ERIE, Pa. — Penn State Behrend’s fall Career and Internship Fair will be a virtual event, with video conferencing links to more than 80 companies and government agencies. The Sept. 23 program, which is coordinated by the college’s Academic and Career Planning Center, is open to students and alumni from all Penn State campuses.
The virtual format opens the career fair to companies that have not traditionally attended. This year’s lineup includes Minnesota-based NatureWorks LLC, which manufactures polymers that are derived entirely from plants.
Parker LORD Corporation, Penn Highlands Healthcare and Stanley Black & Decker also will participate.
“Our recruiting partners are eager to get back on campus, as soon as conditions allow that. The virtual format does have some advantages, however,” said Danielle Taft, interim director of Career Services at Penn State Behrend. “There’s a built-in flexibility that will allow both our students and the recruiters to be more strategic.”
Students will access the career fair through Nittany Lion Careers. They can register in advance, upload a resume and select companies or agencies that interest them. On the day of the event, they can enter a virtual queue for a company. The system will show the approximate wait time for that recruiter.
Students can hold a space in five queues at a time. They can toggle between lines as the recruiters become available.
“At an in-person career fair, you can’t be in more than one place at a time,” Taft said. “If you’re in line for an in-demand company, you have to wait. In the virtual format, you can fit in another interview, even if it’s just for practice.”
Most recruiters are scheduling conversations in 10-minute blocks. In that limited time, a student’s elevator pitch — a 30- to 60-second summary of what they can bring to the company — is essential, Taft said.
“The elevator pitch is more important than ever right now,” she said. “It’s how you make your first impression.”
Rather than memorize a full speech, she recommends students develop three or four key points that will distinguish them in front of a recruiter.
“You don’t want it to sound overly rehearsed,” she said.
The Zoom format offers one more advantage: There will be fewer distractions during that crucial first meeting. Recruiters won’t have to strain to listen over the din of other conversations, Taft said. Students won’t be as conscious of the line behind them.
“If there’s a glitch and the screen freezes for a second, that’s going to be OK,” she said. “Recruiters understand that things are different right now. Many of them are working from home, too. They’re going to be a bit more flexible.”