UMD students attend virtual career fairs amid pandemic

Students flock to Stamp Student Union to attend the Spring Career & Internship Fair in 2017. (Tom Hausman/The Diamondback)

By Kenan Grier
For The Diamondback

This semester at the University of Maryland, classes aren’t the only activities that have adapted to a mainly virtual environment due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many clubs, events and extracurriculars have changed how they function, and now, students are participating in yet another new online experience: career fairs.

Last week, the University Career Center hosted a three-day virtual career fair on the Careers4Terps platform — an online portal that allows students to view job postings, apply for interviews and schedule appointments with a career adviser.

During the fair, students had the option to do one-on-one interviews with employers, participate in group sessions and attend information sessions.

Kenyatta Malloy, career events coordinator at the career center, said more than 120 employers and 1,000 students attended day one alone, but it was clear that some are still getting used to the virtual environment.

“We definitely had a decrease in engagement from employers and from students,” Malloy said. “But, I think that students are definitely still looking for the opportunities.”

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Despite the format, Malloy said students attending the virtual fairs were still wearing business attire to their meetings and trying to “put their best foot forward.”

But the online format presented some challenges.

If a student wanted a personal interview with a representative during the fair, they had to join a queue — a waiting room online — and wait for their desired employer to become available.

Students could join several queues at a time, but the wait time depended on the number of people in the queue and the number of representatives at a given company.

Kevin Yuen, a junior accounting major, attended a career fair through the university’s business school, and said students could potentially wait in a queue for up to 45 minutes.

“That’s kind of a waste of your time,” Yuen said. “But it could be beneficial if you really sell yourself perfectly.”

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Ashlee Chicoine, director of undergraduate career programming at the business school, said despite some students experiencing minor technical issues, she thinks the fairs went “as well as can be expected.”

“I think the platform generally worked well for us and for students, especially for its first time,” Chicoine said. “This was an event where we really had to learn a lot of things, you know, with a few months’ time, and I think we adapted pretty well.”

Kelley Bishop, director of the University Career Center, said the virtual fair was also beneficial for businesses, as some were able to include more representatives due to the time and cost savings of an online event.

Because of these benefits, Bishop said he thinks virtual career fairs will most likely continue even after coronavirus precautions are lifted.

“We may have some more live fairs again, but I don’t think these are going to go away,” Bishop said. “It’s really clear that this will stick.”

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