Virtual career fair offers unique networking experience for students

Suffolk University’s Career Development Center hosted its annual job and internship fair March 4. 

This year’s fair was different from past years, and took place in a virtual setting due to COVID-19. Students registered for the event through Handshake, an online networking platform for college students, then attended meetings via Zoom.

The online event gave students a chance to meet and connect with employers from a variety of industries, offering both internships and full-time entry level job opportunities. Students could register to attend 30-minute group sessions or 10-minute one-on-one sessions with participating recruiters.

Forty employers participated in the fair, including Honeywell, Enterprise Holdings, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Current students of all majors as well as recent alums of the College of Arts and Sciences and Sawyer Business School were welcomed to attend. 

Meeting virtually, students were not able to experience the typical etiquette of a normal career setting – including handshaking, direct eye contact or full formal attire. 

However, because of the virtual nature of the event, students were able to schedule sessions in advance, many of which were one-on-one meetings with employers. 

The Career Development Center has begun receiving evaluation surveys from participating students, and so far, the feedback is positive.

Dave Merry, associate provost and executive director of Suffolk’s Center for Career Education, said he is incredibly proud of the Career Center’s work in making this event a success.

“Students who have responded so far to our post-event surveys indicate that they had a great deal of success in making connections with employers, and the employer survey respondents were pleased with both the format of the virtual event and the preparedness of our students,” he said.

A total of 446 student-to-employer connections were made through both group and one-on-one sessions. 

Merry said the center is pleased that the number of participants were comparable to previous years’ events, especially given the recent difficulties of career centers engaging students and employers at a normal scale due to COVID-19 and the transition to remote settings. 

With the event taking place in a unique format, participants were able to identify new beneficial features and advantages, such as pre-planned schedules with more personalized sessions.

“In the future, we’ll be looking to combine the advantages of in-person events with the newly-found benefits of the virtual career fair format,” Merry said. 

The Career Development Center has a variety of virtual workshops, information sessions and networking opportunities lined up throughout the remainder of the semester. Further details for these events can be found on Handshake

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