Students dressed in their best business attire took over the Nebraska Union’s Centennial Room and Ballroom at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln this week with the return of in-person Career Fairs.
The last in-person Career Fair was held in February 2020, just prior a university-wide shutdown of in-person activities, including classes, in March. Career Services pivoted, too. Career coaching continued by appointment via Zoom, and the fall 2020 and spring 2021 Career Fairs moved to a virtual format.
In the spring of 2021, Career Services began planning for the return to in-person fairs.
“Based on feedback from our Nebraska employers, we knew they really wanted to get back to in-person fairs,” said Tracy Lungrin, director of Career Services. “When the vaccines became available and things started opening back up in May, we were feeling encouraged that an in-person fair was possible for the fall.”
Facing a fluid situation, Lungrin said Career Services staff planned for a multitude of contingencies, and kept the safety of both the employers and students at the forefront of plans.
Students attending the in-person fairs checked in with the Safer Community App, while employers were limited to three representatives that had to be registered prior to the fair for contract tracing purposes and were screened before entrance. QR codes were utilized in a variety of capacities to cut down on person-to-person contact, and the fairs were designated as “No Handshake Zones,” asking employers and students to embrace head nods, elbow taps and general greetings instead of the traditional handshake.
“I am really proud of our planning team,” Lungrin said. “They worked really hard to think through how to meet all the demands of COVID and keep us safe. They developed a smooth check-in process.”
The popular headshot photography station offered for students was also changed to an outdoor setting, so that students could safely remove their masks to be photographed.
Lungrin said the team wanted to be as inclusive as possible, so a virtual career fair will also be offered, Oct. 12-13.
“We knew that some employers, because of COVID-19 policies, are not allowing in-person recruiting yet, and there may be some students who are not comfortable in a in-person setting or they had a great experience with the virtual fair and prefer that model,” Lungrin said. “I think the hybrid model of in-person and virtual fairs is here to stay.”
The in-person fairs, which run through Sept. 24, brought in about 80-100 employers each day, grouped by career pathways.
On Sept. 22, 105 employers met with students interested in the career pathway encompassing engineering, construction, manufacturing and computer science. Lukas Didrichsons, a senior computer science major, talked to representatives from 10 of the companies. He was grateful to be able to return to an in-person fair to seek out opportunities.
“I’m looking for either full-time work after graduation or an internship for next semester,” Didrichsons said. “I prefer the in-person experience. I did the virtual fair last year and it wasn’t the same.
“I think this way, you get to see the employer in-person and make that first impression, have a conversation and they can see that you’re motivated. I think it’s easier to make that personal connection.”
The fairs continue Sept. 23 with the career pathways of science and research; biotechnology; information technology; math and data analytics; marketing; advertising; sales and service; finance, accounting; banking and insurance; and transportation and logistics. On Sept. 24, the career pathways will be agriculture; food and natural resources; and hospitality and tourism.
Registration is open for the remaining in-person fairs, and the virtual fairs in October. More information can be found at the Career Services website.