Virtual career fairs come in handy for students
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Meeting in person is always better for job interviews, of course. Employer and potential employee get to shake hands – well, at least that used to be the case – and look each other in the eye in what might qualify as a life-changing chemistry experiment.
But now that the science of hiring has been split like an atom by the COVID-19 pandemic, the process has a new dynamic: virtual career fairs.
Grand Canyon University has wasted no time jumping into the new realm with three computerized get-togethers and has eight more scheduled for the next month.
The format is simple: Employers are available in two-hour increments, and students can go into the Career Connections portal and sign up for sessions with employers of their choice. All communication is typed into instant messages.
If a candidate interests an employer, a Zoom meeting can be arranged for another time. And while there aren’t any handshakes, it still means that jobs are within the grasp of GCU students – and they appreciate access of any kind.
“It was a pretty fun experience,” said Matthew Brower, a senior accounting major. “It was a really good testament to how GCU is making the most out of a unique situation.”
Brower saw another benefit:
“There was definitely less pressure. You had a little more time to gather yourself and ask the right questions. Obviously, it would be better to see them in person, shake their hand and have them see you all dressed up.”
Clearly, that handshaking tradition is going to be difficult to give up for a while. But Brandon Dozier views the virtual job fairs as a budding new tradition.
“I think it’s a look into the future a little bit,” said the finance and economics major, who took part from his home in Covington, Wash. “As we get more technologically advanced, we’ll do more of this.
“I kind of liked it. Obviously, it’s not like the exact same, talking to face to face, which might be a little memorable. But I got some good contacts out of it.”
Dozier is scheduled to graduate in December but is doing the smart thing – he’s on the job hunt now. One of the companies he “talked” to at the virtual career fair was State Farm Insurance, represented by Talent Brand Specialist Sandy Carlock.
“I thought it was good,” Carlock said of the fair. “For interaction, the people asked really great questions – the same questions you get at an in-person career fair. Your site (Career Connections) was really easy to use.”
Here’s what it was like from the employer side: Carlock carried on multiple instant-message conversations at the same time, relying on automated answers, if necessary, when she couldn’t type fast enough. “I was able to download resumes easily from the site,” she added.
And make no mistake – State Farm is hiring, for both full-time and part-time positions. It’s not as if the company is looking for a particular type of major, either.
“The world is your oyster at State Farm because it’s so big,” she said, then added a bit of humor:
“Most people who work for insurance companies don’t have insurance degrees. What about criminal justice? We love criminal justice. A lot of the majors move smoothly into our company.”
Virtual career fairs are nothing new for State Farm – Carlock said they were part of the equation even before the pandemic. She finds herself amazed when students have what she calls a “Virtual? We’re really good at virtual” attitude about this brave new world.
“They’re probably better at it than me,” she said.
Elisha Fronda, President of the Sports Business Club and winner of the Senior of the Year award at the Honors College banquet last week, was another virtual career fair attendee. He’s still living on campus because he didn’t want to try to fly to his home in Hawaii, and he hopes to find work in Phoenix.
He kept things in perspective:
“I’m just grateful that I’m still able to finish out my GCU career. It would have been nice to have my family see me walk at Commencement, but there are people across the globe who are losing a lot more than I am.”
GCU’s Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) Centers and Strategic Employer Initiatives and Internships (SEI) have scheduled a number of events for the next month. All are available for signup on the Career Connections website.
Brower had these pieces of advice for students:
“Research the employers beforehand. Know who you want to talk to. Pick a top five going in. Ask the right questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them if there are employment opportunities because a lot of them are hiring.”
Even if you can’t shake hands.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
VIRTUAL CAREER FAIRS
(All two hours)
Health services: 10 a.m. Wednesday, April 29
Government sector and nonprofits: 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 5
Education: 10 a.m. Thursday, May 7
Business: 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 12
Ministry and camps: 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 13
Arts and entertainment: 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 19
Engineering: noon Wednesday, May 20
Technology: 11 a.m. Thursday, May 21
LOPES LAUNCH PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS
(All one hour)
“Summer to Sophomore” Webinar: 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 5; 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 6; 4 p.m. Thursday, May 7
Resume Workshop: 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 6; 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 20
Internships: 11 a.m. Friday, May 8
“Career Development Amid COVID-19” Webinar: 11 a.m. Monday, May 11
Interviewing and Professionalism Workshop: 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, and 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 27
Pre-Health: Preparing your Graduate School Applications: 11 a.m. Monday, May 18