I've never been a huge fan of career fairs. Interviews make me nervous, and a career fair is essentially a bunch of mini interviews in a row. Plus I interacted with a terribly rude recruiter at the last career fair I attended on post and was left with a pretty negative impression of career fairs.
But a couple weeks ago, two different virtual career fairs came to my attention - one of which was directed at military members and spouses and featured very military friendly companies! I’d never attended a virtual career fair, but I was intrigued at the idea. One major advantage was that the companies involved were hiring nationwide. We’re getting ready to PCS this summer and I thought it might be a good way to find out about opportunities at our new duty station.
I asked around on Twitter and Facebook to see if anyone had any experience with a virtual career fair and could tell me what they were like, but no one really knew. So I registered and figured that even if nothing there caught my interest, it would be worth it just to see how a virtual career fair works.
And this is what I found out:
After I registered, I received an attendee guide in my email with a brief overview of the event and explanations of the different features on the site. The day before the fair, they emailed out a link offering a sneak peek to get familiar with the set up. You could set up your profile, upload your resume, see a list of participating companies, and even save their handouts to your briefcase. (Yes, the virtual career fair came with a virtual briefcase.)
With the handouts saved, you can use the night before do your research to help prepare for the actual fair: What positions are available? What skills are they looking for? What are the companies all about? You know, normal prep stuff to help you figure out where you want to spend your time and what questions you might have for recruiters.
The day of the career fair, I entered the website and found myself in a virtual lobby directing me to various places. There was an auditorium with presentations, which were recorded videos from current employees discussing their work and companies, and an exhibit hall with booths, where you could visit different companies and download handouts, see their lists of current vacancies, talk to recruiters in a group format with other interested applicants, or talk one on one with a recruiter. There was even a lounge where you could go when you needed a break and wanted to talk to other people browsing around the fair!
The group chats made me a little dizzy at times because so many people were talking to so many other people about so many different things at once, but there was a lot of good information in there once you sorted out the conversation threads. Recruiters explained what they were hiring for, what made people competitive, and how to apply if you were interested. But my favorite feature was the one on one chat - I introduced myself to a recruiter for one of the positions I was interested in and after talking to me, she asked me to apply online for one of their vacancies and email her my resume so she could keep it handy.
Overall, it was a pretty positive experience for me and definitely something I would be willing to do again in the future! If you’re interested in attending a virtual career fair, check out Milicruit, which has a calendar of virtual career for military members and spouses.
How do you feel about career fairs? Have you ever attended a virtual career fair? What was your experience like?