Please Hire Me! – The Career Fair Struggle

Senior year Student Exchange participant, Jayna Wolfe, jumps into an Italian Career Fair to gain a better understanding of what the career competition is like in Italy at one of Europe’s top business schools, Bocconi University.

This past week I had the unique opportunity to attend the Bocconi & Jobs Career Fair Event that is hosted by Bocconi University once every semester. Excited for the incredibly relevant opportunity to see for myself what an Italian career fair might be like I dug the high heel shoes I have been neglecting and the fancy blazer out from the back of my closet.

The event runs from 10AM-5PM and is an exclusive occasion during which major Italian and international employers meet with students, graduates, and Specialized Master holders from the University. About 90 companies attended this year’s event and 40 of those companies were featured in 30 minute presentations during which recruiters described their company profile, organization, available internship and placement opportunities, and the selection processes. Most of the presentations were offered in English and some in Italian, another reminder of how lucky we are that English is the “international language.” A majority of the companies who attend the career fair require their employees to have sufficient proficiency in the English language. I was fortunate to have availability in my schedule to sit in on three of the company presentations- KIKO Milano, Procter & Gamble, and BlackRock, Inc.

KIKO Milano is a leading Italian cosmetics retailer currently operating in 12 markets across the world. KIKO is one of Antonio Percassi’s mono-brand retailers and currently operates over 700 stores worldwide. After its foundation in 1997 and almost a decade of brand establishment, KIKO opened its first retail store in Italy in 2005. The KIKO representatives began the information session by focusing on the brand and growth of the company over the last decade. The second half of the session was devoted to providing information about corporate job opportunities at KIKO’s headquarters in Bergamo, a city about 40 kilometers northeast of Milan. As a company focused on expanding their global presence and constantly looking for other growth opportunities, KIKO recruits in two main directions, retail and corporate staffing. I found it interesting that despite their rapid expansion there are only about 350 employees at the corporate headquarters in Bergamo, a promising sign for Bocconi students interested in career opportunities with KIKO Milano.

Overall, it was great to hear about an Italian company and the types of candidates the company is seeking. KIKO requires an initial interview, meeting with the line director of the position you are interested in, online assessment, and an English test. English fluency is a requirement in all departments except accounting. The ideal candidate is dynamic, with a great attitude and fashion sense, and an international mindset. Definitely a great opportunity for someone looking to work in an industry heavily involved with international markets.

I was particularly excited to hear the Proctor & Gamble presentation because the company has such a strong presence on OSU’s campus and I have previously had the opportunity to participate in P&G information sessions with some of the student organizations I am involved with. The four recruiters that presented during the P&G session based the thirty minutes around one central question “Are you ready to be the next P&G top manager?” After touching on why P&G is the place to be and identifying their ideal candidate the “Top Manager” event was explained to the group. Basically a fast track to growth opportunities, the “Top Manager” event and “P&G Group Case Competition” give students the chance to show off their talents and improve the likelihood of earning a job offer. Very interesting and reminiscent of case competitions at Ohio State.

BlackRock, Inc. was one of the final presentations of the day and I wanted to give myself a chance to hear what a financial company had to say, as finance is something I’m newly exposed to in my Corporate Finance course this semester. BlackRock is a multinational investment management corporation based in New York City and the company is the world’s largest asset manager. The presenter was fabulously British and instead of speaking specifically about BlackRock, used her time as a skills session on interviews and assessment centers. The focus was on the do’s and don’ts of interviewing and CV’s (AKA resumes, for some reason all of Europe and the UK uses this term) and how to nail an interview. The moral of my 30 minutes- Prep yourself before you wreck yourself.

General Observations About the Career Fair:

  • The students were not dressed in “business professional” (surprising for a university of primarily business students and Europe’s top business school). Recruiters at the career fair were dressed in their normal professional attire, but it seemed to me that only a handful of the students who might have been interviewing were truly dressed in suits. I believe this might have something to do with the culture and the nature of professionalism required at the Bocconi career fair. Maybe these students not dressed up were simply interested in preparing themselves for future opportunities rather than seriously dropping off resumes and hoping for interviews.
  • At Fisher you would not be permitted to enter in jeans and a hoody carrying your backpack.
  • Company information sessions took place during the career fair
  • Usually these take place as independent events organized by career services, or are hosted by Fisher student organizations during weekly meetings
  • Students as well as alumni are permitted to attend the career fair up to 3 years after graduating from Bocconi
  • Fisher students must be enrolled to attend the career fair
  • Almost as if hosting an on-campus event some of the companies were handing out goody bags of sample items
  • I’ve never received more than a fancy pen with the company’s name on it from a career fair at Fisher (maybe I just haven’t talked to the right people)

Overall, I believe the career fair was fairly similar to those I have attended at Ohio State. It was definitely smaller in scale, but similar in the way that students were approaching stands of companies they were interested in with hopes of dropping resumes with the recruiters. The approach to recruiting also seems to be similar with interviews, resumes, and general communication between recruiters and students. However, in general the opportunities presented at the career fair span far beyond the borders of Italy. Students at a Bocconi career fair are much more likely to encounter job offers in other parts of Europe and the UK depending on the companies they approach. Although companies that recruit in the U.S. offer some opportunities abroad they do not typically start new employees at international locations (at least from my experience). This is definitely the result of the way in which European countries operate as a whole with a standardized currency and similar employment laws.

Much like back home, students at Bocconi are constantly looking for ways to get ahead in their future business careers. Despite the competitive environment I was surprised that more of my peers in the exchange program were not determined to suit up, attend the company presentations, and get face-time with international recruiters. I think it is easy to get caught up in the allure of traveling while you are an exchange student, and although I have loved every second of exploring new places with my friends, I think it is also important to remember why we are here. We are here because we are competitive business students who have the desire to explore the world in which we live beyond the borders of our home country. We are here because we had the drive and motivation to apply for a competitive program that we believe will open the doors to opportunities beyond an undergraduate degree. I am absolutely proud and blessed to be here.

As a fourth year student planning to graduate in the spring I am beginning to struggle with the idea that I will be making a decision about full-time employment in the coming months. On one side of the spectrum there are people who tell you to work hard, always keep your eye out for the next opportunity, and never be afraid to try new things. On the other side there is encouragement to relax, after all, you’ll only ever be 21 in Europe with the world at your fingertips once. Ohio State and Fisher College of Business have taught me to work hard, always. I am not the type of person who is pleased with doing average, and can sometimes be too critical of myself. I am excited to return to OSU and figure out what my next steps after graduation will be, but for now I think the best advice I can give myself, or anyone else who might be in a similar situation would be- use this precious time to make memories and have experiences that will build you up when you sit down to write a cover letter, perfect your resume, and prepare for an interview. Not everyone is ok with leaving their home country for 4 months, and not everyone will get the chance– recognize the opportunities you have here and now and take advantage of them.

Until next time!

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About the Author: Jayna Wolfe, Senior, Logistics Management. Student Exchange Program- Italy.