The career fair is back

Students prepare to meet Handshake employers in updated virtual event

More stories from Ben Strong

Praxis post
December 9, 2020

Photo by Sam Farley

UW-Eau Claire Career Services is putting on a career fair Wednesday, September 23rd. But organizing in-person during a pandemic is complex, so this year, it will all be done virtually over Handshake.

UW-Eau Claire is back in session for Fall and with it comes crunching leaves, cold air, and the career fair.

However, this year’s schedule comes with an unexpected guest: COVID-19.

The career fair is still set to continue, but the pandemic is changing how it’s happening, according to Staci Heidtke, the organizer of the career fairs and associated director of Career Services.

“In the past, we had one large fall career conference and a few specialized small fairs where students and employers could meet in-person,” Heidtke said. “This fall, we split the large fair into four smaller fairs to connect students with employers.”

Normally, a student would likely prepare their resume and talking points about themselves. This year, the workload before the career fair increased.

“Different than in the past, students should prepare by testing their video and audio in advance of the fair,” Heidtke said. “Students should also watch a short video from Handshake that demonstrates how to join an employer group or individual sessions.”

Moving to an online format doesn’t mean that as many students are going to come. Heidtke says that they’re expecting a lower turnout this year.

“During a typical semester, we have between 700 and 1,200 students attend our career conference (one large event),” Heidtke said. “We do expect fewer students to attend our virtual career fairs.”

According to Melody Maneufel, the outreach counselor for Career Services, students can expect a more orderly experience at the career fair.

“Students can conveniently schedule 10-minute, one-on-one or 30-minute, group information sessions with employers,” Manteufel said. “All students from all majors are encouraged to attend the virtual career fairs.”

Manteufel then went on to speak about student’s experiences at the career fair.

“While everyone gets a little nervous when talking with a potential future employer, I do think the career fair is an enjoyable experience,” Manteufel said. “Students often tell me they are nervous beforehand, but glad they attended afterwards.”

With a new adaptation for the career fair, interested employers will also adapt to the change. RMM Solutions Inc — based in Wausau, Wis. — is one of the employers attending this particular career fair.

Autumn Prazuch, an executive assistant at RMM Solutions, said they have attended multiple career fairs. This is Prazuch’s first career fair at UW-Eau Claire and her first virtual career fair, she said.

“The most challenging part is getting people to sign up beforehand,” Prazuch said. “Before, you didn’t know how many people were going to come, but you knew they would. Now, you’re supposed to have an idea of how many people are going to attend, but you can’t be sure.”

Along with the career fair being virtual comes the need to change how information is delivered. Normally, a vendor would hand out papers and be able to talk to students in a more personal manner.

“This career fair is far more structured,” Prazuch said. “Each of our representatives has been assigned a roll, and we’ve prepared a powerpoint that we’ll all be presenting.”

The career fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 23. Students can sign-up on Handshake under the “events” tab.

Strong can be reached at [email protected].