UW-River Falls: Career fairs help students find their future

February 10, 2022 – Dropping her books at the fall 2018 University of Wisconsin-River Falls Career Fair seemed like an embarrassing moment for Autumn Thorsen. Instead, it helped her find her future.

The marketing communications and communications studies dual major who graduated in December 2018 visited the UWRF Career Fair as part of a class assignment to share her resume and talk about her skills with at least three employers.

As she scrambled to pick up her books, Katie Kroll, director of development and internships at Northwestern Mutual, who was at the Career Fair came over to talk to Thorsen.

Kroll encouraged Thorsen to share her pitch.

“I froze up,” Thorsen said. “She could tell I was nervous. She told me to take my time.”

From that initial meeting, Thorsen interviewed with Kroll for a full-time position at Northwestern Mutual, which was not a good fit. 

Not to be thwarted, Kroll kept in contact with Thorsen, waiting for the right job for Thorsen. 

Thorsen joined Northwestern Mutual in April 2019 and is the director of culture and internships in downtown Minneapolis. 

“You never know who you are going to meet at the Career Fair,” Thorsen said. “You never know that dropping your books at an event will change your life and the person you meet will be your role model.”

Thorsen loves the culture at Northwestern Mutual with a strong work ethic and a team approach to working together.

Spring Career Fair

The UWRF Spring Career Fair is Wednesday, Feb. 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Riverview Ballroom in the University Center. The fair is open to UWRF students and alumni.

Eighty-four industry partners will attend the fair, the maximum allowed, said McKenna Pfeiffer, assistant director of Career Services

“The No. 1 way jobs are found is through networking,” Pfeiffer said. “For our students, the Career Fair helps bring organizations and positions to life. When students take advantage of stepping out of their comfort zones, that’s when some of the best opportunities present themselves. We know students obtain internships and jobs from the Career Fair. It is all about the relationships.”

Pfeiffer encourages students to come to Career Fair even if they are just starting their college education. 

“It is an opportunity to start practicing talking to employers,” she said. “First-year students benefit from the career exploration which is a huge component. They can learn how others in their major got where they are.”

About 55% of UWRF graduates complete at least one academic internship, practicum or student teaching placement, Pfeiffer said.

Kroll said meeting students at UWRF is all about building relationships and making connections as an industry partner.

“Internships are the leading engine that feeds the whole system of our talent pool,” Kroll added. “As an industry partner, we need to find different and innovative ways to connect with students and build rapport.”

Kroll, of River Falls, said she is impressed with UWRF’s student-focused environment.

“They want to partner with us and help with student development,” Kroll said. “They go above and beyond to help students be ready for the professional world. As a leader in an organization, it is so valuable and so attractive.”

Networking, finding opportunities

Kaylee Beier, a December 2020 business administration graduate with an emphasis in finance, is an associate financial representative at Northwestern Mutual in Woodbury, Minn. She started at the company in summer 2020 as an intern and then was hired full time in January 2021.

“I love the work we are doing,” Beier said, noting she met Kroll during a mock interview in one of Beier’s classes.

While at UWRF, Beier went to nearly all of the Career Fairs.

“Networking is very important,” she said. “It’s how I got all my jobs. You get to see opportunities, learn how to apply to places, show people your resume and get advice on it. You get a lot of insight into companies hiring.”

Noah Hinsch, a May graduate in business administration with an emphasis in finance, started full-time at Northwestern Mutual in June as a financial advisor in Woodbury. He loves meeting clients and helping them with their finances. He did an internship with the company in January 2020 that he found on Handshake, an online recruiting platform that UWRF has had since 2016.

According to the company website, there are more than 9 million active student users, more than 1,400 college and university partners and 650,000 employers on Handshake.

“Handshake is all about removing barriers and providing access to internships and job postings,” Pfeiffer said.

The Fall Career Fair will be Oct. 12-13 in the ballroom in the University Center.

For more information on the Spring Career Fair or Career Services, email [email protected] or call 715-425-3572.