Career Coaching, Job Search, Networking

Navigating a Virtual Career Fair

hands holding a coffee cup
By Laura Quaglio

In the past 10 months, we’ve learned to embrace virtual communications, from Zoom meetings with colleagues, to FaceTimes with family, to Jackbox Games with friends. Even so, attending something online that’s exponentially larger—say, a career and internship fair featuring more than 100 employers—may be brand new. That’s the case for the upcoming Rutgers University–New Brunswick Virtual Career and Internship Fair, which will be held on Friday, February 5, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET).

“What’s unique about our fairs is that they are free and available to all alumni. Some schools limit their fairs to student candidates,” says Kaitlyn (Zullo) Weiss SC&I’15, associate director for strategic outreach at Rutgers Career Exploration and Success. “We’re doing our best to offer the same events and services we did pre-COVID because we recognize the importance of finding an internship or job, especially now.”

The ins and outs of online fairs

As career and internship fair coordinator for Rutgers Career Exploration and Success, Lisa Goddard SEBS’19 launched these programs into cyberspace. She says there are some perks to hosting a career fair online.

“One benefit is there is not a capacity limit on the number of candidates,” she says. That’s important now, since regulations for in-person events can change at the drop of a hat. Another benefit is the variety of ways to connect with recruiters, including video, audio, and chat communications. Plus, virtual fairs mean virtually zero expenses: no travel, no hotel, not even lunch at a food truck. And you don’t need to live near the school to attend.

Of course, online events have their own challenges. Most notably, they require a bit more advance planning. “You can’t walk around and browse the booths or stand in line to talk to an employer,” says Weiss. “You need to schedule your time with the organizations you wish to meet.”

Below, Goddard shares some insider tips on how to do just that:

Get registered ASAP!

Set up a Rutgers Handshake account (if you don’t have one already) and download the mobile app to your phone. This makes it easier to register—as does a Rutgers Instagram video titled How to Register for the Virtual Career & Internship Fair Series.

Schedule one-on-one meetings with recruiters

Although sign-ups are possible on the day of the fair, there are a limited number of time slots, so try not to wait until the last minute. For these meetups, you can connect via video conference, video chat, or phone call. Bonus tip: Exchange your LinkedIn and other contact info at the start of your session. Sessions last only 10 minutes, and you want to make sure you can send the recruiter a thank-you note afterward.

Choose companies to visit in group sessions

In these video conferences, employer representatives share information about their organizations, their hiring policies, and their workforce needs. These options don’t require advance scheduling. Bonus tip: Use LinkedIn and corporate websites to do preliminary sleuthing, so you can choose companies that are the best fit for you.

Update your Handshake account

Make sure your school year, GPA, major, work authorization status, and résumé are up to date. Also set your profile to public and your privacy visibility to community.

Double check your tech

You’ll need a reliable internet connection and a device with speakers, a microphone, and (ideally) a webcam or built-in camera. The Chrome and Firefox browsers are recommended for best performance while participating in this fair. Do a tech check a few days before the fair, so you can remedy any issues.