Virtual fair delivers student employment opportunities

By James Stein Oct 1, 2021
Students were able to meet with potential employers on Handshake, which serves as an employment platform similar to Linked-In. Photo: Thia Heilman
Students were able to meet with potential employers on Handshake, which serves as an employment platform similar to Linked-In. Photo: Thia Heilman

The Hart Career Center’s annual career fair found itself online again this year. The September 27 fair was moved to Handshake, which is IWU’s online career services platform. 72 diverse employers attended the fair and engaged with 107 students. Although many events on campus have shifted back into an in-person mindset, the career fair stayed virtual. 

“We decided to host the fair virtually due to the current pandemic. In addition, a number of employers expressed that they were still not yet able to travel in-person to campuses,” Hart Career Center director Warren Kistner said. 

Students were able to log in to Handshake, register for the fair, and sign up for group video sessions and one-on-one meetings with companies looking to hire. Companies at the fair were from several different industries with non-profit, social services, insurance, finance, technology, marketing, healthcare, government, education, criminal justice and service organizations all in attendance. Employers were either based in Bloomington-Normal or had locations across the country. 

Due to the pandemic, this year the career fair was held online making the event slightly different than in years past. In an in-person event the student could walk up to employers and learn about their field, possibly even finding new interests by forming a connection with the employer. But this year students were required to make a schedule beforehand of who they would meet with in their allotted time. 

“There are aspects of both virtual and in-person fairs that are the same, including the need for students to research organizations in advance, prepare to engage with employers, demonstrate an interest in organizations, and make intentional connections with employers in a student’s field of interest,” assistant director Patrick Zajac said. 

The main difference between in-person fairs and this year’s virtual fair was big of a role Handshake played in the event. Handshake is a resource that can be used by students to access job and internship opportunities, connect with employers and access Career Center resources. 

Though it couldn’t be held in person, it was important to the Center that it still happened in whatever way it could. 

“While we would have preferred an in-person fair, we were committed to ensuring that the contacts made between students and employers led to future engagement and possible interviews,” Zajac said. 

The fair is open to students of all class standings, and for first-year students it can serve as an opportunity to explore different careers available to their major and learn more about the options available to them during their undergraduate career. For sophomores through seniors, the fair offers the chance to secure an internship, establish connections and secure potential employment opportunities after graduation. 

Organizers said that they felt the virtual fair was successful and students echoed their positivity. 

“The career fair was an excellent opportunity for me to start making connections with employers, and to start the job hunt,” senior Rayaan Kapoor said. 

This fair was not the only event the Hart Career Center will host this fall. They will offer more specialized conversations about career paths at their “Careers in Social Justice” panel October 6th and will also host a “Nursing Career Fair” on November 10 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. As of September 30, this mode of the nursing fair has yet to be determined and will depend on the campus’s COVID statistics. 

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