Due to the unfortunate circumstances caused by COVID-19, college campuses and universities are undergoing several drastic changes. One of these changes includes how career fairs are being conducted. Even if you aren’t a current college student, you may still be looking for networking opportunities through career fairs, but where do you even begin to prepare?
How virtual career fairs work
Much like an in-person career fair, these networking events exist to help recruiters and hiring managers to connect directly with job seekers face-to-face. While networking sites like LinkedIn exist, it is always beneficial to be able to meet someone directly and have the opportunity to make a great first impression.
Generally, virtual career fairs are comprised of virtual chatrooms or teleconferences. It may be arranged so that you are split into these chat rooms with specific companies or that you register with specific companies beforehand. Every career fair may be a bit different in the way they function, but regardless of the method or layout, the purpose remains the same.
How to find virtual career fairs
If you’re a current college student, your school is most likely sending you these opportunities through email. With virtual classes, we’re sure your inbox is probably jam-packed, but it is still important to sift through those various emails and actually read them.
If you’re having trouble finding those emails in your inbox or you simply would like to plan ahead, you’re going to want to check out Handshake. When I was a college student, I had a Handshake account for most of my time there without even realizing it. Most schools do use this job board and connect your student account for you. All you really need to do then is activate it.
Not only is Handshake a great resource to find and apply to job opportunities, but it will also show you different career fairs or networking opportunities at your school. It allows you to RSVP to these events and will even show you who is attending.
If you are not a college student but still looking to attend career fairs virtually, check out these resources as well.
Preparing for a virtual career fair
Before jumping online in your fraternity or sorority letters in the middle of the library, you’ll need to do a few things to help prepare yourself.
Do your research on the companies
Whether it be virtual or in-person, you should never be going to a career fair without having done research on the companies in attendance. Conducting research will not only give you a better idea of what to expect when attending, but it will also help you to develop questions for recruiters, which will make you stand out from the competition.
To help guide you through your research, consider the following:
- Are company reviews available online?
- Did the company recently have any big announcements?
- How large is the company?
Double-check your technology
Nothing seems worse than having a great conversation with a recruiter in a chat room and then having your internet go down. Before you log on, be 100% sure that everything you need is working. Is your internet working? Is your laptop charged? Do you need certain software downloaded to join the session?
Do not expect to login to the session right when it starts without checking all of these aspects first. Be ready and checking your technology at least 30 minutes before the start time. Sure, you may have to wait a bit, but it’s still a better option than not knowing you couldn’t sign in at all until it’s too late.
If video cameras are an option when doing anything remotely, always choose to have your camera on. Not only is it the polite thing to do, but it also helps recruiters put a face to your name and what you are telling them.
Since your video camera will be on, you’re also going to want to dress professionally. This can mean wearing a button-up with a tie or a nice blouse, but we also urge you to wear nice pants as well. Should you ever have to get up during the meeting, you’ll be really embarrassed if everyone on the call gets a glimpse of your boxers. Look the part even if they won’t be able to see all of it.
Be aware of your surroundings
We understand that as a college student, you probably don’t have a private office to go to for such events. However, that doesn’t mean potential recruiters want to be talking to you while they can see your roommate folding laundry in the background.
If you can, choose a relatively quiet or private area to sit while attending the virtual career fair. Ideally, you’ll want your background to be relatively plain and professional (i.e. don’t sit in front of your “Saturdays are for the boys” flag.)
Practice speaking to the camera, not to your screen
This step is perhaps one of the more difficult ones when it comes to attending virtual meetings. Naturally, we want to look at the person we’re speaking to while we speak to them, so we look at them on our screens. However, it will seem more professional on your part to actually look at your camera when speaking.
Most video cameras have a light that turns on when the camera is on, so focus on that if you need to. When speaking directly to the camera, it shows you are engaged in the conversation and it lessens any distractions. It’s going to feel off at first, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it.
Although virtual career fairs may feel uncomfortable, they are no less important than in-person career fairs. If you are serious about networking and finding a job, we urge you to attend these events and put in the same amount of effort as you would if it were in person. If you’re still nervous about attending, check out our article here and continue to check in every Tuesday and Thursday for more articles.