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Most people don’t have a whole lot of experience with virtual career fairs. Up until now, no one had that much of a reason to host or attend one. But amid COVID-19, most career fairs are going completely virtual. It’s easy to be intimidated by this foreign environment when in-person career fairs were already nerve-wracking. But use this advice on how to handle a career fair so you can set yourself up for success!

Most virtual career fairs use video platforms, so be prepared.

All the career fairs I’ve attended so far this season had employers plug in their meeting information for whatever video platform they want to use with students. What this means is you’ll probably encounter a variety of different video call applications. To make sure you don’t have any delays as you try to speak with employers during the fair, try to download the video programs ahead of time. You don’t have to download all of them. But try to have the most popular ones, like Zoom, Google Hangouts/Google Meet, etc.

In a video call, presentation matters.

You want to have your background clean and relatively free of clutter. If your wall behind you is completely covered with decorations, it may be a distraction to those you’re talking to. You should be the star of the show here, not your décor! Try to find a good angle that gives you a simple background.

If you’re at home during the career fair, let your family or roommates know you’re planning on attending a virtual fair, and stress the importance of having a quiet environment free of distractions. Interruptions can happen though, and employers tend to be pretty understanding, because most of us have experienced them ourselves.

While it may be tempting to show up to the career fair in a t-shirt, appearance is still important. Put on a nice shirt, and make sure you’re well-groomed (hair brushed, facial hair trimmed, etc.). That being said, no one will be able to tell if you want to wear sweatpants!

Don’t forget to test out your video connection ahead of time. Try a test call with a friend or family member to make sure they see/hear you clearly.

If you schedule a specific time slot with an employer, honor it.

Many virtual career fairs have students sign up ahead of time to speak with employers. If you sign up for a slot, make sure you honor that commitment. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar for the meeting so you won’t forget. When employers have a limited number of available meetings during the day, it’s disrespectful to not show up, especially if you don’t give a reason! You don’t want to burn a bridge with an employer.

If you truly end up not being able to attend a scheduled meeting, send the employer an email letting them know you were looking forward to speaking with them, but something urgent came up. They’ll appreciate the gesture, and that way they’ll have your contact information if they want to get in touch! Almost all of the career fairs have the employer’s contact information readily available to students.

In the past it was easy to show up to a fair without a plan. It’s harder to do that with a virtual fair.

You used to be able to go to a career fair, browse the employers, and speak to whoever looked interesting. With a virtual career fair, there are usually limited time slots you have to sign up for, and you’re often the only person in the video call. It can be awkward if you don’t know anything about the company. You don’t have to know everything about every employer you talk to. But at least do a quick Google search on them, and have one or two questions ready! Not only will it make things less awkward, but employers also tend to appreciate when you know a little bit about them.

Look at the employers that will be at the fair, and decide who you want to speak with ahead of time. It will make the experience less chaotic for you, and it’ll be much easier to manage your schedule.

Career fairs can certainly be intimidating, especially in a format you don’t have much experience with. That being said, preparing for a fair ahead of time will always make things less stressful. Virtual career fairs can help you feel more comfortable when you’re attending them from a familiar environment like your dorm or home. If you’re worried about not understanding how the fair works, don’t be afraid to reach out to your school’s career services office! They can answer any questions you have to put your mind at ease.

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