Students walking through Quad

UMSL Career Services held the the Fall 2021 Virtual Internship and Job Fair on Sept. 17. The event one again utilized the Career Fair Plus platform to host the event digitally. (Photo by August Jennewein)

For the third semester in a row, University of Missouri–St. Louis students and alumni connected with potential employers virtually at the university’s latest biannual career fair.

UMSL Career Services organized the Fall 2021 Virtual Internship and Job Fair, which was held Sept. 17. Once again, Career Services utilized a digital format to help stem the spread of the COVID-19. Director of Career Services Teresa Balestreri said most universities and colleges are continuing to hold digital or blended career fairs, rather than strictly in-person events.

This semester’s event attracted 111 employers, and 419 students and graduates visited the Career Fair Plus platform. Overall, recruiters held 1,114 meetings, and attendees spent more than 278 hours connecting with a variety of employers.

Balestreri noted that this represented a 25% increase in employer participation and a 10% increase in candidate engagement over last fall’s fair, which was the first to be held virtually.

She added that the increased engagement seems to support data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers showing that the job market for bachelor’s degree graduates is nearly the same as it was in 2019.

“What that signals is a positive outlook for the class of 2021,” Balestreri said. “It also gives signals for a positive outlook for the class of 2022. This is really great to see that college graduates are experiencing pre-COVID levels of opportunity.”

Like the two previous fairs, attendees created profiles on the Career Fair Plus app that included details such as major, graduation year, resume and LinkedIn information.

Through the app, they were able to search employers using a variety of filters and schedule 10-15 -minute individual meetings with recruiters or more informal group meetings. Employers used the latter to hold general information sessions about their organizations.

Balestreri said students and employers have become familiar with the app by this point, and it helped both sides easily navigate the day.

“Once you use any platform, it’s a little bit easier,” Balestreri said. “Employers that are returning that want to hire UMSL folks are the ones already in the system, so they’re used to it.”

Katie Flaschar, a senior campus recruiter for Cushman & Wakefield, concurred.

“I really enjoy using Career Fair Plus,” she said. “It’s very intuitive, and it seems like it’s easy for both the employer and the students. It makes the whole event a lot more successful when everyone feels confident with the platform.”

Cushman & Wakefield is a commercial real estate services firm, and Flaschar has been coming to UMSL for the past three years. She views it as one of her top schools for local talent.

Flaschar noted that Cushman & Wakefield has global presence, but it does a substantial amount of entry-level hiring for the U.S. in the St. Louis region. In the past, she has mostly hired accounting, business and finance majors. However, the company is open to hiring students and graduates from any discipline if they’re eager to learn and work in a fast-paced environment.

“We hire all different backgrounds, which is what I appreciate so much about UMSL,” she said. “There are so many different majors and students from all different backgrounds. That’s the kind of thing that we’re looking for – top talent who can bring diversity to the company from all angles.”

It was busy day for Flaschar. In all, she met with about 25 people.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “I’m always so delighted when I see a full schedule of UMSL students, and that’s what I got. They showed up professional. They showed up ready to give me their pitch and learn about us, and I think they brought their A game.”

Senior Alex Reyes was one of the students who showed up to the fair ready to impress. The accounting major met with six employers at the fair: Armanino, BKD, CliftonLarsonAllen, KEB, RubinBrown and UHY.

Beforehand, Reyes prepared by extensively researching the companies in attendance, examining available positions, office locations and what schools they typically hire from. He scheduled meetings with the companies he thought would be the best fit for him and also updated his LinkedIn profile and polished his resume.

“My primary goal with the career fair was to get some face-to-face time with recruiters from some of the companies I’m interested in working for,” he said. “I wanted recruiters to get to know me in a way that can’t be communicated through a resume. The career fair presented a good opportunity to develop and strengthen those personal connections.”

Overall, the meetings went well for Reyes. He appreciated the one-on-one time with recruiters, which allowed him to have in-depth conversations. Thus far, the fair has already led to one interview, a few phone calls and several emails about available positions.

After graduation, Reyes plans to earn his CPA license and go into public accounting. Where that will be is still up in the air, though.

“One of the paths I’m exploring is potentially moving out West and working somewhere like California, Seattle or Denver,” he said. “It’s been exciting to find out what opportunities are out there.”

Burk Krohe

Burk Krohe