By: Kathryn Kirkpatrick

This year’s annual National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) convention was held in Kansas City, Missouri, and as always, it was an event that was well worth the trip for Embry-Riddle students! Our students saw success in a number of ways— some received interviews, several received job and internship offers, and a number placed in competitions, taking away cash awards! With over 150 employer exhibitors and around 10,000 conference attendees, this event was loud, it was full of energy, and it provided our students with numerous opportunities to network with employers.

As I strolled through the aisles of the career fair on Thursday afternoon, I could feel the energy and excitement in the air. Students from around the country waited anxiously as they inched closer to speaking with employers and I was elated to see familiar faces in the crowds. These faces belonged to Embry-Riddle students—students with whom I’d worked in preparation for these very moments I was witnessing! As a career advisor, I’ve never felt so proud. To see my students putting the tools we’d worked on into practice was such a great feeling. These students were speaking to employers with confidence! Clearly, their hard work had paid off.

So, you might be wondering, “Why would Career Services staff choose to attend conventions like this?” Obviously, we aren’t there to find jobs or internships for ourselves! There are 2 main reasons why we attend these types of conferences:

To support our students at conferences & conventions:

We attend conferences and conventions to support our students! Prior to this particular convention, I met with a number of students involved with the NSBE group to prepare them for this event. We worked on developing and strengthening resumes, we discussed perfecting elevator speeches, and most importantly, we worked on how to make positive and lasting impressions on employers who meet thousands of other potential candidates.  Prior to the convention, I advised students to find me at the event so I could assist them there. While moving through the aisles at the career fair, I was able to speak with students, answer questions, provide them information about companies, and put in a good word with employers about the students that come from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Witnessing the students’ excitement and sharing in their joy after they’d interviewed or even received an offer from an employer was simply the best.

To connect with companies you want on campus:

We attend conferences and conventions to connect with the employers YOU WANT on campus! Finances play a major role in the extent to which a company can recruit talent. Employers often have strict budgets for recruitment and they typically schedule university visits based on a strategic plan or a list of the company’s tier schools. The Career Services staff attends large events, such as the NSBE convention, to connect with the employers you want on campus. I had the opportunity to hold conversations with a number of employers at the annual NSBE convention in an effort to establish a relationship with them. Through these conversations, Career Services staff members share information about ERAU’s degree programs, projects, research, and relevant campus clubs and organizations, in hopes to start a dialogue that could develop into a future relationship. I was uplifted by just how many employers were impressed by our students, who had alumni colleagues, or who had previous connections with the university. I discussed with them the opportunity to post positions to EagleHire and shared information with them about our upcoming fall Industry/Career Expo as well. Boosting familiarity and an increased awareness with Embry-Riddle and our amazing students is important when connecting with employers, and I certainly enjoyed engaging with employers to further the success of our students!

nsbe convention

Career Fair portion of the 2017 NSBE Conference in Kansas City, MO

Kathryn Kirkpatrick is the Aerospace Engineering Program Manager and Social Media Manager of the Career Services office at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.  She received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in Public Relations from The University of Georgia and a Master of Arts in Communication Arts from Valdosta State University. Kathryn has worked in higher education in academic advising, career services, and first-year programs departments, and she has served as an editor for a peer-reviewed academic journal. She is passionate about helping students achieve their academic and career-related goals.