Employer networking event offers advantage for internship students

YU Experience Hub staff, from left to right: Joseph Cesario, Freda Liu, Kathleen Winningham, Sarah Perin, Brittany Maguire, Sandra Ng

Fifty York University students from the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) got a leg up in the competitive search for internships by attending the YU Experience Hub’s recent Internship Employer Networking Event.

YU Experience Hub staff, from left to right: Joseph Cesario, Freda Liu, Kathleen Winningham, Sarah Perin, Brittany Maguire, Sandra Ng

“I don’t think people realize how competitive the world of internships is,” said Kathleen Winningham, director of the YU Experience Hub. “We try to provide students different types of opportunities to connect with employers so they can take advantage of these valuable work-integrated learning opportunities.”

Employers meet students at the Jan. 23 event

The Jan. 23 event, organized by Sarah Perin, the YU Experience Hub’s employer and student liaison, brought six invited employers to campus to meet with internship-seeking students, both in a group setting and one-on-one. Representatives from Allstate, BlackBerry, Celestica, CGI, CIBC and RBC spent the first 90 minutes of the event rotating among groups of students for 15-minute periods to talk about their companies and work environments. Afterward, the students had the opportunity to go to each company’s display table and speak individually with a representative.

“The format gave students an opportunity to meet employers in two settings,” said Perin. “Some students are more comfortable in one than the other, so it offered flexibility.”

YU Experience Hub staff member Joseph Cesario held a pre-event workshop to help prepare students for the networking opportunity, where he discussed appropriate business attire, how to converse with employers and the need to have a well-written resume.

“We practised their 10-second elevator pitches,” Winningham said. “The students need to learn how to articulate their skills successfully and quickly.”

The main event kicked off with an informal lunch, allowing the students time to arrive and get comfortable prior to meeting with the employers. A varied group of students were in attendance, with majors as diverse as accounting, economics, finance, information technology (IT), marketing and human resources. The IT students were the most sought after, something that wasn’t surprising to the organizers given today’s technologically oriented society.

Students had an opportunity to meet employers and speak to them directly

“The employers were keen to meet with IT students,” Perin said. “There have been a few offers so far, as a result of attending this event. One student will be spending the summer with BlackBerry and another has a 16-month internship arranged with Celestica.”

“We’re finding that employers today want longer-term internships, given how complex the workplace is. The students benefit, both in work experience and financially. The money they earn is often put toward the cost of university,” said Winningham.

All of the internships are paid and full-time.

Perin and Winningham have received positive feedback from both students and employers, as well as some constructive suggestions for future event planning.

“What a great event,” said one IT student. “I hope to attend more events similar to this in the future so that I can strengthen my connections and make meaningful relationships.”

An RBC representative concurred: “I value this event because I get to interact with students and know they took the time to network. Often, students will be proactive and network to learn about different opportunities, which is what recruiters and hiring managers look for.”

Perin says some of the students requested a longer period for one-on-one networking in the future – useful feedback, because she and the team at the YU Experience Hub hope to offer more of these events.

“Events like these really give students a chance to be recognized by employers, which may also help their future job prospects,” Perin said.

Winningham, too, was delighted by the enthusiasm of the students and the participation.

“It’s so competitive in the Greater Toronto Area to get internships and co-ops that anything we can do to put students in front of employers in a proactive setting is helpful,” she said. “Events like these also solidify partnerships with employers. We make connections and they are more likely to come again.”

By Elaine Smith, special contributing writer to Innovatus