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MPowered expands fair beyond start-ups

Adam Schnitzer/Daily
The MPowered startup career fair took place Thursday at Pierpont Commons. Buy this photo

By Amrutha Sivakumar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 17, 2013

Suit, tie and a 401(k) seem a little staid?

The MPowered Start-up Career Fair brought the Pierpont Commons and Duderstadt Center to life Thursday, uniting start-up companies and students to learn about potential opportunities.

MPowered, a student organization focused on cultivating entrepreneurship opportunities for University students, has hosted the unique fair for the past three years. Though 60 percent of the start-ups at the fair were from the Ann Arbor area, start-ups with their headquarters in Detroit, Chicago and California were also present.

Engineering junior Brandon Eagle, director of the fair, said the main goal this year was to expand the geographic and technical diversity of companies present.

In the last two years, the fair aimed solely to attract students to start-ups, bypassing large corporations. After students expressed interest in a more diverse offering, the focus shifted to making the University more attractive to recruiters from companies of all sizes and to show them the broad range of talent at Michigan.

The organizers reached out to high-profile and innovative information-technology companies such as Square, a developer of card-reading solutions for mobile devices started by a founder of Twitter, and Venmo, a start-up that has created a method for simple electronic money transactions.

“We really wanted to get ourselves out there,” Eagle said. “Not a lot of people know that Michigan is such a hub for engineering talent and talent all around.”

Generally, the companies in attendance were engineering-focused and technology-based. However, Eagle noted that high demand among start-ups for fresh talent across all disciplines meant that start-ups would be receptive to hiring “anyone they get along with and anyone they can work well with.”

“The thing with start-ups is that they really will take any major because there isn’t any quota to fill,” Eagle said. “They don’t really look for specific jobs as long as your skillset fits in with what they are looking for.”

Speaking from personal experience, Eagle acknowledged that larger, established corporations are usually considered to be a safe bet for students — offering enticing salaries and relative job security. However, he said the “cool atmosphere and fun culture” of start-ups would be more attractive to many recent graduates and seniors.

“For any student that is looking for a team-building environment, start-ups are definitely the way to go,” Eagle said.

Business junior Christian Weiss pointed out that start-ups had a lot of potential for innovative students who didn’t see themselves as fitting the traditional job mold.

“I think (start-ups) offer a lot of potential for people who don’t want to be a cog in the machine of a big company and want to play an active role in their company’s future,” Weiss said.

Unlike most career fairs, formal attire was neither necessary nor expected by the start-up companies. Though many students chose to adhere to business-casual attire, Weiss noted that the lack of a dress code was favorable for Michigan students.

“Students love not having to get a full suit on,” Weiss said. “But some companies like the professionalism and some companies don’t, so you have to find a balance.

Follow Amrutha Sivakumar on Twitter at @xamrutha.


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