During the week of Sept. 14, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette will be hosting a completely virtual career fair for the first time in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Under normal circumstances, the career fair involves physical interaction with students and potential employers. Usually, the Office of Career Services encourages students to sport their most professional attire. However, the upcoming career fair looks quite different.
Originally, it was supposed that a limited contact job fair might be the best course of action in this pandemic. In this case, the only change at the fair would be additional space between attendees along with a mask requirement. Howbeit, the university took the safety one step further by moving the entire event online.
The university will connect students with potential employers through Handshake, an online job-searching platform targeted to college students.
Even though this online transition largely came to be because of the COVID-19 crisis, there are some advantages to hosting it online.
“What we’re sharing via Handshake, students can participate from anywhere, so they don’t have to be on campus. So now we’re able to offer this experience to a lot of our online students who may not have had access before,” Amy Chauvin, associate director of the Office of Career Services, explained.
The fair will be split into three days for different job areas: the STEM fair on Monday, Sept. 14; the business, government, and non-profit fair on Thursday, Sept. 17; and the nursing and allied health fair on Friday, Sept. 18.
Through Handshake, students can sign up for 30-minute group sessions or 10-minute, one-on-one sessions with employers. They can also choose to do it over a video, audio or text chat.
Chauvin said, due to its advantages, she could even see the university hosting digital fairs under normal circumstances.
“You don’t have to stand in line to talk to recruiters,” Chauvin said. “So, a lot of times our highly requested recruiters have long lines and sometimes students don't have time to wait in those lines between classes if they attend the fair, so they’re able to actually schedule time ahead of the fair to actually visit with those recruiters.”
These benefits also hold for recruiters. Some recruiters are able to participate in the fair now who may not have been able to in the past due to travel costs and time restraints.
There will be fewer recruiters participating in the fair, however. In the past, the fair has boasted between 100 and 120 total recruiters, whereas 52 total recruiters had registered for the upcoming event at the time of speaking. According to Chauvin, this reduction was due to the pandemic’s effects on the economy.
One UL Lafayette student, Julia Aucoin, had expressed these concerns about this outcome.
“Honestly, I want to see how job markets are changing from COVID,” she said.
Career Services will be offering several options to prepare students for the fair. One of these options will be a mock fair on Sept. 9, so students can get the feel of an online fair. More information on the pre-fair preparations can be found on Handshake.
UL Lafayette’s annual career fair typically presents an opportunity for liberal arts, business and nursing to expand their knowledge of their field outside of college. However, the job fair is open to majors in every field.
Environmental science major Lauren Bordelon had expressed interest in the career fair to gain exposure to the professional world.
“I hope to get more insight into interview etiquette,” she expressed. “...rather than hopping around applying at random places.”
In addition to the career fair, recruiters will be able to rent out interview rooms or set up tables in the Student Union during the Fall semester. The interview rooms are also available to students, should they need a space for online or over-the-phone interviews. These requests will also go through Handshake.