Anuar Pinto Velasco had done the traditional career fair as a communications student at USC, standing along with his peers on Trousdale Parkway in his best suit and waiting for his chance to impress a recruiter.
While Velasco was able to land a position, he admitted that a four-hour event often yields only a handful of face-to-face encounters with recruiters. A good chunk of students’ time is spent waiting in those infamous lines.
The virtual career fair changed all of that.
“I liked the fact that I was able to maximize efficiency,” said Velasco, who attended the 2019 virtual fair. “Instead of wandering from one booth to another or waiting in crowds, you can do more research on companies in real time while you’re in the queue. Plus, recruiters are assessing you on merit, not your physical appearance.”
These are just a few of the benefits of taking the career fair online, which USC students and recent alumni can experience for themselves on Thursday, said Dakota Serafin, advisor at the USC Career Center.
“For people that really love the in-person fair, the virtual fair is set up similarly — you can see all of the booths, choose which ones to visit and see what positions they’re hiring for,” Serafin said. “But in real life, you can physically be in only one line at a time, whereas in this platform you’re able to wait in multiple lines at the same time.”
The end result is more time with more recruiters — something every job seeker will appreciate.
COVID-19 means virtual is the new normal
USC has been hosting virtual job fairs since 2016, so when COVID-19 and social distancing mandates forced just about every function of society into the virtual space, the USC Career Center was already there.
Trojan Talks, employer information sessions, career advising and resume reviews, for example, had already moved online, said Jennifer Kim, director of employer relations and research.
And today’s college students have grown up embracing interactions in virtual spaces as second nature, and many leading employers were beginning to shift online for candidate screening and other functions as well.
The current global pandemic required everyone else on board with the trend, noted Carl Martellino, associate vice provost for career services.
“Before, some employers were circling the pool; they knew it was there. But this forced people to jump in the pool because there’s no other option now,” he said. “[COVID-19] sped up the trend big time.”
This year’s virtual career fair features more than 60 U.S.-based employers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and another 30-plus Asia Pacific companies from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., all seeking to hire Trojans. Participating employers represent a variety of industries, including recognizable names like Live Nation, United Airlines, the FBI, FEMA, The Archer School for Girls and more.
Preparing for the virtual career fair
Career advisors agree that preparation is key, whether in front of a recruiter in real life or chatting with one at a virtual fair. But current economic and societal conditions mean students may need to adjust their strategies and expectations.
Lori Shreve Blake, senior director for alumni and student career services, says now is the time for job seekers to hone their virtual interview skills and package their experience to be showcased online.
Organizations still have challenges, and they need sharp people to solve them.
Lori Shreve Blake
“Employers are still hiring, and students and graduates should make the most of the current environment and prepare for the possibility of virtual internships and jobs,” she advised. “USC students and graduates have a reputation in the employer community as being highly qualified and ready for the job market. Organizations still have challenges, and they need sharp people to solve them.”
She encourages job and internship seekers to use the virtual career fair and other opportunities to strategically network. And, of course, she reminds every USC student and recent graduate to tap into the mighty resource that is the Trojan Family network: “Use the USC Career Network and USC alumni LinkedIn page. Remember, there are more than 400,000 USC alumni, and Trojans continue to open doors for Trojans.”