Virtual fair offers opportunities


Sofia Legaspi

Students attend the spring 2020 Career Fair. This fall, due to COVID-19, the career fair will be held virtually


Once each semester, the McLeod Center fills with a throng of UNI students dressed in professional attire, clutching folders, binders and resumes as they weave their way between tables and booths. These students, from various majors and years in school, are attending the Career Fair, in hopes of connecting with employers to secure a job or internship.

This semester, students will once again prepare their elevator pitches as the fall Career Fair approaches. However, due to COVID-19, this semester’s event will be held virtually.

The fall 2020 Career Fair will take place on Sept. 21 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., through an online platform called Handshake.

Joann Mulholland, UNI Career Services Coordinator, said that this year’s virtual fair will allow students to meet with employers in scheduled sessions, either one-on-one or in a small group.

One-on-one sessions will take the form of ten-minute video chats with a representative from the employer, while group sessions will last up to 30 minutes and will give students an overview of the company and available opportunities.

Mulholland emphasized that students should register for the fair as soon as possible and plan ahead to schedule their sessions. She said that although students can still sign up for sessions on the day of the event, many sessions may already be filled by that time.

“At the real fair, you just walk up,” she said. “It’s different, so we shouldn’t expect it to be the same or feel the same.”

Despite the differences, however, Mulholland is excited for the opportunities that the virtual setting offers. Other schools have used Handshake to host virtual events this fall, she said, and many have had a positive experience.

“The feedback that many of those students and employers had is they felt they were able to make a better connection than they can at an (in-person) fair, because it was more intentional time spent together,” she said.

She also emphasized that with the scheduled one-on-one or group sessions, students can focus on the employers that most interest them.

“They don’t have to walk around a busy area and find someone; they can just key in on the employers they want to talk to,” she said. “It allows students to make it more their own.”

Mulholland said that Career Services has 121 employers registered to attend the virtual fair, a decline from the typical 180 or so employers that usually attend the fall event.

“Some employers who would normally be here, who have been at every fair, aren’t coming to this one because their recruiting budgets were slashed down to zero,” she said. “Given the circumstances and everything going on, I’m actually pretty happy with the number we have.”

A full list of employers who will be present at the virtual fair may be found on p. 6 of this issue of the Northern Iowan.

Mulholland noted that some aspects of the in-person fair can’t be replicated virtually. For example, a student walking around the McLeod Center may have a chance interaction with an employer they’ve never heard of and hadn’t considered visiting, which may lead to a job offer. With scheduled virtual meetings, that opportunity is lost, she said.

Still, she wants students to know that attending this fall’s event is more important than ever, in light of the poor job market and economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The reality is, this is not a good time to be looking for a job,” she said. “We don’t know when the economy is going to bounce back from the hit that it’s taken this year, so I think our students really need to be career-minded knowing it’s going to be harder for them to find a job. The fair is a great opportunity to build your network.”

Students interested in attending the virtual Career Fair should visit for information on registration, signing up for sessions and tips for success.