Students Take Part in First Ever Virtual Career Fairs

In past years, on-campus career fairs have provided an invaluable resource for students to meet with corporate recruiters to learn about internship and career opportunities. Just as School of Engineering students quickly learned to adapt to a remote learning environment last spring, they also took it upon themselves to reimagine engineering career fairs for a virtual format. 

On October 22, the annual student-run Engineering & Computer Science Career Fair, which is hosted by the Rutgers’ chapters of the Society of Hispanic Engineers (SHE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Minority Engineering Educational Task (MEET), was held virtually. On the previous afternoon, the packaging engineering program hosted its 2020 Packaging Engineering Virtual Career Fair. 

A Student-Run Career Fair

As the only dedicated engineering and computer science recruiting event at Rutgers and within the School of Engineering, this year’s virtual fair shared a goal with its predecessors: to give students the opportunity to interact with top employers from leading companies, not-for-profits, and graduate schools. 

Participating companies, in turn, gained an opportunity to increase diversity and inclusion within their STEM-related sectors by connecting with talented students from diverse backgrounds. 

“We’re the students’ Career Fair, and this year it is even more special,” says Kinjal Patel, SWE external vice president, who spearheads the fair along with SHE and MEET external vice presidents Isaac Perez and Kasi Oguonu. “Every decision we make is with the student in mind.”

Candiece White, assistant dean, undergraduate education/student services, advises MEET and SWE and has worked with all three host organizations over the years. “This year, like every year, it is solely the students who run the show,” she says. “I’m extremely proud of how the organizations’ external vice presidents and their committees were able to pivot quickly and have the grit and determination to put on a virtual career fair – while still studying remotely as full-time students.” 

For their part, the students were determined to not only meet specific student job search needs, but also expand corporate participation. “We targeted companies that we know students go through college in hopes of working for. This year, we have several attending companies–including SpaceX, Bechtel, Spotify, Mattel, Pinterest, and Facebook–that have never recruited at Rutgers before,” says Patel. In all, 56 companies and non-profits representing a range of industries from aviation to financial services took part, as well as representatives from seven prominent graduate schools participated.

“Each student host organization had a set of responsibilities–from content and website design to social media publicity and fair finances–which we split equally,” says Patel. 

To prepare for the fair, students from SWE, SHE, and MEET organized online hospitality suites offering 12 information and Q&A sessions during the two weeks preceding the career fair, while five professionalism events were held to help familiarize students with the soft skills they might need for the fair. 

According to Jesenia Cadena, School of Engineering assistant engagement and recruitment dean, these hospitality suites were designed to help students get the best exposure and opportunity to network or interview with participating companies. 

“The student turnout for hospitality suites and professionalism week was incredible,” says Patel. “On average, between as many as 100 students consistently attended these events and networked with companies.”

On the day of the fair, students took part in one-on-one scheduled meetings with company recruiters and/or attended virtual information sessions. Advance response was impressive, with 1,658 one-on-one meetings scheduled between students and companies just five hours after open scheduling–when students could pre-schedule their meetings–opened on October 15.

A Packaging Program Success

School of Engineering Dean Tom Farris delivered a short welcome address to participants of the 2020 Packaging Engineering Virtual Career Fair, which was open to all students. 

“The companies that joined us this year were Abbive, Albea, Apple, Batallure, Church & Dwight, Coty, Merck, Mondelez International, NJPEC, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser, Shiseido, Stryker, Unilever, and Verti,” enumerates packaging program chair and director Hae Chang Gea.

According to Gea, companies were allotted 15-minute time slots that were scheduled based on company type in which they could present to and answer questions from the roughly 100 students who took part in the fair. 

“Coordinating companies and controlling the event flow and schedule were very challenging,” Gea reports. Yet for the both participating students and companies, the fair was a success. “Students learned a lot from the companies in four hours and companies had an opportunity to reach out to so many students in 15 minutes,” he adds.

Now that the fair is over, students and participating companies alike are able to follow up either through the packaging program or individually.