CASA hosts virtual Career Fair amid COVID-19 challenges

FMU hosted a virtual career fair in place of an in-person career fair March 24.

“The main goal is to help connect students with employers and find jobs or internships that they can use for educational opportunities or for career opportunities,” said Jennifer Kunka, associate provost for advising. “We are happy to have the opportunity to do a virtual career fair through Handshake.”

Career fairs at FMU were moved to online platforms last fall due to concerns about COVID-19, and they have continued to be held that way ever since. While the interaction that in-person career fairs allow has been greatly missed by both students and prospective employers, the virtual experience is currently the best and safest alternative.

With virtual career fairs, students lose the chance to walk among tables and decide when to make their move, but they gain the structure of scheduled interviews. However, in both cases, it is recommended that students dress professionally and research the employers ahead of time.

“There’s the benefit that you have the opportunity to meet with employers who would normally not travel to attend our career fair,” Kunka said. “It’s cost effective for them.”

Will Carswell, director of career development, said a number of employers have voiced their appreciation for virtual career fairs because of the travel or expenditure restrictions within their organization. For this career fair, FMU welcomed 35 employers to meet and connect with FMU students and to share job and internship opportunities at their companies.

“The Career Development Office has an extensive list of employers who have long been associated with the university and are interested in our students,” Carswell said. “Additionally, the school of health sciences and the school of education have strong community partnerships that we relied on. We are grateful 35 employers have agreed to join us, even during the COVID-19 pandemic and in a challenging economy.”

Since COVID-19, employers have held back a little bit on hiring, but as things slowly settle, they seem to be coming back around.

Hopefully, there will be a heavy period for hiring students.

Although every student who attends the career fair does not leave with a job or internship opportunity, both Kunka and Carswell encourage students to attend.

“Walking into a career fair and coming out with a job is often the exception, not the rule,” Carswell said. “Every career fair offers numerous chances to build a network of mentors, to strengthen your professional skills, to learn more about various industries and to present yourself as a person, not a piece of paper.

Over 80 percent of all jobs come through networking. Even if attending a career fair doesn’t result in a job offer, students still gain experience with interviewing and networking and have the chance to make a lasting impression on a potential future employer. Participating in more than one career fair can be beneficial because students can perfect their interviewing skills and lessen the anxiety associated with the process.

Eventually, the goal is to return to in-person career fairs when it is safe to do so, but for now, FMU will continue hosting virtual career fairs. If you missed this career fair, the Career Development Office is always available to assist students in their professional endeavors, offering resume reviews, career counseling, help with job or internship searches and more.

“Nothing is more rewarding than helping students prepare for the next phase of their life and career,” said Carswell.