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Business students connect with firms looking to hire
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For anyone, finding a job in this economy is tough. For students about to graduate college, finding a job with little more than a degree can be an absolute nightmare.

Fortunately for California State University, Stanislaus business students, the college played host to the 12th annual Meet The Firms Night on Thursday, attracting record numbers of businesses and job hunters alike.

The CSU Stanislaus Events Center was abuzz with 23 firms in search of new employees from all sorts of business students, with majors in marketing, finance, accounting and operations management. Normally, just about 20 businesses attend.

Linda Nowak, the new Dean of the College of Business Administration, said she was enthused by the record number of firms participating — and not just participating, but looking for new employees. Nowak said that during a job fair at Sonoma State last year, where she then worked, many firms were present but not actively hiring.

"Most of the firms here really are hiring," Nowak said. "... I think that's a sign that the economy is starting to come back."

But in this tough economy, students were more proactive than ever in searching out jobs. According to Student Success Center Coordinator Samuel Touma, who coordinated the event, 110 students preregistered for the job fair, up from 70 a year ago.

Despite the feeding frenzy for jobs, students seemed enthused by Meet The Firms night.

"It's going pretty good," said Roman Lorenzen, a Computer Information Systems major attending his first job fair.

He said he'd traveled from table to table and listened to firms explaining what positions were available. Lorenzen said he'd even heard of a few — including a spot at Foster Farms — that seemed appealing.

But even if couldn't find a job Thursday night, Lorenzen said he wasn't too worried — he has a part-time job to fall back on.

Some students Thursday had already gotten their feet in the door, including Ryan Picha, who is currently working as an intern for Northwestern Mutual while attending CSU Stanislaus. Picha manned Northwestern Mutual's booth and fielded queries from students interested in following his footsteps into an internship program ranked among the top 10 in the nation.

Picha said he heard about the internship through a class at CSU Stanislaus. He said he'd always been curious about becoming a financial advisor, so why not apply for the internship and give it a shot?

And so far?

"Being an intern is all about taking small steps," Picha said.

Picha said an internship is all about finding out if a job is right for you, learning the ropes and proving yourself to be the sort of person deserving of a full-time position.

Northwestern Mutual was looking for a full-time financial representative at Thursday's job fair, but they weren't looking for just anyone with a college degree. According to Stephanie Loop, director of recruiting with Northwestern Mutual, she looks for self-motivated, confident, professional people when deciding who to hire.

"We are hiring," Loop said, "but we're looking for the right person."

Employers such as the Turlock Irrigation District, Dole Food Company, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Bronco Wine Company were all on hand with a variety of positions from internships to full-time employment, each with different criteria.

Martin Ramos, who last year helped plan the Meet The Firms Night as a CSU Stanislaus student, knows all about the rigors of job hunting. Ramos actually found his job through last year's fair and now works as a production supervisor with Diamond Foods.

Ramos worked at Diamond Foods booth at the job fair, helping students in the same position he was just a year ago.

"The tables have turned," Ramos said with a laugh.

Despite the down economy, Diamond Foods was hiring for five positions on Thursday — including production supervisors just like Ramos.

"We're growing," Ramos said. "We're looking for people with talent."

Ramos graduated with a degree in management, which he said has been of real-world use. He says the things he saw in class — like x-y charts — are things he deals with every day on the production floor.

But work in the private sector is more demanding than he ever imagined, Ramos said.

"Once you are there experiencing it, it's a whole different world," Ramos said.

For senior accounting student Catherine Lund, job fairs like Thursday's were "old hat" by now. But despite attending many job fairs, she said she's yet to find a job.

"I plan on eating beans and rice for a long time," Lund said

Outside of the IRS position, Lund said she found "zero accounting positions" at Meet The Firms Night.

But she still deemed the night a success, saying it was a good opportunity to get her name out there. Lund — an honor roll student — said she'd keep working to distribute resumes everywhere she went in search of a job.

Judith Blount, also a senior accounting student, echoed Lund's hopes that the two would find a job — even if not at Meet The Firms Night.

"There are places hiring," Blount said. "They just may not be here."

"That just means we have to look harder," Lund said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.