The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many in-person events to move to virtual platforms, including the annual Stan State Career Fair.
The latest virtual Career Fair took place on March 3, the second virtual fair since the beginning of the pandemic.
Rebecca Stephens of the Stan State Career and Professional Development Center is the coordinator of all employer relation events, including the annual Career Fair. Stephens explains that she was not sure what to expect in fall 2020 as she began to organize the event's transition from in-person to online.
“Learning how to do it online was a challenge," Stephens said. "Our very first virtual event in fall of 2020 was super scary because we hosted on the Handshake platform and that was brand new. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn't know what to tell employers and students to expect, and I didn’t know what issues were going to arrive.”
One of the main issues that came during the transition to a virtual setting was student engagement.
Stephens states, “For fall of 2020, we did our first virtual Career Fair event for the new academic year, and we only had 39 students show up. Usually we have about 300 students come to our in-person event. I was mortified thinking how we can change this.”
With the low amount of student engagement for the first virtual career event, the Career Center had to make some changes, so they collaborated with the College of Business Administration. Stephens stated that they had a better turnout with employers and students the second time around.
Another issue that came up in fall 2020 was limited participation on Zoom. Stephens believes that students are not giving their 100% as they would have in-person.
“I got feedback from an employer. 70% of the students they met didn't even turn on their cameras. The students' behavior is also different in a virtual setting opposed to in-person,” Stephens said.
The switch to a virtual setting affected employer participation. Stephens states, “We also didn’t have as big of an employer engagement. I think we had about 20 employers turn out and normally we have 30.”
While some of the usual employers did not participate in the virtual fair, there were many employers who ended up attending for the first time, including Stanislaus County recruit manager Arielle Arias.
“Honestly, it was just a really exciting experience because most people don’t think of local government jobs when they are trying to plan a career, so to have that many people take interest in our organization just shows a shift in how people are thinking and how they want to contribute back to the places they live,” Arias said.
Arias stated that she plans on attending more events like this in the future.
“This experience was much more of a personable one. I know that people are eager to go back to how things were, but I hope something like this sticks around,” said Arias.
Although there have been many challenges and changes with shifting to virtual platforms, there were also some benefits, particularly in the eyes of some of the student attendees.
Mia Mendes (alumnus, Political Science) continued her higher education in Stan State’s Public Administration graduate program. This was her first time attending the Career Fair, and she says she had a great experience.
“It was really an amazing experience. I came away feeling really good about it. I really look forward to seeing where they go from here because this was a great starting off point for them,” Mendes said.
Prior to the event, the Career Center provided the students with many resources to help them become confident going into it. There were several workshops that students could attend, including Resume 101, Q&A sessions, tutorials, and more. Students also had support from Career Center coaches and the directors who were helpful throughout the whole experience.
"When I had a problem, I emailed Rebecca and within 30 seconds, there was a Zoom link. When I clicked on the Zoom link, everybody was there and helped me.. It was flawless and very well prepared," Mendes claimed.
Mendes highly recommended that all students and alumni attend these events in the future.
As with most individuals, industries and groups, the Career Center has adapted to the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.
For more information about future, similar events, the Career Center can be found on their Event/Program calendar.