Colleges hold virtual career fairs amid pandemic

Posted at 1:26 PM, May 13, 2020

Many college graduates are dealing with a tough start to a career this summer as many have lost their upcoming new jobs and internships to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Actually, got notification that they weren’t going to be able to do the program even virtually, so it's been an interesting experience coming home,” said recent graduate Grace Ubben. “I thought I was just going to have this month off before my dream internship in New York."

Ubben just graduated from the University of Florida with an advertising degree. Now, she and many of her friends have found their future plans on hold.

"When COVID-19 hit in early March and universities and colleges started to send their students back home and shut down and become virtual for the remainder of the semester, we also saw a lot of our employers decide to pause their hiring," explained Christine Cruzvergara, the vice president of higher education and student success at Handshake.

Handshake connects students across the country with job and internship opportunities, often facilitating career fair sign ups on campuses.

While many employers in the hospitality, food and beverage and arts and entertainment industries have halted their hiring, Handshake reports many businesses are still looking for new employees. So, some universities are turning to virtual career fairs and more.

"We have seen over 2,000 percent growth in virtual engagement from our employers, and that includes everything from virtual interviews, to virtual coffee chats, to virtual career fairs," said Cruzvergara.

"I think it could be really awesome, because it might give you a better chance of actually getting to talk to the people that you want to talk to,” Ubben said. “Whereas, at a career fair, you sometimes spend most of your time waiting in lines.”

Instead of battling the crowds at their college campus career fairs, students are instead booking virtual chats with potential employers.

"They’re able to provide a URL link to their Zoom room or whatever other video platform they’re using, so that students can just click on there and still connect with a recruiter or interviewer or business manager to be able to conduct and engage in that process," said Cruzvergara.

Handshake says recently their website hit a new record: 1 million messages sent between students and employers in a one-week time period. While many are disappointed in lost opportunities, Ubben hopes employers will take a second look at 2020 college graduates who hope to come out of this pandemic a stronger candidate.

"I think that employers should look at this as an opportunity to hire students who are strong and resilient and hungry to get jobs and hungry to learn from them," said Ubben.

Handshake says those students who continue to communicate and participate virtually with employers will be the ones who will not just survive, but also thrive in the current job market.