Introducing Utnarm virtual careers fair
3 november 2020
This year, the students of the Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology (Teknat) will meet potential employers online as the Utnarm careers fair goes digital. According to project manager Felix Kåhrström, a virtual careers fair has many advantages. “Saving chats makes it incredibly easy for students and employers to stay in touch afterwards.”
Utnarm will be held for the 30th time on 5 November, but due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, for the first time as a virtual event. Despite this change, exhibitors have been flooding in. Currently 71 companies, government agencies and organisations are registered, most of which are Swedish and former participants in Utnarm. It will thus be the biggest virtual careers fair in Sweden this year.
“We were quite quick to make the switch this spring when I realised that it would not be possible to hold a physical careers fair,” says Felix Kåhrström. “In the exhibitors’ application form we included both options – that it would either be virtual and physical, or just virtual. Most who are registered now registered as early as the spring and have not changed their minds.”
Although the organisers initially received many questions about how the fair would work, the preparations have gone smoothly. The exhibitors have understood the advantages that a virtual fair can have for them, according to Felix Kåhrström.
“Firstly, all students create a profile similar to LinkedIn where they fill in information about themselves such as their education, language skills, exchange studies and work experience. The student can also list which areas and activities they want to work in and add a personal description.”
Employers view the students’ profiles
When a student contacts an employer at the fair, the employer can view the student’s profile and form an impression of the student. This means that the conversation has a completely different quality to it, says Felix Kåhrström. Employers can also go in and filter by students who are online.
“For example, if they want students who will be graduating in 2022 or 2023 and are studying a particular programme or specialisation, they can filter for those students and write to them. This allows companies to reach students in a different way than they have done in the past.”
The careers fair will utilise the digital tool Graduateland, where students log in using the University’s careers platform Careergate. It’s in Careergate that students create their profiles to be able to visit the fair, while employers log in via Graduateland.
In Careergate, the visitor clicks on the employers’ “exhibition booths” for more information. There, employers’ presentations of themselves are combined with their requirements on job seekers in terms of education and skills, for example. On the careers fair day – 5 November – it will also be possible to ask questions in subject area chats. If the employer wants to, they can also choose to switch to a video or voice call with the student.
Chats are personal: you cannot view someone else’s questions. The visitor does not either see how many others are in the same chat. You have to wait until you get a response from the employer's contacts, but in the meantime you can visit other companies and read about them according to Felix Kåhrström.
“At a physical careers fair, you just have to stand there and wait for the person to be free while here you can check out other companies at the same time, as you would normally do while chatting.”
Explore the companies before the fair
Felix Kåhrström also gives some tips on how to prepare properly for the fair by selecting the companies you want to talk to. You don’t have time to talk to all of them, and not all of them will suit you either.
“After all, there are 71 employers and I don’t think you have the same energy as at a physical careers fair to talk to as many as you would there.
His suggestion is to go to Utnarm’s website and filter companies by keywords such as “artificial intelligence and machine learning”, “sustainability”, type of employment and workplace location. In Utnarm’s main menu you can also find current job offers which may be interesting for alumni who are currently unemployed; they are also welcome to register and participate in the fair, Felix Kåhrström points out.
“You can also visit the fair without filling in your profile but you probably won’t get nearly as much benefit out of it,” says Felix Kåhrström. “This is because it might result in a low priority among the companies. If they get chats from five people, one of whom has a completely blank profile, that person is not going to be as interesting to talk to.”
Is there anything else to think about for participating in a virtual careers fair for the first time?
“Spend a good amount of time on your profile and how you present yourself there. In addition to your CV and a photo, you can also upload a short video about yourself. It is also easier to stay in touch afterwards with the employers you talked to during the fair via your profile. Chats are saved in your profile, so you can go in and read the conversation afterwards with the names and contact details of the people you’ve chatted with and ask to connect via LinkedIn.”
There is no maximum limit to the number of people in a virtual exhibition booth or at the fair as a whole. In many ways, a virtual fair is also more efficient. One of the negative aspects of a virtual fair is, of course, the lack of physical meetings. Felix Kåhrström also believes that more people visit a physical fair.
“It's more accessible in a way. If you are at the University and have seen the tents going up during the week and then you go there with your friends, it becomes more of a happening where you are likely to hang around for a longer time. I think that can be a big difference.”
The reactions of the students to a virtual Utnarm have been mixed, but according to Felix Kåhström, many understand why such a solution has been chosen.
“I think a lot of people see that it’s the only reasonable course of action at present and that this will be very different, but also fun and exciting! I hope that we manage to reach out to as many students as possible, because it’s really important that everyone gets the chance to know that the fair is there and to visit it. It’s also going to be really interesting to evaluate it and see what students and companies thought about having a virtual careers fair. Then we’ll see whether this is something we should continue to do in the future, and if so in what format.”
Utnarm is the Uppsala Union of Engineering and Science Students’ careers fair and for 2020, due to COVID-19, it is being held virtually.
The virtual careers fair Utnarm will be open on 5 November between 9.00 and 16.00 and can be accessed via Careergate.