Durham, NH – Job searching is a daunting task for students and veterans in the working field alike. Combine that with the overwhelming feeling of attending a career fair with more than 150 companies present, students would normally feel flustered and not know where to begin.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Career and Professional Services (CaPS) department at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) was unable to host its bi-annual career fair event in person. Despite this, CaPS made a quick recovery through critical planning last summer by transitioning the event online in the fall.
Taking both students’ and employers’ feedback into serious consideration, CaPS decided on an alternative this spring. Instead of hosting one large career event with employers from different job fields in the middle of this semester, CaPS introduced their “UNH Get Hired” series, which includes five career events segregated across six weeks, categorized by different professional fields.
The dates of these series are as follows – Communication and Business, Feb. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Engineering and Technology, Feb. 25 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Outdoor, Natural Resources and Agriculture, March 3 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Healthcare, Physical, and Life Sciences, March 9 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.; and Public and Social Services, March 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Director of Marketing, Communication and Engagement of CaPS, Tyler Wentworth, said that shifting such a large event with over 240 employers from in-person to online was an overwhelming experience not only for CaPS and students, but also for employers. “That’s a long list of employers and it’s hard to manage all the different job and internship postings [on Handshake] that are incorporated in such a large event,” he added.
Moreover, Wentworth said that based on previous feedback, students prefer smaller career events that are targeted towards their potential working field. “We’ve seen a lot of interest and really great turnout on some of what we call “boutique style” events. They’re more targeted student populations for specific industries, not just by college though, but by the industry that the students want to work in,” he explained.
The planning process for this series started around November, right after CaPS held their virtual career fair in the fall. The Director of Employer Relations at CaPS, Raina Sprague said that CaPS would often do an “employer poll” where employers would give their feedback regarding any career events that they have attended. “The employers like the industry breakouts. They’ve been asking us to do this for a long time,” she added.
Aside from students preferring smaller “boutique style” career events, some of the feedback received from the virtual career fair last fall was about the short one-on-one meeting time that students get with their potential employers. Although these events were categorized based on the job industries, all of the events are open for all majors which resulted in students facing restrictive time constraints.
However, Wentworth said that CaPS had viewed this problem from a different approach. He said that CaPS has been looking at the schedules of students from different colleges to strategically plan these career events with the job fields that are related to their programs of study. “We intentionally try to coincide them,” added Wentworth. “For example, PAUL College and COLA more or so have less classes on Friday afternoons and so we put the fairs that might be more apt to draw PAUL and COLA students during those times.”
The “UNH Get Hired” series will have similar concept to the previous virtual career fair in the fall, providing students with both one-on-one and group sessions with their desired employers. Apart from these fairs, CaPS has also maintained its initiatives to help students prepare for these events by providing guide videos and also the “Resume Review Day with Industry Experts” event ahead of these fairs.
Students who are interested in participating in the “UNH Get Hired” series can find more information on CaPS’s website here: https://www.unh.edu/career/career-events/career-internship-fair/student-preparation.
Photo courtesy of the University of New Hampshire: Students and potential employers meet at the Whittemore Center Arena for the Career and Internship Fair in 2018.