The University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Career and Internship Fair will be held differently this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The highly anticipated biannual event that is organized by Career and Professional Success (CaPS) at UNH will take place next Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. through the Handshake app.
In an interview with The New Hampshire (TNH), Director of Marketing, Communication and Engagement Tyler Wentworth, and Director of Employer Relations Raina Sprague of CaPS talked about their preparations, challenges and also advice for students that will be attending the event.
Sprague said that CaPS’ stakeholders were heavily involved during their planning process. The process for the fair started right after the shutdown of UNH earlier in spring. “We launched an employer poll right when COVID kicked off because we want to hear from our employers [about] what’s going on in the job market,” she clarified.
In addition to that, right around April, CaPS did another employer poll for all of the employers they have been partnering up with to ask about their plans and recruiting process. “We want to hear from them directly, it’s not a career fair if there are no employers,” she added.
CaPS’ main priority during the planning process was to make sure that they are equitable to everyone that will be involved. “We want to make sure that our employers can recruit our students whether they’re in person, in quarantine at home, or anywhere,” she said.
Aside from thinking about students and employers, CaPS also had to determine a virtual option that would help them make this event easier to organize, especially during a pandemic. “We’ve really researched and tested and decided with Handshake,” said Sprague.
In terms of their biggest obstacle to host the career fair this semester, Wentworth said that there were “a lot of challenges with bringing everything online.” However, previous events that were hosted by CaPS this semester have shown that students are capable to adapt to attending virtual fairs quickly.
Moreover, CaPS has been providing students with a tremendous amount of help to prepare them for such events. “We are getting creative on how to educate our students on how this platform is going to work and how students can present themselves professionally,” said Wentworth.
On the other hand, CaPS has also been educating employers on how to use this virtual platform. “Handshake releases fair products, new to all of their institutions and all the employers on there,” clarified Sprague. Nonetheless, she said that CaPS, as well as employers, have made “great strides” from all of the events that they have had.
Considering the vast transition that CaPS has done in such a short period of time, both Wentworth and Sprague were happy with how the CaPS department at UNH have managed to get through the biggest obstacle which is educating student and employers about this new technology. “It is really impressive the way that our team has thought through not just the students’ experience but the employers’ experience too,” said Wentworth.
When asked about the range of employers that CaPS are bringing in, Sprague pointed out that there are multiple considerations that take place. It is important for CaPS to know which companies are hiring, and CaPS tries to bring in a variety of companies, not only the big names but also small and medium companies. CaPS is also focused on matching students’ needs to employers that are hiring the best they can.
CaPS’ most important advice to students is preparation. “First and foremost, it’s virtual and it’s on Handshake so I would say that students should get familiar with the platform and requirements,” said Sprague. Aside from preparations on the technological aspect, students should also know what they want to say to employers. “The great part about virtual engagement, or these one-to-one sessions is that you have dedicated, uninterrupted time with your employer. 10 minutes is a good amount of time for employers to get to know you and why you’re interested to work with that company,” added Sprague.
Wentworth and Sprague are both excited and feeling optimistic about the upcoming Career and Internship Fair next week. “We’ve had some really great fairs already and experienced Handshake. So to go big with our Career and Internship Fair and try something new that can have a really great impact on our students and employers – this is what we look forward to,” said Sprague.
All in all, Wentworth is proud of all the students that are putting an effort to prepare themselves for this event – even in the middle of a pandemic. He is optimistic that this Career Fair will produce great outcomes for both students and employers. Wentworth added, “We are still seeing employers looking to hire and we can’t slow down just because some industries and some places aren’t hiring as much, but we can’t slow down, that’s not who we are and that’s not what our students need.”