Fisher campus shot

Jack Baughman initially had reservations about the 2020 Fisher Fall Career Fair, which was converted into a virtual event in the wake of COVID-19. But the new format turned out to be something advantageous, and it might be a game-changer for future career fairs at the college.

Instead of walking around and striking up conversations with company representatives at their respective booths, students signed up for scheduled time slots with recruiters virtually.

“It felt more organized and structured and eliminated the inefficiency of waiting in line for hours to talk to recruiters,” said Baughman, a fourth-year finance major who is minoring in economics. “Overall, I still prefer to meet people in person, but this was very well-organized, which I appreciated.” 

Jack Baughman
Jack Baughman 

Sarah Steenrod, director of undergraduate career consultation and programs for Fisher’s Office of Career Management (OCM), said the office provided students with a 20-minute webinar that offered a preview of what a virtual career would entail.

This included advice on how to prepare for three phases of a career fair: “before,” which emphasized company research and personal goals; “during,” which covered introductions and professional presentation; and “after,” where follow through and thanking employers was covered.

“The OCM team also met with many students virtually leading up to the career fair on topics such as resume writing, preparing for the fair and interviewing,” Steenrod said.

All of the preparation was an asset for student Hadia Bousso.

"As I met more recruiters, I started feeling more comfortable,” she said. “As of today, I am very confident in communicating with recruiters or employers either virtually or in-person.”

Beyond confidence, Bousso — who will graduate in May with double majors in accounting and economics and double minors in international studies along with entrepreneurship and innovation — said she gained knowledge, communication skills and connections from the experience.

Hadia Bousso
Hadia Bousso

“I built connections from employers and I usually add people I meet at the career fair on my LinkedIn for long-term connections,” she said. “I was able to land interviews from different companies and it allowed me to drive my own career by learning what I liked and don’t like.”

Although traditionally held in person for one day, this year’s virtual fair spanned three days, which provided more flexibility for recruiters and students. The online fair drew 2,586 students, more than the 2,000 students who have traditionally attended the one-day event.

“Overall, we had more students attend with this format, which is pretty amazing considering the new and unique format of a virtual career fair,” Steenrod said.

Event organizers worked to make sure the software would meet the needs of all participants. This involved creating a “test career fair” as a dry run for both Fisher staff and recruiters to be sure everything was running smoothly.

Steenrod said added pressure was brought on by the fact Ohio State was an early adopter of the virtual career fair in the face of the pandemic, and the experience was new to everyone — college employees, students and recruiters alike.

Sarah Steenrod
Sarah Steenrod

Kaitlin Bressler, a senior recruiter with KeyBank, praised the OCM staff in a direct message for how it handled preparation for the career fair:

“We have talked as team non-stop about how thankful we are that you hosted that first test fair. We are SO appreciative! I know it’s been a busy couple of months, but everyone really went above and beyond — and you were the career office that we know of that offered us the option to even test the Handshake platform. So THANK YOU for all you have done!

With the success of the virtual fair, Steenrod admitted career fairs may never look the same again.

I could definitely see virtual career fairs sticking around — not just at Fisher, but in career fairs all around the country, because we now have a platform that's very easy to use for virtual setting,” she said. “There's no room reservations, no catering, no travel for the employer. So if they can just get a couple people to be available for a couple of hours, you can pull them together with a much shorter timeframe.”

Bousso said that although COVID-19 has pushed many interactions online, it’s important not to lose in-person engagement completely.

“As a business student, I believe both are necessary in the business world,” she said.

Regardless of format, Baughman underscored how important it is to make the most of these opportunities.

“Career fairs are intimidating,” he said. “I still get a little bit anxious about them and I've been doing this for four years now. With that, know yourself and be confident. You will never regret attempting to make a connection with someone, but you may find regret in never showing up in the first place.”

Learn more about Fisher's career fairs.