Five Busy Hours of Career Networking
The atmosphere was fun and informal but the goals of those on hand Sunday, July 17, for the Career Center Live open networking event were very serious. For them, it was all about identifying potential career paths and making contacts with potential employers.
Forty companies, including 24 new participants, set up shop on the fourth floor of McCormick Place to interact with students and other job seekers for five hours on Sunday afternoon. The event drew a wide assortment of companies ranging from mainstream players like Mars Inc., PepsiCo, Ingredion, and KraftHeinz as well as some high-profile newcomers to the food industry like plant-based protein companies Hampton Creek and Impossible Foods. The energy was high and the aisles were crowded as students and other job seekers seized the opportunity to interact with food company representatives.
“I’m not actively looking for a job,” said Morrine Omolo, who is about two years away from a PhD in food microbiology from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. She used the Career Center Live networking event as an opportunity to broaden her exposure to food companies she might not otherwise have known about. “A lot of times, students limit their searches to companies they are familiar with,” she noted. Scoping out a variety of companies at the IFT event may pay dividends she reflected because she gained insights into new and different companies—and may end up applying for jobs at lower-profile companies where she’ll have less competition. “It’s super cool that they [networking event participants] take the time to meet face to face,” she concluded.
Yadhu Guragain, who is doing postdoctoral work at Kansas State University, agreed that the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with potential employers is valuable—far more effective, in fact, than communicating via phone interviews. Meeting in person gives the interviewer a better sense of your energy and enthusiasm, Guragain noted.
“I met with a lot of people and they’ve given me some insightful [career] advice,” said Amrita Dutta, who will receive her master’s degree in food safety and technology from the Illinois Institute of Technology in May 2017. Dutta is seeking an internship and she said that most of the employers she spoke with had full-time jobs and not internships to fill, but the knowledge she gained made the experience worthwhile.
Josh Tuinstra, product development innovation manager at Stratas Foods, considers IFT’s Career Center an excellent resource. “We’ve hired quite a few people in our lab through IFT,” he said. At Sunday’s event, Tuinstra said he was looking for “motivated, high-energy people that can come in and make a difference.” He added, “I’m looking for entry-level people, but they don’t stay entry level for long.”
Ingredion is a regular presence at IFT Career Center Live events, and that was true more than ever at IFT16. “This year we brought more of the recruiting team because we saw so many great candidates last year and we wanted to be able to move quickly,” said Christina Konieczka, senior manager of global talent acquisition at Ingredion. And what does Ingredion look for in applicants? Technical skills are a priority, but communication skills are very important as well. “Even if they are in the lab most of their days, they need to be able to translate that [information] to the sales team,” Konieczka continued.
For Danielle Bryant, corporate recruiter for Hisso Sushi, events like IFT’s are a good way to spread the word about the company, which supplies sushi products to supermarkets and foodservice operators. The company is still gaining exposure and Bryant wanted to come into contact with a broader pool of applicants to fill the food safety inspector and regional sales manager positions she’s recruiting for. “I had to figure out how to come to them [applicants],” she noted.
On Monday and Tuesday, July 18–19, more than 400 candidates will participate in prescheduled interviews with employers as part of Career Center Live.