Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Students, employers sell themselves at job fair
Even at a job fair, it's all location, location, location, and Dyn had a prime piece of real estate at the New Hampshire College & University Council's annual job fair Wednesday afternoon at the Center of New Hampshire.
The Manchester technology company's table at the entrance to the expo room attracted early-arriver Namrata Khaitan, who expects to graduate in May from Rivier University in Nashua with a master's degree in computer information systems. The 32-year-old graduate teaching assistant said she hoped to find a job that will also take advantage of her MBA in finance. She also has 4 1/2 years of work experience.
"I'm looking for roles where I could use my technical skills as well as my business background," said Khaitan, a native of India who is here on a student visa.
The team of Dyn recruiters included Ali Rafieymehr, the veteran tech entrepreneur and former dean of the University of New Hampshire-Manchester, who recently joined the Manchester Millyard company to lead its education outreach efforts with city schools and colleges.
"We are looking for talent. If we find the talent, we figure out about the jobs," Rafieymehr said. "Currently, we are looking for some engineers. We are also looking for some sales (people), but over the next few months or so."
I reminded Rafieymehr about the heady days of the tech boom of the late '90s and early 2000s, when dot.com companies had so many jobs to fill, even liberal arts majors had a fair shot gaining a foothold. Rafieymehr said that hasn't gone away entirely, though like most tech companies, Dyn's biggest challenge is finding software engineers and others with computer science acumen.
"It still depends on the job," he said. "But definitely in the STEM area - science, technology, engineering, math - those areas are where there is a huge need," he said.
Nearby, 19-year-old Aurora Van De Water was talking with representatives from Albany Engineered Composites about an internship at the Rochester company, which on Tuesday celebrated the grand opening of a new 300,000-square-foot plant it shares with Safran Aerospace Composites.
Van De Water, who is studying robotics and automation technology at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord, said she wants to work with microdrones - like the one Amazon used in a recent video to show off how it someday may be delivering packages.
"I see myself working with the programming and mechanical aspects of robotics," the Bow resident said.
Van De Water wasn't put off by Albany's Rochester locale. Human resources worker Kalin Billert tried to assure her it wasn't that far away.
If Billert seemed a bit over-eager to sell Van De Water on the company, you might blame the enthusiasm of a newly minted worker: A year ago, the 22-year-old attended the employment fair as a job seeker. She said it's much more fun being on the employer side of the recruiting table.
"So it does work. You can get a job here," Billert said.
She shared the Albany table with Jason Kimmel, a 25-year-old software engineer who joined the company a year ago. At Albany, Kimmel has enjoyed getting an inside look at the manufacturing process, from the raw materials to the finished product. He also appreciates the long-term potential impact of his work.
"I will almost definitely ride on an airplane that has an engine I helped design within 10 to 15 years," he said.
While STEM careers might be in the highest demand, the job fair was well-represented by a variety of industries and professions, including retailers, police agencies, nonprofits, financial firms, temp agencies and health-care providers.
Alexcia Pierre, 21, was among several young women gathered near a recruiter for The New England Center for Children, a school for autistic students outside Boston. The psychology major had already talked with representatives from Easter Seals, the Mental Health Clinic of Greater Manchester and the Maine state child and family services department.
"I've always loved to help people help themselves," Pierre said. "I love to volunteer."
Keith Karwacki had the arguably difficult task of convincing twenty-somethings to consider a career selling insurance. The territory manager for Combined Insurance in Manchester had a persuasive story, however - more than three decades with the same company, and the kind of long-term success that helped him put two children through college.
Karwacki had the ear of Kyle Poirier, who has an associate's degree in business and expects to earn a bachelor's in computer information systems from UNH-Manchester in December. Karwacki told Poirier he could make $40,000 to $45,000 a year and would enjoy such perks as a 401(k) plan. He got him to commit to an interview.
Karwacki said he attracts new workers by employing the same skills he uses in the field. And he employed them on me. He mentioned the musical notes on my tie and used them as a cue to drum up a conversation about seeing Billy Joel the night before on Jimmy Fallon's late-night talk show. He asked me first if I were a musician. As all salespeople know, people love to talk about themselves more than anything else. In short, this guy was good. He got me to like him immediately.
"I've been in sales for 34 years. This is just a form of sales," Karwacki said. "You read the prospect, find what their hot buttons are and then sell them on the position."
Karwacki emphasizes to potential recruits that they will become employees of the company, rather than contract workers, unlike many sales positions.
"It was an opportunity for me," he said. "I shook the right hand 34 years ago."
Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321 ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.