College students often attend career fairs in hopes of finding potential jobs. It’s usually the same thing: rows of tables full of drowsy recruiters. The Retail Management Program at the University of Washington has been making the typical career fair more exciting for the past 13 years. They call it Retail Day.
Retail Day took place on April 13th. The theme of this year’s event was “On the Hunt,” referring to students hunting for jobs. The decor reflected the theme by incorporating safari touches all through the halls. There were vines hanging from the balconies as the students wore forest green t-shirts with safari hats.
The program provides students a networking opportunity in a more laid back atmosphere. Marie Kapelke, president of the Retail Management Program Student Association, says, “Normal career fairs can be tense and nerve wracking for both recruiters as well as students, but Retail Day allows students and recruiters to feel comfortable being themselves.”
For Retail Day, the awkwardness is removed by small touches making the atmosphere more student friendly. One of the crowd pleasers is the fashion show. Kapelke says it is her favorite part. “You get to see your friends model the latest fashion trends across various clothing and jewelry retailers.”
Anna Fowler was the mastermind behind the show. She sought out sponsors to donate clothes to dress the models. This year the fashion show featured clothing from retailers such as Mercer and Buffalo Exchange. Fowler also contacted people to do the models’ hair and makeup to give the show a more authentic touch.
The seating area across from Orin’s Place made the perfect venue for the fashion show. The Deloitte Commons served as a food and refreshment center while the retailers lined their tables through the length of the second floor. As the day went on students approached each table and spoke to the retailers. They were able to learn more about the companies and what types of opportunities are available to them.
Not only does this event provide students with a networking opportunity, but students learn to lead and work with each other as they prepare for the day. Margy Zook, chair of this year’s Retail Day says, “I am able to share [this] leadership experience with potential employers in interview situations and exemplify my position in the success of the event.”
This was the first year Retail Day found its home in Paccar. The students no longer had the spacious comforts of the old Balmer Commons. Creativity was the result. Mallory Lindberg, an Employment Specialist from Nordstrom, says, “There were quite a few students that were not part of the retail program who were wandering through [the recruiters’ tables]…”
This new layout allowed for a larger flow of traffic to experience Retail Day. Balmer Commons was a secluded room that students had to make a conscious decision to enter. In Paccar, the event came to them in the halls so a larger population was exposed to it.
At the end of the event, the club held the annual raffle where retailers donated many prizes. One student bought just five raffle tickets (at $1 a piece) and won a snow board and a $500 gift certificate for new tires.
Zook says the event benefits the Foster School of Business as a whole. “By having Retail Day, Foster can showcase the RMP certificate in association with any of the business school majors. It also emphasizes that there are so many different majors and choices a student has through Foster.”
–Rachel Zakhary, Senior, Retail Management Program