Virtual Career Fairs - Fantastic or Nightmare?

I know exactly what you are thinking: "Why did all of the career recruitment have to get changed just as we started our full-time job search?" Answer: Covid-19. The unfortunate answer to almost any question pertaining to 2020. When I first found out about this, I freaked out big time. Obviously I was grateful that our fantastic Spartan Engineering Career Services team at The Center was able to find a way to give us the opportunity to interface with employers in a career fair setting despite the pandemic, but that was about it. I was completely of the mindset that this was a "better-than-nothing" scenario.

So I decided that I would reach out to The Center and try to find out more about how a virtual career fair would work. Luckily, Garth Motschenbacher (if you don't know Garth, he is absolutely wonderful; I suggest introducing yourself ASAP) was more than happy to give me the scoop on these opportunities. Here is what I was able to learn:

So most of us know the pains of the traditional in-person career fair. Long lines, loads of sweaty engineers, awkward conversations with the people around you in line, and employers who tell you to apply online or that they weren't hiring your particular discipline. The great thing about these fairs was the connections that you could make. There were always a diverse mix of companies for us to meet and learn about. I think we all had our personal favorites, as well as the companies that we had always dreamed of being a part of, but there were also a lot of companies that we had not heard of that we could always interact with. The downside to the abundance of opportunities that was provided by these fairs was the amount of wasted time. Every year, you had to clear your whole schedule just to make sure that you were able to talk to all of the companies that you wanted, and sometimes you couldn't even talk to them all.

And that is where this years virtual career fairs really take the cake. These career fairs are centered around one-on-one meetings with employers and group sessions. Yes that is right, Career FAIRS! As in MULTIPLE career FAIRS! The Center has decided to break up the usual large fair event into smaller, virtual career fairs by major. This ensures that when you attend a career fair to interact with a company on your major's fair day, they will be looking for students with your major. You are by no means limited to only your particular day, but it is important to note that employers will be looking for students with that particular major at that fair.

In addition to this smaller size, companies will be able to host two different types of sessions: The first is a large group sessions for all students who are interested in the company and want to learn more about their functionality and opportunities. These sessions will be a great way to both learn more about a particular company and let them know that you are interested in them. The second is a traditional one-on-one meeting. This format will mirror your traditional career fair experience, giving you the opportunity to ask questions about a specific position that was posted or make a connection with someone within the company. There are a limited number of spots for each of these opportunities and they will not be held on a first-come first-serve basis the day of the fair. All of the opportunities to interface with employers will be scheduled meetings that are available to book NOW! Yes, you read that right. Career Fair sign up is happening RIGHT NOW!

So this brings us to the question, are these new fairs virtual fantastic or a nightmare. The answer: Depends. These virtual career fairs are going to give students the opportunity to build out and pre-plan all of their activities for the day. You will be able to pick which employers you talk to, when you talk to them, and how you are going to interact with them. However, you won't be able to show up the day of and wing it. You are going to have to be proactive to maximize your opportunities at this year's career fairs. So the solution is simple: BE PROACTIVE!! You have worked for years for this moment. Don't let this pandemic change the goals that you had set for yourself years ago. This really is going to be a fantastic opportunity, but if you aren't proactive, it could be your worst nightmare!

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