In the lobby of Penn State Behrend’s Junker Center, where recruiters from nearly 100 companies had set up for the college’s Oct. 7 Career and Internship Fair – the first large, in-person career program at Behrend since the start of the pandemic – students fixed their collars and practiced handshakes.
“You’ve got this,” one said. “Just be confident.”
“Good luck,” said another.
Once inside, in line with résumés and elevator pitches, they had a common reaction, which was shared by the recruiters in the room: It was good to be back.
“It’s very different from a virtual event, where they only see your face and half of your body, and you don’t really get time to talk,” said Sydney Brooks, a junior from State College.
“As much as virtual can do,” said Siddharth Ravi, a senior from Erie, “you don’t get the same interaction. I missed this.”
The recruiters were just as eager to return to an in-person format. Eighteen companies remained on campus to interview candidates for full-time and co-op positions or internships.
“When it’s virtual, sometimes the students don’t reach out as much as they would in-person,” said Erin Seely, who represented Viking Plastics, in Corry. She was hoping to fill full-time and internship positions in program management, mechanical engineering and plastics engineering technology.
Seely tried to make students comfortable during her face-to-face exchanges. She understood that many students – and many recruiters, too – haven’t entirely figured out how best to navigate handshakes-and-conversation rules in an ongoing pandemic.
“We want to make them feel comfortable,” she said. “We want them to ask questions about our company and get to know us better.”
Daniel Filges represented Stantec, which has locations in Butler, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. It was the company’s first visit to a Behrend career fair.
Meeting in-person, even for a brief conversation, gave him a better sense of potential candidates, he said.
“It helps to read their body language and see their excitement, and their desire to have a position,” he said. “It is really hard to see these things on a webcam or a phone call.”
More than 580 students attended the career fair, which was coordinated by Behrend’s Academic and Career Planning Center. Faith Morelli, a junior from West Middlesex, viewed the program as a bridge to her post-college professional persona.
“It gives you more people skills,” she said of the experience. “And it is really nice to see the students dress up and fill that role we are all aiming for.”