​​​​​​​Career fairs are always nerve-racking… but what about a virtual career fair?

Monday, February 8, 2021 - 12:12pm

Everything is different now and we have all been forced to adapt to a mostly virtual world. This can make job searching and networking extremely difficult, especially for those who are planning to graduate within the next year.

Luckily, the University of Iowa has created virtual opportunities for students to connect with hiring organizations just like they did pre-pandemic. In September, students were given the option to attend several virtual career fairs, in which they could sign up to either speak directly to a potential employer or listen to a presentation in a group session. Our CLA Interns, Brooke Bekeris and Claire Quigle, share their take on how their virtual fair experience went.

Claire Quigle:

I attended a group session and prior to the virtual meeting, I had done a little research on the company to know what to expect. I felt comfortable going in and prepared to ask questions. When I entered the meeting, I realized the session was set up so that all participants' cameras were turned off. This made me question whether the 30 minutes I spent getting ready to be on camera was a waste of time. There were three people from the organization on the call, and they started the session by giving a brief summary of their company. Then, they opened it up to Q&A. Naturally, none of the participants spoke up right away.

After a few seconds of silence, someone asked a question regarding interviewing and first impressions, which guided the rest of the discussion for this group session. While the employers did have good advice to give regarding this topic, I feel as though it was information I had already learned in my classes, and was more interested in hearing about this organization itself and opportunities they may have for students in the near future. After about 15 minutes of Q&A, the time for the session was up, and everyone got off the call. Out of the 20 or so participants, I think a total of three students spoke. I left the session feeling no more knowledgeable about the organization than before I entered the meeting.

Overall, if I could do the virtual career fair again I would choose to do a 1-on-1 session. Based on the experiences of my peers, they were much more informational. Also, by attending a 1-on-1 session, one will be able to actually make a connection with a potential employer, which can greatly help in the future.

Brooke Bekeris:

As the 2020 Fall semester approached I began to wonder how everything was going to unfold. As I prepared for the Virtual Career Fair both from an administrative perspective as well as a participant, I was genuinely concerned it was going to be a huge waste of time for students, employers, and the team that put the whole event together. However, to my surprise… I think I liked it better online.

During my sophomore year of college, I was required to attend the Career Fair for my Career Leadership Academy course. I entered the room full of employers and felt overwhelmed. As I was walking around getting a taste for all that the Career Fair was, I noticed a familiar company. I approached them and gave my rehearsed elevator pitch to only find out they weren’t listening. They heard me, but as soon as I was finished the employer told me to just submit my resume and walk away. I felt like they didn’t even care to network when that was what I had understood the whole Career Fair to be about. I didn’t understand and was rather bitter towards attending the fair in general after that.

However, this year the Career Fair was online, so I registered and prepared a little different. I signed into a one-on-one session and sat in the waiting room until it began. One-on-one sessions were scheduled for ten minutes and due to my past experiences, I figured it would only run for about three. That was until I got into my meeting and everything changed. By having a session planned out for both me and the employer, we were prepared to talk about anything and everything we could until the timer ran out. We discussed my elevator pitch, what their company was like and my future plans. It was fabulous and I couldn’t believe I was so opposed to attending. I think the virtual fair not only made the process of attending easier, but it made time for students and employers to relax and genuinely be present during their sessions.

I am currently in my last year at the University of Iowa and feel the Career Fair is crucial to me at this point. As graduation gets closer the need for a full-time job grows bigger, I was hoping for the Career Fair to introduce me to and provide networking that would help me in my job search. From my experience I would say that the fair, especially virtual, helped me prepare and was an effective way to network with potential employers.

-By Claire Quigle