Cohen, 17, who plans to major in industrial engineering at Northeastern University in Boston, is hoping to line up a paid summer internship. He obtained one last year through some networking and is hoping for success again. Self-marketing, he believes, is key.
"If you . . . present yourself well, you will blow away people who are more qualified than you are," Cohen said.
He was among 1,300 high school and college students hoping to land an internship with one of the 81 employers at the Huntington Hilton event on Tuesday. The students could interview one-on-one with the prospective employers, who offered paid or unpaid internships. The job seekers also could attend various workshops to help them spiff up their resumes, presence and interviewing skills.
This year's fair, the 11th annual for the Melville-based coalition, exceeded last year's numbers of 1,100 students and 67 employers, said Cheryl Davidson, executive director of the group, a division of Goodwill Industries of Greater New York & Northern New Jersey.
Davidson said she thought the reasons for the increase were twofold. She said interns fill a critical need for employers, especially nonprofits, which need more workers but can't afford to hire any permanent ones. "They are inundated with more services they have to provide, and they can't go out and hire," she said. "Internships are filling a critical need for them." She said internships also help stem the "brain drain" of skilled young workers from Long Island.
Matthew Crosson, president of the Long Island Association, concurred. "The surest way to keep talented young people on Long Island is through an internship," he said.
The event comes amid record-high unemployment rates for young people: 27 percent for those 16 to 19; 16 percent for ages 20 to 24, compared to the 10 percent national rate.
The dreary economic picture gives even an optimist like Cohen pause. "I have been fortunate," he said. "Hopefully I'll continue, but you never know in today's economy."
Students talked to employers that ran the gamut from private-sector companies to government agencies to nonprofits and the offices of local politicians.
Abbasali Tavawala, 25, a Stony Brook University MBA student, thought the fair offered a great opportunity.
"I got exposed to a lot of companies that I didn't know existed on Long Island," he said.
But Yesenia Miranda, 26, a biomedical engineering student at Stony Brook, was less optimistic: "A lot of times I come to events like this and they actually say they aren't looking. I haven't had any luck so far."