By ROB W. ANDERSON
Nearly 75 private and public organizations and institutions linked up Wednesday with Northeastern State University students preparing for life after college.
The NSU Career and Graduate School Fair, held in the University Center Ballroom to provide students and recruiters a chance to discuss potential job placement or application requirements for advance degree programs.
Representatives from more than 10 colleges and universities from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas attended. Other organizations included government agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ashley Strack, a human relations specialist with the U.S. Veterans Health Administration, said businesses and organizations participate in career fairs to locate graduating students ready to become a part of the immediate workforce. Strack said administration positions are not as difficult to fill, whereas specialized personnel always constitute the target group when recruiting at events like Wednesday’s.
“Colleges are really great to come to, because we can pull them right out of school, shape them and frame them into the federal world, so they understand it,” she said. “It is much different than state or private hospitals.”
Strack noted the VA is the second-largest organization in the United States outside of the Department of Defense, and that most applicants can offer something needed and being sought by recruiters.
“There’s a wide range of disciplines we’re looking for. We love to grab our students who are well-educated and eager to work, but we also like to grab people who have been in the workforce for many years,” she said. “[They] bring in the other aspects of work experience.”
Special Agent Rickey Rains said working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation is challenging and rewarding. It’s a great career, he said.
“It’s a chance to be part of something bigger than yourself to make a difference,” said Rains. “I think, at the end of the day, you feel good about what you’re doing. I think that’s really what most people want to do with their careers – they want to make a difference, and you really do that and have that opportunity in the FBI.”
Rains was on hand to provide information about careers as special agents, as well as professional FBI staff.
“As an agent, you’re going to go the training academy, and you have to be willing to be relocated to any of our 56 field offices around the country,” he said. “On the other side, our professional support staff, they can apply for open positions at a particular field office.”
Because of pending budget cuts, Rains said, the FBI – as is true for many government agencies – is using the recruitment opportunity from the career fair to plant seeds and provide information for potential agents or staff personnel.
“We, like the rest of the government, are anticipating the budget and trying to determine what funding we’ll have for hiring this year,” he said. “So at this point in time, it’s a little uncertain. For our special agents, generally, they’re going to need some full-time work experience, anyway.”
U.S. Department of State Diplomat-in-Residence Michael Yoder said his employer doesn’t even require the applicant to be college-educated, though most employees have at least a bachelor’s degree.
“And a lot of them have some kind of advanced degree. There’s really no area of particular expertise that you need to have,” he said. “We hire teachers. We hire lawyers. We hire business people, engineers. My background – I had a master of fine arts in play writing. I’m living proof that anybody can get into foreign service.”
Yoder said those who are curious about employment with the U.S. Department of State can log on to www.Careers.State.Gov to take an exam to determine individual viability for the job.
“The foreign service exam is offered three times a year, and there’s no fee for it,” he said. “They’ll even give you sample questions to see how you feel you would do. It’s kind of like ‘Jeopardy,’ in a way. It’s about current events, world geography and history. There’s a series of other steps that you go through before you end up at the interview, either in Washington, D.C., or one of our regional sites. Hopefully, you get a call at the end of your security and background check, saying, ‘Please work for us overseas in the State Department.’”
Supervisory Survey Statistician Marc Klein said the U.S. Census Bureau is looking for statistician analysts, IT specialists, mathematical statisticians and geography contographers.
“We’re looking for students who are graduating in May, and we’re also looking for interns,” he said. “We’re gearing up for what’s called the economic census, where we survey businesses all across the U.S. We do the population census every 10 years, but then every five years, we do an economic census.”
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