In the fall of 2020, Champlain College hosted their fall career fair virtually for the first time. Their student attendance rate far exceeded Handshake’s benchmark—96% of Champlain students who signed up for a session attended the fair, compared to 81% on the network overall—and the fair was the second-most attended ever.
In addition to these excellent student engagement numbers, the Champlain College career team provided exceptional service to their employer partners. Through personalized outreach and support, session co-facilitation, and a post-fair reception, the team fostered strong employer relationships remotely.
Pat Boera, Associate Director, and Angela Hyldburg, Operations and Data Manager at Career Collaborative at Champlain College shared details about their approach.
The Champlain College Career Collaborative Team
Employer Relationship Managers offered industry-focused support
The Champlain College Career Collaborative team, aligned with specific academic programs, manages the relationship with employers relevant to their students. Each team member reached out to their portfolio of employers ahead of the fair to offer training and resources, and share details about support during the fair.
During the fair itself, the entire team was on deck. The two event organizers, Pat and Angela, ran a Zoom session supporting students, alumni and employers. Having two staff members present in the support session allowed one person to “step out” for a private conversation when necessary while the other helped with questions in the main room.
Peer Coaches hosted group sessions
Career Collaborative also boasts a robust team of 26 peer coaches who are often involved in facilitating events. In the context of virtual fairs, peer coaches sit in on the group sessions.
Each peer coach was tasked with five primary responsibilities:
- Welcome the employers at the beginning of the session
- Serve as a role model for other students during the session - professionally dressed, cameras on (when possible) and attentive to the presenters
- Provide assistance regarding the technical use of Handshake during the session
- Ask questions during the Q&A portion of the session and request contact information for further follow-up for all participants
- Thank the employers for their time and engagement with the college
This additional level of support minimized technical issues and ensured that sessions were engaging and beneficial for all attendees. Plus the Peer Coaches were able to share feedback about each employer session with the career team to make recommendations for future fairs.
Post-fair reception fostered strong employer relationships
For in-person fairs, Career Collaborative has historically hosted an employer reception after the fair. It provides an informal opportunity for the career team to connect with their contacts and collect feedback. Knowing how valuable the event had been, the team decided to host it virtually this time.
This fall, the post-fair reception ran for 30 minutes over Zoom and about 40% of recruiters from the fair participated (on par with the in-person event). They used the same Zoom link from the support session earlier in the day. The event proved to be incredibly beneficial for all involved.
“Employers clearly enjoyed having the time to connect with each other and to share their experiences of the day with our Career Team. Receiving their immediate feedback of successes and challenges was invaluable to helping us plan our spring career fair.”
Angela Hyldburg, Operations and Data Manager
Recruiters discussed how they had chosen to structure their schedules, shared what worked well and brainstormed how they might tweak their approach in the future. As a result, the Champlain team decided to extend the length of their spring fair from three to five hours to provide greater scheduling flexibility for employers and reduce schedule overlap between competing recruiters. They also plan to encourage employers to offer more 1:1 sessions this spring.
The Champlain College’s team approach to running their virtual fair helped them maintain strong employer relationships in a virtual setting. For another perspective on staffing virtual fairs, check out this blog post from Kennesaw State University.