Virtual Career Fair Offers Real Opportunity
Twice a year, WPI’s Career Development Center (CDC) hosts a career fair, creating a job marketplace where alumni and soon-to-be graduates can connect with employers. Held in October and February, this campus staple typically draws more than 2,000 attendees and 200+ employers to the campus Sports and Recreation Center for in-person networking for co-op, internship, and job opportunities.
With forward-thinking decisions made prior to the pandemic and its ability to pivot quickly, the CDC hasn’t missed a beat. The most recent career fair took place from noon to 3 p.m. on Feb. 16, 17, and 18 using the online networking platform, Brazen. While the attendance for both employers and students was about half that of previous years, feedback from both has been positive, especially since similar events at other area campuses have been cancelled or scaled back.
Providing Connections for Students and Employers
Approximately 2,700 connections were made over the course of the nine-hour event, averaging roughly 3.4 sessions for each of the 800 participating students. Platform options include one-on-one text chats, audio conversations, and video chats.
CDC leadership is pleased with the participation and feedback. According to Steve Koppi, executive director of the CDC, “This very successful event is an integral part of the campus culture, and that is a good indication that WPI is meeting the needs of students and alumni, and helping to fill the talent pipeline.”
Industries represented by employers participating in the career fair include life sciences, construction, manufacturing, robotics, and technology. Many participant companies are not on students’ radar and the career fair provides an environment where employers and students can find each other.
One such company, Hyannis Port Research, Inc., a rapidly growing, Needham-based fintech provider, has partnered extensively with WPI since their inception in 2011. Campus recruiter Lauren Salustro and a colleague met with more than 60 students and alumni to fill positions including software engineer, applications engineer, and circuit design and verification engineer.
“Because we provide high-performance technology to Wall Street," she says, "our hiring requirements necessitate a high level of technical ability and employee collaboration. The team-based project work that WPI students complete is a major contributor to their work-readiness and makes them desirable candidates.”
Streamlined Process, Easy-to-Use Platform, and Preparedness Contribute to Success
Citing the ease of working with the CDC, Salustro considers the experience a win-win. While acknowledging that the transition from an in-person fair to a virtual one required some adjustments, she is complimentary about the WPI team.
“Because WPI is one of the few schools utilizing a virtual platform prior to the pandemic, the fair was well-organized and not entirely new to the team or students. Resumé reviews were actually easier with the platform’s built-in structure and time management abilities,” says Salustro.
Koppi agrees, “The virtual nature of the event allowed for students to be better prepared and their ability to manage their time through the platform’s scheduling tool kept them on track and efficient.” He also noted that the virtual fair attracted a wider audience, including students who study online, those who attend part-time, and many with competing obligations.
Students are digital natives, and with employers now finding that technological sweet spot, they are achieving common ground by engaging with them online, in their comfort zone. As for the future of the career fair, plans are already underway for the fall session in October—using a hybrid model that will incorporate the advantages of an in-person event while continuing to provide the efficiency and tools offered by the virtual platform.
Students and Alumni Offer Positive Feedback
Karim Tarabein ’20 wrote in a review of the event, “Just wanted to pop in and say you guys are doing a great job and, somehow, I am getting way better results in the virtual career fair than in person. I like that I can wait in multiple lines at once!”
Vanshika Rohera ’23 had this to say: “The Virtual Career Fair was very advantageous. I was able to wait in line for multiple companies at the same time, which I am unable to do in person, and I got the opportunity to speak to most of them. Another nice feature was the short messages you could send the employer after your chat. I was able to send thank you notes after the chat ended, and then follow up with an email.”