Graphics by Jessie Harrington
This fall, the Isenberg School of Management held their annual Career Day. With the University of Massachusetts campus closed for events at this time, Career Day was held virtually using Career Fair Plus, a platform designed to host virtual career fairs, featuring one on one sessions as well as a breakout room feature for smaller group sessions.
Melissa Salva, director of employer engagement at the Chase Career Center, notes that despite the change to a virtual format, employers were very eager to participate. More employers participated this year than last fall’s in-person fair, and 634 students participated. A total of 2,398 individual meetings with recruiters occurred during the course of the event.
Melissa explained the challenges the planning team faced while organizing the virtual Career Day, saying that one of the main challenges “was communicating the new Career Day participation process to students early and often.”
“With regards to the employers, I believe their biggest challenge was having to learn and master the multiple different career platforms being used” at the various universities, she explains.
Some advantages to virtual career days include lower barriers to participation for employers in terms of budget, time, and traveling; and fewer restrictions in terms of event venue, and number of participants. Another benefit to virtual events is that this allows for a broader, more diverse array of students and company professions to participate from wherever they are located.
Jessie and I are both interns with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and students in Isenberg, we both attended the Virtual Career Day this year and wanted to share our experiences with everyone!
Jessie: This is my second year attending the Isenberg Career Day. Last fall I attended in person, getting my first taste of the experience and gaining exposure to the different types of companies being showcased
Maddie: This was actually my first year attending the Isenberg Career Day, because I transferred into Isenberg last spring.
Some key things we took away from our first virtual Career Day were to prepare for your one-on-one interviews by researching companies, to dress in business attire just as if you were attending an in person fair and even though it may seem unknown as first, make sure to relax and be yourself when talking to all of the different companies!
Jessie: One thing that allowed me to make the most of my Career Day experience was doing my research beforehand. By going into the one on one session with a general understanding of companies that interested me, I was able to tailor my responses to their values and show my interest. By also searching for the different recruiters on LinkedIn beforehand, I was able to choose the recruiter I felt I would be most comfortable talking to based on their history, hence why I chose the UMass Hospitality, Tourism, and Management (HTM) alums.
Maddie: To prep for Career Day, I researched a majority of the companies attending and decided whether or not I was going to schedule an appointment to talk to them or drop in during their virtual drop-in room during the fair. I made sure to become familiar with the companies I was interested in and come up with about give questions to ask the recruiters during the fair. I also submitted my resume in advance so recruiters could have access to it.
Jessie: This year, as a sophomore HTM major, I signed up for a one on one meeting with Avalon Bay Communities, a property management company, in hopes of learning more about the company on an individual basis.
Maddie: As a junior marketing major, I was hoping to learn about internships that companies are offering this summer.
Jessie: My experience with Avalon Bay Communities was essentially a formal, 15-minute virtual interview. I interviewed with a 2010 UMass Amherst alum, who was also a HTM major and participated in some of the same extracurriculars I am currently involved in. It was great to be able to hear about his experiences with Avalon, and he asked me standard interview questions I’d been prepared to answer thanks to career prep sessions I attended in my HTM clubs the week before.
Maddie: I met with two companies one-on-one during the career fair - Newell Brands and ALKU. I learned a lot about each company and about internship opportunities they were offering for this coming summer. The one-on-ones were ten minutes long and held like an informational interview. I also utilized the virtual drop-in rooms to visit a variety of other companies throughout the day.
Jessie: A week later, I got a call back from the recruiter, and was offered a summer internship with Avalon for the 2021 summer. This is a position I’m confident I wouldn’t have been able to obtain without meeting with the recruiter through the Career Day! Even if I wasn’t looking for an internship, the experience allowed me to practice my interviewing skills and network with a UMass Amherst alum, and the company, in a professional manner.
Looking back on the event, Melissa believes that “leveraging a virtual platform like this allowed students and employers to connect this fall in a meaningful way that furthered the recruiting process, despite restrictions posed by the pandemic.” One student attendee wrote in her post survey “had it not been for the career fair, I would be floundering to navigate the recruitment process”. Melissa feels this event was a success and will lead to offering similar virtual opportunities in the future.