers and see what kind of options there are here in Aroostook County,” he said. Tompkins, whose booth focused on his small lawn care business, will graduate from UMPI with a degree in business next spring.
    Rebekah Shaw, another student from UMPI and a business administration major, liked the overall vibe of the fair. “I like the atmosphere, and I like that you’re with your peers, people that you know from school, and that the employers are coming to you, so that you have the ability to showcase what is great about you as a student and as a future employee” she said.

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Aroostook Republican photo/Mark Putnam
    Rebekah Shaw of Presque Isle shares her “elevator speech” with Tim Freeman of Daigle Oil Company, who visited her booth during the Reverse Career Fair in Caribou.

   Employers enjoyed the freedom of attending when it fit their schedule. They also didn’t have to worry about setting up a booth or reserving staff for the day.
    Tim Freeman from Daigle Oil Company realized how nice it was to not have to worry about setting up and using that time instead to talk with Aroostook students. The event gave employers the opportunity to connect with students who may not necessarily think to apply for a job in particular sectors.
    Casey Faulkingham from the Hope and Justice Project was unsure about the event at first, but she quickly realized what a tremendous opportunity this was for employers, “I was encouraged and inspired. I’m so happy my organization took part in this,” she said.
    Andrew Churchill from MMG commented on the professionalism of students who were selected to participate. “All of the students we spoke with were very high quality. Great potentials for future hires” he said.
    MMG, like many other employers who attended, took time to speak with several of the students. The average for an employer was eight student interviews. Employers who set aside an hour or so for interviewing commented that there would be more time set aside for next year’s event.
    Dennis Quint, a trooper with the Maine State Police, took the time to speak with most of the students. He thought the reversed roles were a great way to put the students at ease.
    “I enjoyed being able to be the one approaching the student. I think this was an excellent way for employers and recruiters to speak with potential applicants” he said.
    Organizers of the event couldn’t be happier with the results. “I really think this is the direction we need to move in for this type of event in Aroostook County,” April Flagg, executive director of Aroostook Aspirations said. “The students came here ready to perform. The employers commented throughout the event about how high the student caliber was, how amazing the displays were, and how well prepared the students were for the event and for the questions employers had. It is a tribute to the programs at both universities. Nicole Fournier and Tammy Delisle worked with students in the weeks leading up to this event, and that work is evident today. We have such an asset with the university system here in Aroostook County. We couldn’t imagine a better way to start this new tradition of career fairs.”
    The Reverse Career Fair will be open for student applications again in January 2016 with the event tentatively set for March. Additional students will be selected to attend, and the event will be open to all employers in Aroostook County.

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Aroostook Republican photo/Mark Putnam
    Becca Campbell, an UMPI student from Washburn, included a bowl of complimentary chocolates as an extra incentive for prospective employers to visit her booth.