By Cassie Harrison
Like many others, graduation is right around the corner. One more term of a full-time course load and I’ll be in the real world, meaning it’ll be time to start my career. But how does one prepare themselves for their future in these unprecedented times? How do you network and make industry connections when everything has gone digital? These are the questions that haunted me, until I learned that Partners for Employment (P4E) would still be hosting their annual career fair, only this time virtually.
P4E is a collaboration between the University of Guelph, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College. For 26 years, they have been the liaison between students, alumni and employers through their in-person career fairs. Now that this is a virtual fair, how do you prepare for a networking event, that’s entirely online? After attending the in-person career fair, I had a few ideas, and put them to the test.
Step 1: Registration & how-to guides
After receiving the email invitation to the fair, I followed the provided link to the Facebook event page for more information. From here, I learned that the recommended steps to prepare were similar to the ones for the in-person fairs. To begin, I registered for the fair which granted me pre-event access to the list of employers attending, along with the roles they were currently hiring for. Next, by signing in to the virtual recruiting platform, I could set up my profile as well as access the instructional guides on navigating the virtual fair.
Step 2: Employer research
A few days before the fair, I had a look at the job board, where a couple of roles sparked my interest. I made note of them and was sure to look at the fair schedule to find the times each employer was hosting chat room sessions. This helped me create a plan for the day and schedule accordingly.
Step 3: Resume & cover letter
Now, all I needed to do was update my resume and cover letter to highlight my skills based on the roles I was applying for. Once completed, I uploaded each document onto my profile for employers to view. I also practiced an ‘elevator pitch’ about myself so that I could easily begin conversations with employers. I ended up using this in private chats.
Step 4: Network & Q&A
Fast forward to the day of the fair - I found the virtual aspect of the fair to be very helpful. I was able to ask a lot of questions, while learning from the Q&A that took place between other students and the employers. It was also convenient that I could copy and paste the answers the employers provided in a word document for later. A few of the employers even provided tips for standing out when applying to their organization, which I found to be really valuable.
I spoke to Urban Planning student, Kimberley Cheng after the fair. Kimberley said, “The P4E virtual career fair was well organized and informative. As the job market and job search process looks very different now, it was great to get experience networking virtually. The employers were prompt to start a chat with me, quick in their responses and answered all the questions I had about the company and positions they hire.”
Step 5: Follow-up
Following the fair, I was sure to connect with the employers I spoke with through LinkedIn or email, by thanking each of them for their time. For the roles that really interested me, I expressed my interest in the positions, including a quick summary of how my past experience would make me a great candidate for the job.
Based on my experience, I can confirm that preparation and planning prior to the fair is key to having a successful virtual fair experience!
P4E will be hosting their next virtual event, Job Fair, on February 2, 2021! Job fair is geared towards students and alumni looking to connect with employers currently hiring for summer, co-op, full-time, part-time, and permanent or contract openings. For more virtual fair tips and event information, please visit the Partnerships for Employment website.