Photo of laptop with the Handshake website for the career fair

This year’s Ohio State Career and Internship Fair will take place virtually Tuesday and Wednesday. Credit: Cori Wade | Photo Editor

Rather than standing in long lines in the Ohio Union to talk to a representative from their dream company, soon-to-be graduates and internship-seeking students will navigate this year’s career fair with a keyboard instead of a map.

Ohio State’s annual career fair will be online this year on the job website Handshake due to COVID-19. Despite the online format and lower-than-usual company turnout, many organizations, such as Quicken Loans, Johnson & Johnson and Teach for America, are still registered to meet with potential future employees, according to the Office of Student Life.

There are 100 organizations participating in the career fair this year, according to the event’s Handshake page; 190 organizations participated in 2019.

Carly Zeiger, career outreach and events coordinator for Buckeye Careers in the Office of Student Life, said in an email that COVID-19 presented issues with planning such a large event.

“It was a challenge to adjust our usual plans from a large, in-person career fair to create an experience that would be meaningful to students and their career development,” Zeiger said. “It was challenging in a different way than it is to plan an in-person career fair.”

Despite the change from previous years’ fairs, Zeiger said Handshake, a job search website contracted with Ohio State, has features — such as video calls and messaging options — that may ease some students’ concerns about not meeting company representatives face to face.

“While sitting on a video call is not the same experience as talking to someone in-person in the Ohio Union, interpersonal connections can be made in either setting,” Zeiger said.

Zeiger said although the virtual format may seem overwhelming, it can help students narrow their interests for companies they want to work for after graduation. Students who have never been to a career fair can discover what types of organizations they are interested in working for without leaving their homes.

This isn’t the first Ohio State career fair to be held entirely on Handshake; the Fisher College of Business held its annual career fair on the website Sept. 9-11. 

“One unique challenge with the Fisher Fall Career Fair is that it is one of the first career fairs at Ohio State each academic year, and it is often the first career fair attended by employers each career fair season,” Sarah Steenrod, director of undergraduate career consultation and programs in the Fisher College of Business, said in an email. “For this year in particular, it was the first virtual career fair that many employers and students have ever attended.”

Steenrod said if a student prepares well, acts professionally, researches the company, gives a nice personal introduction and asks good questions, they can still make an impression on the employer like they would in person. 

Steenrod also said the virtual setting enables the student to be in a comfortable space and eliminate the stress of getting to the fair, finding employers and waiting in lines. The format also gives students the opportunity to schedule 10-minute, one-on-one sessions with employers, which Steenrod said is likely longer than conversations students would be able to have in person.

According to the Fisher College of Business, usually about 2,000 students attend the one-day, in-person career fair; this year, more than 4,000 students registered for an extended three-day event.

Ohio State has 13 career fairs scheduled for fall semester, according to the Office of Student Life. Steenrod said career fair coordinators collaborated over the summer to plan for problems the virtual format may present. Still, Steenrod said there were some minor issues during the Fisher fair.

“One of the biggest adjustments in switching from an in-person event to virtual was helping employers and students understand what would actually happen on the day of the event,” Steenrod said. “Since employers had to schedule group and 1:1 sessions and students had to sign up with employers, it took a little more advance preparation on everyone’s part.”

Steenrod said after successfully navigating Fisher’s career fair, she foresees no issues with the career and internship fair.

The career and internship fair is Tuesday and Wednesday from noon to 6 p.m. on Handshake. Students can register for the fair and sessions with employers on the website.