Hello! Julia, back again, sharing my experiences with The West Coast Virtual Fair. Just a note before you read any further: this is not a review of the event per se. Although I am sharing my experiences with those who may have missed this event, I want to share the insights that I learned from doing the process. Any career exploration will be unique to the student because we all have unique experiences and perspectives based on our degree program, career interests, and general interests.
On the morning of the first day, I was a little nervous, if I can be honest with you. I was still unsure about what to expect for the whole virtual thing. Plus, I had started big with a one-on-one session right off the bat. In my mind, the group sessions were going to be a little less pressure because there would be more people in the same place as me. But I set myself up with tea to calm my nerves and had a notebook with questions and notes on the exhibitors on hand.
Like trying out something new or going someplace new for the first time, there is understandably some uncertainty about what to expect and how to act. In this instant, I was worried about running out of questions and being left in awkward silence while the other person felt I had wasted their time. Would I even be able to carry on a conversation with the professional on the other end?
However, that first meeting went great. Conversation flowed between me and the HR member of the company I was curious about. The pressure was taken off me when the exhibitor started off discussing the company’s background and purpose. After that, my questions found natural places to be weaved into a conversation. I left that 15-minute chat excited and energized for the rest of the day!
That first meeting went great. Conversation flowed between me and the HR member of the company I was curious about.
I had an epiphany in that first meeting. I realized that the individuals talking about the different organizations are also there because they want to connect with the future people of their industry. They are even venturing into an unknown realm of virtual booth hosting and may also be unsure how this would work. For me, knowing that I had a genuine interest to bring to the conversation was already enough. If nothing else, I could start talking about choosing to schedule a time to connect with them. And due to the success of my first encounter, I was reminded that people coming to the fair and representing their company or organization are equally interested in networking with like-minded people. Although many students may view the people at a career fair as the ‘professionals,’ I think students bring more to the table than they realized. Industry people want our knowledge and fresh perspectives, or else they would not keep coming to job fairs.
The fair was not so much about trying to get many job offers by the end of the day (although some may treat the 1:1 like an interview). Instead, the fair is about providing opportunities to network and know the individuals behind a company. You have the chance to learn some insider knowledge that will help the eventual job application process.
I think that is the root of why I felt I wanted to share my journey of going to the West Coast Virtual Fair. I think I am not alone in my questions, uncertainties, and fears about planning for the future, especially an uncertain future where the global pandemic seems to be changing things every day. Right now, it is so important to be stepping out of our comfort zone and test new avenues to connect with people. Even in a post-Covid world, some of these mechanisms for remaining open will still be with us, and it is good to already have some experiences with them.
If I could pass on one piece of advice for anyone that was unsure of a virtual fair experience and felt that doing the thing virtually felt too much like a spotlight directed at you, remember that each meeting or session you enter has a purpose. You are not expected to host the meeting or to give a presentation. At most, you will talk about what you are studying and why this booth interested you. The person you are meeting will have more of an agenda that they want you to know and information to take away. And within a short amount of time, the awkward start of a conversation or looking for a way to interject is gone. Each party already knows why you are there; the conversation can just begin.
Beyond the Blog
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