Career Services Blog
Jobs in the Time of Corona: Successfully Navigating a Virtual Career Fair
by Jessica Peterson, Lewis & Clark Law School Career Services Graduate Assistant
Among the many things that have been altered to fit within our new reality, virtual career fairs feel like an especially herculean endeavor. But with just a little extra planning and intentionality, you will be able to cultivate meaningful connections with employers and make a great impression.
Know the Technology and Logistics. There are some old standbys that you may have utilized in the “before pandemic” times that still apply virtually. Being prepared is going to help you feel at ease and appear collected. By now, we are probably all relatively familiar with Zoom - but preparing for a virtual conference takes a bit of extra effort:
- Whether by Zoom or another virtual platform, be sure to practice the technology. Set up your camera with good light, a neutral background, and a straight-on position – stacking books underneath your laptop if necessary (the employer will have no idea you’ve done so). Even if you’re not interviewing, you want to present well when you meet employers at the Table Talk.
- Read the instructions and handouts about logistics ahead of time so you know what to expect, and have your Table Talk and interview links handy to make everything go smoothly for you when the day comes.
Make a Plan. Before the day of, make a plan for yourself about how you will spend the day. Research the employers that will be attending beforehand. Look at their websites, LinkedIn profiles, and any materials provided for the fair and select the employers you will try to visit within the time allotted. Use this as an opportunity to learn about employers and areas of law you may not have previously considered. Understand that you likely cannot meaningfully visit every employer at the fair.
Look the Part. Another aspect of virtual interviews and meetings that will be consistent with in-person experiences is the expectation that you dress professionally in a complete outfit (top and bottom). This goes for Table Talks and interviews alike. Be well-groomed and remember that the employers will recall a friendly and confident smile.
Have Your Resume Ready. Employers sometimes select students for last-minute interviews based on the Table Talk portion of a career fair. For this reason - and to explore opportunities throughout law school - attend Table Talk portions of career fairs even if you are not planning to interview. Make sure that you have your resume file ready to send at a moment’s notice, but only send it if the employer asks for it.
Be Courteous and Curious. At Table Talks, demonstrate good etiquette. For better interaction, scope out less crowded rooms. Once there, strike a balance between politely listening to others and asking your own questions to make the connection and get the answers you need from the employer. Ask the speaker about the internship, their practice, and their personal experiences. Remember that you can follow up with a request for an information interview as well. Don’t take up too much of an employer’s time.
Speaking of virtual fair etiquette, what is the appropriate time to arrive to a virtual professional engagement? In person, we know to arrive 10 minutes early. For a Zoom meeting, arriving one minute early is appropriate. If you show up and accidentally crash someone else’s interview or meeting, no big deal; just smile, apologize and say you’ll join in a few minutes, and leave the meeting. Since time can fly once you’re in meeting, it is okay to kindly alert the employer when time is running out.
Have an Elevator Speech. When approaching employers at a Table Talk, virtual or in-person, it is helpful to have a short elevator speech up your sleeve so you aren’t floundering in the moment. If you’re familiar with the movie The Princess Bride, you probably know Inigo Montoya’s elevator speech, and you can even use it as a guide for yours:
- Polite greeting
- Name and position
- Relevant personal link/something about yourself as it relates to the employer
- Your request/what you’re looking for.
All of this together may sound something like, “Hi. My name is Ima Lawstudent and I am a 1L at Lewis & Clark Law School. One of my main interests has been in criminal law but I’m still exploring and would like to learn more about working in the justice system. I read your job posting and was excited about the work you are doing to help victims of violent crimes. Do you enjoy this work?”
The Magic is in the Follow-Up. One of the main goals of attending a virtual career fair is to find a connection for following up with Employers. Take the time to note the speaker’s name and information about their opportunity that may help you in a follow-up communication. Send them a thank you note via email or LinkedIn, and request a coffee chat with them if there is more that you’d like to ask them about. While it is important to remain professional and make a good impression, try to enjoy yourself along the way. It is exciting to see the possibilities and make these connections, and employers will be able to sense that enthusiasm from you, even over Zoom.
One of the good things about a switch to virtual programming is the ability to attend career fairs around the nation you might not be able to otherwise. Visit Lewis & Clark Law School’s Event feature on Career Connect for a list of career fairs and other networking events.