Strong students keep UK alumni returning to campus to recruit

There really are no bad questions at a career fair, said Rachel Gonzalez. And ignorance can turn out to be bliss.

Gonzlez, a 2018 graduate of the Gatton School of Business and Economics, was back on campus Wednesday recruiting for Cintas during the two-day spring internship and career fair at the Bill Gatton Student Center.

Cintas, where she is currently a management trainee, was a company she knew nothing about before working there. Now she tells students at career fairs that knowing little about a company that may be trying to hire you is perfectly normal and fine.

“Whenever I found Cintas, I met representatives at (Gatton’s) Business Resumania. The next week was the career fair, and they asked me then if I knew anything about Cintas. I said no, absolutely not,” Gonzalez said laughing. “So it went very quickly from not knowing anything about them, and now I’m working for them and trying to bring in our own management trainees.”

Gonzalez stresses to student to find out as much as they can about a company after the initial meeting.

“I just try to tell people, just because you don’t know everything about a company, that’s OK. Do some research and learn. And don’t be afraid to go ask,” she said. “You never know. Just saying hello, just putting on a smile could get you your next job. As employers, we’re always friendly and willing to talk to somebody.”

This is the type of advice UK alumni were giving during the career fair. The engineering and computer science fair was held Tuesday. The business, communications, liberal arts and humanities fair was Wednesday.

Alumni said the quality of students coming through the university make it easy to come back and recruit.

“Five or six years ago, we did not recruit here,” said Michael Isaacs’92 BE, project director in Ethicon’s robotics digital surgery franchise. The company, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson based in Cincinnati, manufactures surgical sutures and wound closure devices. He said the UK College of Engineering’s reputation made it a natural choice to start zeroing in on future UK alumni.

“Five or six of us alums got together and started recruiting. We recruit from probably two dozen of the most competitive universities in the region. Right now UK represents about one-third of our co-op ranks,” Isaacs said. “So that speaks to the capabilities here. It’s just, how do you tap into that more. So it’s just recruitment. The more you can do that, the more you can give back to UK.”

Isaacs also feels a debt to UK for getting him started in his career.

“You go to the University of Kentucky, and you end up building your career. And then you want to show other people what you can do in that career,” he said.  “At Johnson & Johnson, the whole credo we run on is you help patients and others in society. This is the one day we can come down here and educate students in what Ethicon is. Once you realize (Ethicon) has such a massive influence in not only the U.S. but globally, what we do locally impacts patients globally.”

Showing what UK graduates can do is also what brought Nathan Brock ’17 BE, a district manager for Aldi grocery stores, to Wednesday’s career fair.

“There are only three UK grads in the district manager room right now, and I take pride in being one of them. UK is where I got my start. I just owe a lot to UK and to Lexington in general,” he said. “It has become my home, and I want to support it as much as I can.”

Which means trying to find the perfect fit for the company’s management trainee program or internship program at each career fair. But any student looking for a career is welcome to talk to them.

“We always love it when other students come up and are looking for marketing roles or accounting roles so we can direct them to our Aldi career website. They can look at those roles we offer in our corporate positions,” Brock said.

While Brock was looking for very specific roles, Matt Gosnell ’07 BE was casting a wide net for AppHarvest, a controlled environment agriculture business that is in the process of building a 70-acre farm (60 acres under glass) in Morehead.

“We’ve got a need for electrical engineers now. And ultimately, we’ll have a need more for chemists with a biology focus for potential research in development of hybrid seeds and civil engineers,” said Gosnell, the vice president of development who is tasked with finding land for the company’s projects in Appalachia.

Gosnell has lived all over the world and came back to Kentucky to work at AppHarvest. He is hoping he can get some UK graduates to stay in Kentucky, as well, to work with them.

“Coming back to UK, we know the rep the engineering school has, so we’re confident there are people with some of the skills we’re looking for here,” he said. “I already met someone familiar with the soil sciences, who has been in the lab. That’s very comforting to meet someone like that already.”

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