Southeastern Louisiana University students and alumni, hoping to get ahead in a tough job market, had the opportunity to meet with representatives from dozens of companies during the university’s annual career fair.

Director of Career Services Ken Ridgedell said the career fair on Sept. 18 was the third-largest they’ve had at the university, and he sees the increase — from 136 employers last year to about 160 this year — as a sign of a growing regional economy.

“The economy in this area seems to be getting better,” Ridgedell said.

That was positive news for Quinn Barney, of Mandeville, a senior majoring in accounting who is trying to secure an internship.

“If they see your face, they’ll recognize you and may not overlook you,” Barney said, adding that simply sending out résumés isn’t the best way to find a job.

Ridgedell said of the 160 employers at the fair, 90 were interested in speaking with students majoring in any field, although the number of employers looking for students with computer science, engineering and accounting degrees was up from last year’s fair.

He said the event gives employers the ability to interact with more than 1,000 students and alumni.

“The event allows employers to more effectively identify candidates with the right mix of qualifications, personality, attitude, ability and desire that best fits their organization’s culture, philosophy and job openings — whether those openings are available now or in the near future,” Ridgedell said.

“It provides a convenient vehicle for students to visit face-to-face with lots of employers,” Southeastern President Dr. John Crain said. “And, on the flip side, it allows employers to visit face-to-face with lots of students.”

Judy Oliver, a district leader with U.S. Agencies Insurance Company, said she found prospective employees prepared to talk with employers, and many handed over neatly polished résumés.

Oliver said the company came to the fair looking to fill a variety of positions, including sales and corporate-level supervisory positions. She said the company was especially interested in talking with bilingual students.

In addition to providing help securing a job, the fair helps freshman and sophomore students learn about hot career opportunities across a variety of industries and specific positions within companies, which may help them decide on a career, Ridgedell said.

He said juniors and seniors should attend the fair to find out what’s available in the industries in which they’re majoring.

“The main reason (for the career fair) is to try to help connect the students, graduates and alumni with employers and hopefully a full-time job,” Ridgedell said.

Albrie Broeder, of Mandeville, a senior majoring in marketing, said she found the fair helpful and now has a few job leads from employers.

“It was helpful just to be able to talk to different people in the industry,” Broeder said.

“These kinds of events are indispensable,” Crain said. “At the end of the day, it’s about our graduates going into the workplace.”

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