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Christina O’Connor

Presented by ‘Honolulu Star-Advertiser,’ along with monster.com and alternate energy, the 2014 Career Expo is designed to connect companies with their ideal employees

Like many college seniors across the state, University of Hawaii at Manoa student Ian Ross is staring down a particularly busy couple of months: He’s been reworking his resume, filling out job applications and interviewing with various companies. Ross, an economics major, already has an impressive list of work experience in government, nonprofit and finance, and he wants a job where he can put his skills to use – and one that ideally will put him on a management track. Ha Vong, another UH senior who is majoring in marketing, also hopes to find a job that provides opportunities to move up.

With their lofty career goals, Ross and Vong both have decided to make the 2014 Career Expo, which takes place April 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Neal Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, part of their job searches. With more than 80 exhibitors from industries that include travel, health care, automotive, banking, sustainability and more, the expo is likely to have something that appeals to your career dreams, whether you’re an upcoming grad like Ross and Vong, an entry-level worker or an experienced executive looking for your next step.

Intended to be a high-end job fair and presented by Honolulu Star-Advertiser, along with Monster.com and Alternate Energy, the 2014 Career Expo is designed to connect professionals with quality jobs – and to connect companies with their ideal employees. And if these companies’ hiring needs are any indication, the event also could signify an upward shift in the economy overall.

A number of participating businesses report significant growth in recent months and are looking to fill positions to support that growth.

The Career Expo, in fact, originated from a demand by employers.

“Our No. 1 priority is to always put our customers’ needs first,” explains Honolulu Star-Advertiser senior vice president of marketing Dave Kennedy. “As the economy continues to improve, finding and retaining quality employees has become more of a challenge for businesses big and small. We were approached by numerous businesses to help organize an event that would match them with quality applicants. The Career Expo is the perfect avenue to do just that.”

“We keep hearing from our clients and exhibitors: quality over quantity,” adds Honolulu Star-Advertiser director of classified advertising Patrick Klein. “That is what we are striving for.”

For those with management experience, there also is a “Corner Office” section with companies looking for candidates in higher-level managerial positions. In addition to presenting job seekers with a range of opportunities, the expo also will provide workshops on crucial elements of getting hired: resume writing and interviewing. The Society for Human Resource Management Hawaii Chapter table will feature both.

“We are really passionate about putting employers together with great employees,” explains SHRM Hawaii executive director Melissa Pavlicek. “Job seekers can come by the SHRM Hawaii booth, where we will have volunteer HR professionals who can ask questions and allow applicants to practice their answers and get immediate feedback and pointers.”

In addition, professionals have the chance to show off their skills in the “You’re Hired!” competition. Submit your resume prior to the expo and be the best interviewee on the day of the event and you could get an offer from one of the largest companies in the state, or win a portion of $50,000 worth of scholarships to Argosy University.

“We thought that anybody who has gone through the work to make a really great resume would probably make a good student. And somebody who is very articulate and can sell themselves would probably make a good student,” explains Argosy University president Warren Evans. “This is a way for them to recognize that they are really good at something and, at the same time, give them an opportunity.”

The scholarship will be applicable to any of Argosy University’s bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs in fields that include business and psychology, giving job seekers extra ammo for a future career.

As president of the UH chapter of Society for Human Resource Management, Vong volunteered to run the registration table at the expo with a few other club members. But one thing they’re most looking forward to is the potential for networking.

“My main goal is to network,” Vong says. “I do look forward to meeting marketing and HR professionals … and really to just explore my options.”

But while the expo will be filled with plenty of opportunities, Pavlicek warns that job seekers should have a discerning attitude: “A pitfall would be trying to apply for every job regardless of how well you think you’re suited to it.”

The expo has a breadth of options in both the diversity and sheer volume of businesses.

That fact perhaps is indicative of a positive change in the overall economic climate. According to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s report for the first quarter of 2014, the state’s economy is expected to continue positive growth at above 2 percent between now and 2017. While projected numbers are not as high as predicted in the previous report, visitor arrivals are expected to increase, unemployment is expected to decrease slightly and the GDP (gross domestic product) is estimated to show a 2.6 percent increase in 2014.

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