Employers connect with UMSL students digitally at Spring Virtual Career Fair
Normally, University of Missouri–St. Louis students put on their best business attire and make the rounds with recruiters – a stack of resumes in hand – at the university’s biannual career fairs.
However, for the second semester in a row, UMSL students and alumni logged into their computers and mobile devices to meet with potential employers as precautions to stem the spread of COVID-19 caused this semester’s event to be held online.
Career Services organized the Spring Virtual Career Fair. The event attracted 73 employers, and 460 students and graduates visited the Career Fair Plus platform Friday. Overall, it boasted 1,438 meetings with recruiters, and attendees spent about 240 hours connecting with employers.
Director of Career Services Teresa Balestreri and Career Services Specialist Ashley Horton Wilmsmeier said they learned a lot from planning last semester’s digital event, which made the process easier this time.
“I would say there was a little bit less pressure this go-around simply because we already hosted a virtual fair in the fall semester,” Horton Wilmsmeier said.
Attendees were able to create a profile on the Career Fair Plus app that included information such as their major, graduation year and LinkedIn information. They were also able to upload their resume and a photo.
Balestreri explained that students could search employers and narrow their results by using a variety of filters. They could then schedule 10-minute meetings with recruiters, which the app automatically mapped, making it easier for students to keep track of their appointments. She advised attendees to think of the meetings more like conversations than interviews and also as opportunities to market themselves.
One of the new features this semester was an option for group meetings. Balestreri said about five companies used group meetings to hold general informational sessions about their organizations.
“Normally, you can walk into the gym and get more comfortable – maybe talk to a few people,” she said. “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how can we give that as an option?’”
Rachel Zipfel, a senior marketing major, made the most of her time at the fair, meeting with Abstrakt Marketing Group, Commerce Bank, Cushman & Wakefield, Moosylvania, Nine PBS, St. Louis Public Radio, Stifel and UniGroup.
“I’ve had a difficult time getting called to interviews, so I decided to sign up for the career fair this semester in the hopes that an internship might be able to come from it,” she said.
Zipfel met with companies in a variety of industries, but she was especially excited to connect with Abstrakt Marketing.
“I’ve seen their name all over since I first started becoming interested in marketing, almost six years ago now,” she said.
Though she’s faced challenges getting her foot in the door, Zipfel is determined to make it in the marketing industry.
“I know that I would like to have a career in marketing, maybe as a marketing manager or director of marketing for a company,” Zipfel said. “My grandpa was a director of marketing a long time ago for Purina and Concordia Publishing House and passed away almost six months ago. I was very close with him and often called him my best friend. So, I’d like to stay in marketing to carry on his legacy and still feel connected to him in some way.”
On the employer side, Balestreri and Horton Wilmsmeier worked closely with recruiters to make sure their listings were as attractive as possible. For weeks leading up to the fair, they reiterated that the more information employers were able to provide, the better.
“For probably a month, I’ve been stalking recruiters that signed up, letting them know specifics,” Horton Wilmsmeier said with a laugh. “It’s really vital to incorporate a job title that they might be recruiting for.”
Recruiters were also encouraged to link their LinkedIn profiles, so attendees could connect and build a professional network beyond the event.
Overall, Balestreri and Horton Wilmsmeier were impressed with the student turnout, particularly during a difficult time when many students are feeling burned out by constant video conferencing. They also commended UMSL faculty and staff members’ efforts to promote the event.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic shocking the economy, Career Services wants to let students know there are still employment prospects. Balestreri noted that companies in every industry are being careful about their budgets, but they’re still looking to institutions like UMSL to strengthen their workforces.
“The media is talking about how horrible the economy is, and the economy isn’t where it was a year ago, however, these employers are coming to hire UMSL students and alums,” she said. “They’re coming to hire. Period.”
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