Pittsburgh Promise enables 'speed meetings' at job fair
June 8, 2012 10:15 AM
Brittany Kennedy of Morningside listens to Rochele Cantini, left, a vice president with BNY Mellon Asset Management, during a job fair at the Rivers Club at Oxford Center. Brittany is a graduate of CAPA who recently has completed a degree in Visual Arts at Edinboro University.
Sherry Szakelykidi of Henfren-Tilotson gets up from one of the tables as she moves onto the next table during a job fair at the Rivers Club at Oxford Center.
By Emily Dobler Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Speed dating has become a generally accepted form of meeting and connecting with people. But what about speed networking?
Tucked away in the dining hall of the Rivers Club, Downtown, about 150 recent college graduates and corporate recruiters mingled Thursday at the Pittsburgh Promise's "Speed Meetings."
Pittsburgh Promise holds a "speed networking" session for students and business executives. (Video by Brian Batko; 6/8/2012)
Despite what its name implies, the event was intended to go beyond quickly exchanging business cards and resumes.
"They can actually have conversations, have some face time," said Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise. "They can tell their stories, and they can make an impression so the recruiters are going home with a resume -- with a name, with a face and with a story behind it."
The Pittsburgh Promise provides scholarships for Pittsburgh Public Schools students who have at least a 2.0 grade point average. But the organization wanted to do more than just send students to college, Mr. Ghubril said, it wanted to help them throughout their lives.
"When we announced the Promise nearly five years ago, we said that we're absolutely committed to sending our kids to college on scholarship if they perform at certain basic minimum levels," he said.
"But we're committed to more than that. We're committed to seeing them through to graduation, not just sending them to college. And then, not just seeing [them] through to graduation, but seeing [them] through to a job -- hopefully in the Pittsburgh workforce."
To coincide with the first class that received Promise scholarships to graduate, the networking event was born.
Jahmaih Guillory, 21, a senior at Penn State University majoring in petroleum and natural gas engineering, never sees himself leaving Pittsburgh; he wants a long-term career in the Marcellus Shale industry.
"Born and raised Pittsburgh native; I'd never leave. I might have a beach house in Florida, but I won't leave permanently," he said, laughing.
Most recruiters came from companies with long-standing relationships with the Pittsburgh Promise.
"I think we're all excited to see what these kids can do," said Mark Simon, assistant director of talent acquisition for UPMC, a primary source of financial support for the program.
Other recruiters were not far removed from the job hunt themselves. Nubhia Nishad, recruiting and staffing coordinator for Carnegie Mellon's Temporary Employment Services, remembers her own problems in finding a job after graduation.
"I had the same problem. I was an accounting major and didn't have any directions of where to start," Ms. Nishad, 26, said.
Among the event's student attendees was Mallory Milsak, 22, who graduated from Penn State with a degree in broadcast journalism. Nervous about finding a job, she said the event allowed her to find opportunities she didn't know she had.
"I've met some great people from Google, Giant Eagle, American Eagle, and then I just talked to some people from Mellon and energy companies -- all over the place," she said. "It's cool because it's not anything I thought it would be. I'm talking to companies that I never imagined I'd talk to or have the time to talk to."
Mr. Ghubril said he plans to make Speed Meetings an annual event since students will always need jobs and recruiters will always need students. He added there are few adjustments he'd make for the event.
"We would do this earlier than the summer after graduation," he said. "We'd maybe do it in January, in the middle of their last year of college, when more jobs are available."