UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The collaborative spirit of Penn State's career offices has led to the successful transition of in-person career fairs to an online platform, providing students and alumni with the opportunity to continue to find career opportunities in a virtual environment.
The largest event of the semester, Fall Career Days, successfully hosted over 1,700 organization representatives, 6,097 student and alumni job seekers, and resulted in over 18,000 conversations. Career offices at each central, college, and campus-level will continue to host career networking events throughout the semester.
The success of a virtual Fall Career Days was evident in the feedback provided by both recruiting organizations and job-seeking students and alumni.
Joshua Garcia, recruitment manager specialist with Fisher Investments, was impressed with the diversity and caliber of Penn State students that his team connected with at Fall Career Days.
“I think what stood out for us at Penn State was the constant flow of students. There was never a time where we weren’t engaged with a student," Garcia said. “Overall this was probably one of our most successful events in a virtual setting”.
Transitioning such large-scale events that thrive on face-to-face interaction was a massive undertaking for the career professionals at Penn State. A University-wide virtual career fair vendor project team was assembled to identify a quality platform for students, alumni, and recruiting organizations.
Composed of representatives from central Career Services, college and campus offices, and Alumni Career Services, the main responsibility of this team was to select a single virtual vendor that would host all virtual career fairs at Penn State. This provides an advantage to students and employers as they can become familiar with and navigate just one virtual platform across multiple virtual events.
Bob Orndorff, senior director at Career Services, a division of Student Affairs, noted that there were significant advantages to using a virtual career fair platform.
Moving career fairs to a virtual format removes the geographic hurdle for many students and alumni. The virtual option provides both job seekers and recruiting organizations with an opportunity to attend multiple career and networking events without the added travel, expense, and time commitment.
“Many Great Valley students are working full time or have other personal and professional commitments, in addition to taking classes, that might prevent them from traveling to University Park for an in-person career fair,” said Karen Carli, career counselor with Career Management Services at Penn State Great Valley.
Karen Armstrong, a career counselor at World Campus, echoed that, “World Campus students overwhelmingly asked that we continue to offer virtual career fairs after COVID-19 is no longer a factor.”
Other advantages of the virtual career fair are that it is less costly and easier to manage, thus enabling a larger number of units and departments to run smaller, targeted fairs.
As the virtual career fair landscape continues to evolve, the career teams at Penn State continue to troubleshoot and adapt to make sure the experience is positive for everyone involved. Kim Fox, associate director of the Career Resources & Employer Relations office with the College of Engineering, was positive that the virtual experience would be beneficial in the long run.
“We experienced some technical challenges in learning and connecting to a new system,” Fox said, “but the events were well-received overall.”
Lisa Milne, assistant director for engagement with Alumni Career Services, noticed that feedback from job seekers was consistent with both in-person and virtual versions of Fall Career Days: lines to meet with organizations.
“While this does mirror what a typical day in the Bryce Jordan Center would be like with regards to some of our most popular employers, the wait time was not something our users were expecting in an online experience,” she said.
Career professionals are working hard to address lines and any concerns that job-seekers and employers share.
Garcia and his team at Fisher Investments said the number and wide variety of students stood out at Fall Career Days and think that the virtual environment helps to encourage students to connect with a wider variety of potential employers.
“Something that I think has been a bit more rewarding is that students seem to be more engaged. We know that with the current environment they have a lot going on but those who are willing to participate seem to be more prepared, more engaged, and more willing to network and meet with other employers than in the past”, he said. “I feel like this environment allows them to have more of that one-on-one, uninterrupted time and not feel the pressure of those around them or feel the pressure of needing to visit all the employers. They’re a little more focused and determined to figure out what is their next career objective”.
Fall Career Days, a multi-day event usually hosted in mid-September, is traditionally held with large crowds of students and employers at the Bryce Jordan Center. The virtual format delivered in bringing job seekers and hiring organizations together in a meaningful way.
Career professionals at Penn State are continuing to create new networking events and fairs while continuing to provide countless virtual services to all students, alumni, and hiring organizations. To find a career office to support you visit https://studentaffairs.psu.edu/career/career-offices.