College Students “Suit Up” For Success At Fifth Annual Suit Up
by James Coulter
Working at Geico allowed Danielle Woodward to graduate college debt-free. Now serving as a recruiter for the company, she gets to promote the same opportunity she had as a college student to other prospective students.
Last week, she was able to share that opportunity to Lakeland college students during the Fifth Annual Suit Up at Polk State College in Lakeland. The annual event allows college students from local universities to network and connect with local employers for potential job and intern opportunities.
Geico has been serving as one of the major sponsors at the event to help bring to light different job opportunities that her company has available within the community, especially for graduating college students.
Woodward has been attending the event for nearly four years, and has seen it grow tremendously during that time, especially when it comes to meeting her company’s hiring needs, she said. This year’s event especially more than exceeded her expectations with the overall turnout.
“This is the busiest I have seen this event,” she said. “I walked in thinking it was going to be kind of slow, and it was much busier than expected.”
Geico was one of 50 local employers that promoted their job and intern opportunities to students from local colleges, including Polk State College, Florida Polytechnic University, Florida Southern College, Keiser University, Saint Leo University Lakeland Education Center, Southeastern University, and Webster University.
These colleges, along with the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, collaborate each year to host this event, not only to offer opportunities to their students, but also provide them with resources and services to aid in their career endeavors, including providing LinkedIn profile shots, mock interviews, resume assistance, and dress tips.
This event thus helps foster a symbiotic relationship between universities and local businesses, with colleges allowing their students to network with potential employers, and local businesses being able to pool local talent from the universities.
“One of the biggest things that I often hear from employers is that they keep hearing the talent is out there, but they have a hard time connecting,” said Sarah Breed, Chamber Director of Initiatives. “And so we have to fill the talent pipeline, and so that aids our economic development, it grows our community, it makes our community more prosperous, and so I think it is another great opportunity to connect our employers with talent.”
Having been with the event since its second year, Breed has seen it grow in leaps and bounds, both in the turnout of the students as well as the local employers. Every year, they always make it a goal to draw in more students, and each year sees their goal match their expectation through word of mouth, she said.
This year had their event hosted at the Lakeland Campus of Polk State College, the layout of which proved especially helpful for the employers, and the parking of which was especially accommodating to the visitors, she said.
“The goal of this event is that we want to connect students, particularly those nearing graduation, with the amazing employers we have in this community,” she said. “Our biggest goal every year is to increase the number of students, we want more and more students to attend, so I think that is the goal, to get the word out the best we can.”
More than 50 local businesses and organizations promoted their career opportunities at the event, with several even serving as sponsors for the event. This year’s sponsors included Bulk Nation Lakeland North, GEICO, Keiser University, Lakeland Automall – Ford & Hyundai, Chick-fil-A, and The Results Companies.
The Results Companies had recently opened its Lakeland location earlier this year with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The call center, which provides customer care service to various companies across the country, currently employs 800 personnel, though they expect to hire 500 more by the end of the year, said Janel Austin, Site Recruiter.
Austin was able to connect with many potential employees at the event. Many of the students inquired most about flexible schedules, something that her company is more than willing to provide, she said.
“We do have many schedules that are flexible, that are available to them depending upon what their needs are, and what their growth will be and we hope to compliment them in that area,” she said.
Attending the event more than met initial expectations, as she and her partner managed to talk with countless prospective students within the first hour of the event alone, she said.
“The turnout has been really good, [and] we had a lot of promising conversations,” she said. “We are a great employer to work with, we have fantastic benefits, and we try to offer a fun and friendly atmosphere.”