Melina, a graduating senior, wasn’t sure what to expect from a virtual career fair. When she offered to share her rewarding and comfortable experience with other students and career center hosts, we said, “Yes, please!” The Career Fair Plus team loves success stories. Do you want to share yours? Email us!
It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we do many things. There are undoubtedly multiple drawbacks, but occasionally there is a pandemic-related solution that is actually a very beneficial development. One of these great changes I experienced was attending an all-virtual career fair using Career Fair Plus.
Switching from In-person to Virtual
I'm a Senior at the University of Missouri studying Strategic Communication in the School of Journalism. Last year, I attended the in-person career fair to get interview practice and learn more about different companies. Since I graduate this May, this year's career fair was extra important as I began my search for a full-time job after graduation. Meeting with company representatives at the fair is a great way to discover employment opportunities and put your best foot forward with recruiters to stand out in the application process. This year, I was curious about how a virtual fair would work and if it would be as effective as an in-person event. I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly it went and how much I actually preferred the virtual format.
The first and most apparent benefit I discovered was comfort. Since the Strategic Communication Career Fair is early in the year, there is usually inclement weather. Like the previous year, it was freezing cold and snowing outside on the career fair day. I was very thankful to stay in my apartment with the heat and not risk my life walking over slush and ice in my best business heels. Additionally, Career Fair Plus allowed me the freedom to make my own career fair schedule. When I logged on to choose time slots with company representatives, I blocked off thirty minutes for lunch. I built my schedule how I wanted, which my very color-coded planner and I appreciated.
I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life. At the in-person career fair, I found that getting the courage to sit down at a table in front of a recruiter could be difficult. I remember standing there mentally rehearsing what to say as soon as I sat down, finally settling on an awkward "Hi!" and even overthinking how to hand them my resume. Since I could customize my schedule, I saved five minutes before each session to get situated, look over my notes, and take some deep breaths. This really helped me (and saved myself the anxiety-induced hyperhidrosis - no one wants to hire a sweaty intern). With a click, I was able to join the recruiter in a video call and jump right into our conversation.
Additionally, having a set meeting time helped to more evenly distribute the recruiters' time. At the past career fair, some students took to sitting at their dream employer's booth for 45 minutes while they gave a Shark Tank pitch of their entire life story. There's no polite way to tell someone to move so you can have a turn. It is also uncomfortable when three other students, nervously fiddling with ties and blazers, are hovering in line while you’re speaking with a recruiter. With Career Fair Plus, your meeting time is your meeting time, allowing you to get valuable solo time with companies without interruption.
The virtual career fair also provided new ways to effectively make connections with recruiters online. Instead of seeing my name for the first time on a paper copy of my resume, recruiters view a complete list of their candidate meetings before the career fair. They can also download my resume. Several recruiters mentioned that they had my resume pulled up during our conversation or read it before our meeting. That really made me feel like more than a piece of paper in the recruiters' stack of resumes. Also, I didn't have to print resumes beforehand, which saved some of my University-allotted printing budget and trees!
Clear Next Steps
During the call, I found the "Chat" feature very beneficial. Recruiters could send links to their LinkedIn pages and sign-up forms where students could enter their information and join a mailing list for employment-related announcements. This saved me from taking so many notes during the actual conversation; I could focus my attention on our discussion. I also didn't have to worry about incorrectly spelling a name or missing a critical website link. I could send a connection request to a recruiter or bookmark a website with a company's job postings with one click.
Overall, this year's career fair was a success. I had some great conversations with representatives from ten different companies. In an increasingly digital world, the traditional ways of doing things are changing as well. By using new technology, virtual career fairs are an exciting new frontier for students and recruiters alike. I was not only satisfied with my experience using Career Fair Plus but preferred it to in-person fairs. I believe virtual recruiting events have a bright future and will become more effective over time. Now, if only I could've discovered this without a pandemic!