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Notre Dame gives students flexibility during week-long career fair series

| Monday, September 13, 2021

On Thursday, Notre Dame’s Meruelo Family Center for Career Development kicked off its 2021 fall semester career fair series virtually on Handshake, the centralized career management platform it uses to connect students to employers across the globe.

Last fall, the only option for the fall career fair was to make it virtual; this semester allows for more options in terms of meeting employers face-to-face, but event organizers decided against scrapping the virtual form of recruiting altogether. This career fair week series will be Notre Dame’s first to offer both in-person and virtual options.

 After Notre Dame’s 2020 fall semester Career Fair was hosted virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a student survey found that 46% of students preferred in-person fairs and 31% preferred the fair to be virtual. A follow-up survey conducted after the spring semester fair found similar results.

While preference was important for the organizers to keep in mind, other factors like health and schedules also played a role in leading to both an in-person and virtual event, according to the Career Center’s associate vice president for career and professional development Ryan Willerton.

“Our end goal was to do our best to eliminate as many barriers as possible to increase student participation,” Willerton said. 

Diana Spulber, a junior majoring in physics and applied and computational mathematics and statistics (ACMS), attended the virtual career fair and will attend the in-person event Tuesday because of its convenience. 

“I find the virtual format very convenient because it fits into my busy schedule,” Spulber said.

Though Spulber took advantage of the virtual opportunity, she still prefers an in-person event. 

Whereas an in-person fair allows for many people to stop in at different times and have one-on-one conversations, virtual events didn’t feel personal enough for her.

“It’s hard to form a connection over a Zoom call as is, but it’s even harder when there are 30 people side-by-side on a screen,” Spulber said.

The virtual format also is vulnerable to technological problems. “It is also a lot easier to have a conversation and ask questions without the awkward pause or lagging internet connection,” she said.

The large, centralized career fair will take place on Tuesday in the concourse of Notre Dame Stadium. The fair’s set-up will feature a mixture of industries throughout the stadium, allowing students to find roles and industries they may not have otherwise considered.

Students are to dress in business casual clothes and are encouraged to do research on the employers they are interested in ahead of time. “Students should not open with ‘so, what does your company do?’” Willerton said.

Handshake is available to help students see which employers will attend the career fair series events and offers many filters to help narrow down choices of which employers would be worthwhile to talk to.

In conversations with employers, students should express to what makes them unique.

“I encourage students to not focus on their major and GPA — focus on their values, interests and skills,” Willerton said. “The best advice: be yourself and be prepared.”

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