Western Washington University's quarterly Career & Internship Fair took place on Oct. 27 through the virtual platform Handshake, but in-person career fairs may make a comeback in Spring 2022.
Britta Eschete, administrative assistant of Westerns’ career services, said that when large events like the Career & Internship Fair could no longer occur because of the pandemic, rather than abandon the events, there was learning to be done to continue offering spaces that build connections between students, employers and the campus community.
Though Eschete says that early models of these events “now seem clunky,” there is now a new format.
“Spring Quarter 2020 virtual career fairs on Viking CareerLink featured a chat-conversation option between employers and participants — no video or audio. A year later, we have switched to Handshake, and career fairs have transitioned to a format where participants build their schedule in advance, and utilize audio and video” Eschete said in an email.
The new format for virtual career fairs utilized by Western, Handshake, is a website where students can store their information such as resumes, cover letters and university transcripts.
Employers can post jobs and internships there, but Western is using it as a place for students to build their career fair schedule of the employers they will meet through a video chat during the Career Fair.
Eschete said data provided by Handshake shows that students and alumni have found virtual career fairs less anxiety-inducing and provide access to a more diverse range of employers. She said the online modality is also easier to balance with schedules and is more accessible to both students and employers.
Western’s career services chose to host formerly large-scale events online for students who are studying remotely to participate and in recognition of the hesitancy employers may have in participating in large events, Eschete said. However, virtual career fairs may soon be a thing of the past.
“We will tentatively be hosting three in-person career fairs Spring 2022 and look forward to a return of this modality!” Eschete said.
Eschete said it is a trend that employers want to know how classroom learning turns into developed skills and abilities; the best way to demonstrate this is through an internship.
“An internship provides a glimpse into the daily experience of an organization, ideally provides a start to finish experience of working on a project which can be highlighted on a resume, or in conversation with employers, provides [one on on] mentorship which can help guide ‘next step’ goals, introduce professional connections and secure a good reference,” Eschete said.
Last summer, Keaton Schwark, a fourth-year plastic and composites engineering major, had an internship at Boeing.
“I think it’s going to have a huge impact,” Schwark said. “I actually already have another internship for next summer lined up with Boeing. To have the Boeing company on my resume definitely puts me above a few other people when looking for jobs.”
The experience of having an internship is crucial to see what you like and what you don’t like in your field. Through this internship, he could network and realize he wants to work in aerospace engineering, Schwark said.
Ryan Robie is a city of Bellingham worker who hires interns for their parks volunteer program that focuses on habitat restoration. He said that doing an internship is a headstart into your career while you’re still in college and will make a difference once you’re graduated and looking to start your career.
“It’s like getting a jump into post-college life and getting an edge on people who didn’t have an internship,” Robie said. “It also gets you a headstart on knowing where your passions and strengths intersect.”
More information about future career fairs can be found on the Western Career Services Center web page.
Joshua Solorzano (He/Him) is a student reporter on The Front, reporting on the City News beat. He is majoring in Visual Journalism and minoring in Spanish. Habla español con fluidez.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.