Pandemics & Paychecks: Using virtual career fairs to find a job


Graphic by Kaitlin Bonacci

Libby Darrell, Special Features Editor

With an impressive network of over 50,000 living alumni, University students usually have no problem finding a career. Some of the University’s former students have gone on to work for Accenture, CNN, ESPN, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google and Johnson & Johnson, according to the University’s website. Also listed on the website is the mean starting salary of the Class of 2018 (averaging $59,628) and the percentage of the class that was employed, enrolled in graduate school, preparing for graduate school or volunteering within nine months of graduating (96%).  However, if you are a senior who is preparing to graduate or any other student at the University looking to be proactive about your career search, don’t worry. The pandemic has not succeeded in preventing us from returning to campus, and it will not prevent us from finding a career. With the Center for Career Advancement (CCA) open and operating, there is no excuse for students to not be on the job hunt. 


What is the CCA Offering This Semester?

As most of us are aware, the onset of COVID-19 has in many ways limited our usual methods of operation, both on-campus and at home. In order to protect students, faculty and staff in the CCA, the CCA has made adjustments to its previous methods of operations. The office has switched to conducting in-person visits by appointment only and remote counseling appointments. Students are now able to call, email or use Handshake to schedule appointments with the center. Additionally, the CCA conducts open group Zoom sessions every Monday-Friday to offer weekly career support. 

In addition to virtual counseling calls, the CCA has switched the two main career fair events of the fall semester to a virtual format. In order to ensure safety, the event is planned in a manner that University students can still engage, chat and contact employers on a personal level — the only difference being the communication is over Zoom. 


Who? What? Where? When?

In addition to planning events for the fall semester, the CCA has listed the below dates and times for two of the full-time virtual career fairs:

  • Thursday, Sept. 3 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Thursday, Sept. 10 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm 


Virtual Career Fair Format

Although many University students have never participated in a career fair on a virtual platform, there is nothing to fear. The CCA has created a virtual outline for the fair, which is familiar to in-person career fairs and will help students be comfortable in this new setting. 

Associate Director of Career Services and Internships Alison Ordonez is one of the many staff members working to help students prepare for the two virtual fairs. 

“Employers are able to host up to five small 30-minute group information sessions in addition to one-on-one individual student interactions over the duration of the career fair,” Ordonez said. “Students must first register to attend the virtual career fair and then will be prompted to create their schedule for the day of the fair by registering to attend both small group information sessions as well as one-on-one sessions with employers.”

Students will be able to sign up for one-on-one sessions on the event date, meaning they will have more control over their schedules and spend less time waiting in long lines to talk to specific employers. This is one of the many reasons why Ordonez thinks this new virtual format will be successful and beneficial. 


How Should I Prepare?

Some great resources about how to attend a virtual career fair and what to wear are available on Handshake, the University’s new online platform for career services, and its blog. Additionally, instructions on how to sign up for virtual fair sessions, participate in a career fair, and troubleshoot video problems can be located on Handshake’s Help Center.

We’ve listed a few below for your convenience:


Advice to Find a Job During the Pandemic

When asked about the current job climate and her advice on how students can maximize their efforts to find a career right now, Executive Director of Career Services at the CCA Pamela Keiser noted that students should not “sit back and be idle.”

“Students should do all they can to be aware of trends and activity in the industries they are interested in pursuing. Make time to read [and] follow things like the Wall Street Journal, business sections of the NY Times and other major newspapers in regions you’d like to pursue work,” Keiser said. She emphasized the importance of this information and how it will allow students to identify fields that are doing well and which ones are hurting. 

Additionally, she recommends connecting with alumni of the University. “LinkedIn and the Bucknell Alumni Directory are both great tools at students’ fingertips to do this work,” Keiser said. “Make good use of the Bucknell network – most alumni want to be helpful and really enjoy when students reach out to them to ask questions, and seek advice and suggestions.

With the two virtual career fairs right around the corner, University students should take the CCA’s advice and “not be idle.” Start preparing so when the new virtual career fair rolls around the corner, you know what to expect.

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