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Career fairs get mixed reviews from non-techies, despite BEAM efforts

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At Stanford, right in the heart of Silicon Valley, there is a common perception of the divide between “techies” and “fuzzies” — those in tech-related fields and those focused on the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Throughout the year, BEAM, Stanford’s Career Education Center, strives to hold inclusive events with opportunities for all majors and industries, but some non-“techie” students — even those in scientific fields often more closely associated with tech — say they’ve still been disappointed in the offerings, something BEAM says it’s continually working to address.

When members of the Stanford community gathered in White Plaza on Oct. 3 for VentureSU, the largest career fair of the year, which unofficially marked the start of recruiting season, many non-technical students felt left out.

“I don’t think I gained any network or contacts from VentureSU,” said Grayson Throckmorton ’19, a human biology major. “[There were] a lot of tech companies and consulting.”

This year’s kick-off career fair got mixed reviews from students not looking for tech jobs (Courtesy of Brett Alpert).

Brett Alpert, the Associate Dean of Career Education and Director of Career Ventures (social impact) at BEAM, acknowledged how students might feel this way, but he pointed to the multitude of opportunities available for Humanities and Sciences students (H&S) at VentureSU and other employer connection events offered throughout the year.

He noted that 165 of 284 employers at VentureSU said they were  interested in hiring H&S students for “at least some of the opportunities being offered.”

The issue, as Alpert sees it, is not a lack of opportunity but rather a lack of visibility: Non-tech students might attend a career fair and only see big-name tech or consulting employers.

“They may not be thinking there are opportunities for them,” Alpert said.

This was exactly how Joanna Lin M.A. ’18, a master’s student in Civil and Environmental Engineering, felt. Even as a student in engineering — an area often included under a broad “techie” umbrella —  she found VentureSU’s opportunities overwhelmingly geared toward one area.

“There were too many tech companies [at the fair],” Lin said. “Most of the companies were not the companies I was looking for.”

She said she cares deeply about social impact and nonprofit organizations and would have preferred to see more opportunities in those fields.

BEAM is aware of this lack of visibility and, according to Alpert, is actively trying to address it.

“Each year [we] expand and enhance the programming that we have,” Alpert said.

BEAM strongly encourages students to think of the VentureSU event as a starting point in their job and internship searches.

“VentureSU is not meant to be the only event where students have the opportunity to connect with employers,” Alpert said.

Isabella Jibilian ’18, who is studying International Relations, took this sort of approach.

“I found VentureSU really helpful,” she said. “There were two organizations that I connected with right away.”

After making connections at the larger event, Jibilian attended Kickstart Your Social Impact, an event more specific to her interests in International Relations. According to Alpert, the Kickstart event welcomed 65 to 70 representatives from various nonprofits and government organizations in the field of social impact.

At varying points throughout the year, BEAM hosts niche employer connection events in particular fields such as arts and entertainment, sports and entertainment, careers in writing and government.

Aside from formal events, BEAM also has a team of “Career Coaches” specifically for students in the School of Humanities and Sciences, who offer events and a lab series as well as personal appointments, Alpert said.

To make non-technical opportunities more visible, this year BEAM provided students with lists outlining all of the organizations interested in hiring H&S students. Freshmen, sophomores and Ph.D. and postdoctoral students also received similar lists with class-specific opportunities.

“Firms like StartX, in addition to technical majors, [are] specifically seeking humanities and sciences students,” Alpert said.

Additionally, recognizing the reality that different people are comfortable in different settings, BEAM offers a variety of event formats — ranging from VentureSU to smaller, mixer-style events — to better meet students’ preferences.

“We are here at the end of the day to serve students,” Alpert said. “If a student goes to [VentureSU] or a series of Venture events and is having a difficult time connecting with opportunities, then meet with us. We [are] here to help.”

 

Contact John Timony at jtimony ‘at’ stanford.edu.

John Timony '21 is a writer for the Student Groups beat. He is an East-Coast transplant hailing from Long Island, interested in majoring in economics or political science. He also loves binging TV shows and writing film reviews. Contact him at jtimony 'at' stanford.edu