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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Academics & Research

Virtual career fairs held for students online


Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Although career fairs and job outlooks may appear differently this semester, prospective employees and University Career Services staff have been working hard to maximize each virtual career fair experience.

A career fair is an event where recruiters and students can meet to discuss internship and career opportunities, according to the UCS website.

When these fairs took place in person before the COVID-19 pandemic, students stopped by various booths to hand in resumes and speak to recruiters.

Due to the pandemic, UCS has held two virtual fairs via Cougar Pathway during the fall semester. One was the All Majors Career Fair on Sept. 16, which 863 students and 45 employers attended. The other is the Energy Career Fair on Oct. 2.

Students can RSVP through Cougar Pathway, which also allows them to sign up for workshops and meet-and-greets.

UCS staff worked to set up the career fairs’ structures within the online platform and made sure that employers set up virtual booths with job notices and video links.

They hosted training for these employers, as well as Demo Days for students, according to UCS assistant director of Employer Development and Relations Caitlin Deis.

“We tried to truly make sure students felt comfortable engaging and using the platform,” Deis said.

Virtual Career Fair logo image. | Courtesy of Caitlin Deis

Virtual Career Fair logo image. | Courtesy of Caitlin Deis

For UCS, the process of recruiting employers has not changed. The staff sends emails and participates in consultation calls in addition to hosting the second Employer U, an interactive session that allows employers to understand the University’s student population.

“We have seen a decrease in some employers, but we have also experienced an increase in employers from the east (and) west coast … Due to the virtual nature of our events,” Deis said.

“More employers are able to participate because they do not have to pay to travel. It opened up new opportunities for our students!” Deis added.

For students hoping to land a job virtually, Deis suggests scheduling an appointment or popping in for a virtual chat with a career counselor through Cougar Pathway. She also says that students can browse through the UCS YouTube channel for recorded workshops and tips.

“I would definitely recommend students log into Cougar Pathway and view the 800-plus jobs that are listed within the platform,” Deis said. “The jobs are posted by employers looking to recruit UH students. Not all students qualify for every job, but this is a great starting point!”

The six college-based career centers are also hosting virtual career fairs. The Colleges of  Engineering, Business, Technology and Hotel and Restaurant Management will have fairs available for students this fall.

Chemical engineering junior Glenda Chang has been going to career fairs since her sophomore year, but the Engineering Career Fair on eConnection this past month was her first time attending virtually.

“It was less hectic since it was done in the comfort of my own room and I didn’t have to physically stand in line,” Chang said.

Chang enjoyed the privacy and lack of crowds, as well as the ability to queue in line for up to three companies rather than having to wait to speak to only one recruiter at a time.

She also pointed out that company representatives’ names and emails were displayed on screen, making it easier for her to remember them when needed.

On the other hand, Chang said she had to wait over an hour for three different companies that initially indicated they would only take 30 minutes to get to her.

Technical difficulties, different virtual platforms and the inability to submit different electronic resumes to each company were also frustrating.

For fellow students, Chang said persistence is key. 

“Persevere because many companies are still hiring interns/co-ops and full time,” Chang said. “I know that most, (but not all) of the companies that came out to the fair kept their offers to the interns this past summer.”

 “Don’t let the fact that it’s virtual deter you,” Chang added. “It is still a good way to network with company reps so that they recognize you if you do talk to them again in the future.”

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