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Local

Employers up at NIU's job fair

Dan Kuc (left) and Randy Gregory of Cummins-Allison in Mount Prospect look over a Northern Illinois University student’s resume Wednesday at the Northern Illinois University Full-Time Job Fair at the Convocation Center.
Dan Kuc (left) and Randy Gregory of Cummins-Allison in Mount Prospect look over a Northern Illinois University student’s resume Wednesday at the Northern Illinois University Full-Time Job Fair at the Convocation Center.

DeKALB – The biannual Northern Illinois University Full-Time Job Fair still is less busy than it was in 2008.

But for the first time since the economic recession, job seekers such as NIU alumnus Geoff Maxfield said the job fair showed more hope and signs of life.

Maxfield said the past few fairs he attended at the NIU Convocation Center seemed to offer more to people with computer science or business degrees, which his experience in communications didn’t fit.

“It’s finally opened up a little more,” he said. “Finally being able to talk with people is really helpful. It lets them know there’s more to me than just a piece of paper.”

More than 150 businesses registered this year, an almost 30 percent jump from a year ago, said Mary Myers, NIU Career Services associate director.

“We ran out of room on the arena floor, so we had to move some of them to the south lobby,” she said.

The fair still has a ways to go before attracting the nearly 250 employers that registered in 2008, but Myers said the growth is a sign of the economy’s eventual recovery.

She said it’s difficult to determine how many hires actually come from the job fair because that information is gathered on a self-reporting basis.

But some of the businesses – banks especially, Myers said – have come back to the fair. She said the loyalty employers have shown is encouraging for her and job seekers.

“A lot of companies have chosen to be here. They’ve cut out other schools, but they still consider us a major recruiting point,” she said.

The fair also benefited from a few smaller businesses that were looking to expand operations. Scott Burns from the Burr Ridge and Naperville-based Next Door & Window said he thought a university job fair was a great “outside-the-box” approach compared to how other businesses hire employees.

Burns said he has had such good fortune with employees he hired right out of college, he hoped to give the same opportunity to a recent graduate who might be getting passed up by other companies because of experience.

“I literally want [them] to know nothing about this so I can teach them,” he said.

Others such as Nick Mikolajczak of the freight management company Geodis Wilson said despite national reports of stagnant job creation, small businesses are finding ways to prosper and hire people.

“There’s a strong push for growth,” he said.

Still, Myers said some businesses are waiting to come back to the job fair. Government agencies especially have been absent because their budget issues prevent recruiting efforts.

But the notion there are no jobs in today’s economy is false, she said, and skilled college graduates can be hired with proper legwork and communication with employers.

“The idea that an employer is going to come to you after graduation is just not true,” she said.

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