By Derek Grahn
Spring time is always a crazy time for schools – students are preparing for state testing, thinking about summer, and trying to pack in activities once the snow melts. In addition, this is also the time that many students (especially seniors) begin to start thinking more seriously about life after high school. If you are part of the Golden Path Newsletter (if not, sign up using the form to the right), you have probably noticed that many schools across the state have begun having their spring Career Fairs. In fact, we have probably seen many of you there!
Career Fairs are a great way for companies to connect with students and start to share what it would look like to join their company. For many companies that I have talked with, though, they sometimes have limited success stories with the traditional Career Fair model. A company sets up a booth, hundreds of students pour into a gym or conference center, and students head quickly to collect their free swag (chocolate being a favorite – anything that they can play catch with as a close second). Then, in a whirlwind, the event concludes and companies are left wondering if that student that really seemed interested would reach out to the email on the business card they picked up.
Students Struggle to Stay in Touch After Career Fairs
Many recruiters who have been to Career Fairs probably feel similar – you put in a lot of time and energy traveling to locations all over the state, and you may be left wondering if any of those students are going to reach out. As a former teacher who ran a Career Fair, I was thrilled with how engaged my students were when we had a school-wide, 7-12th grade event with 50 companies who came in (shoutout to Mr. Peterson and Mrs. Quast at Breckenridge High School for their awesome support of the event!). Students picked out 6 careers that they were interested in and spent 40 minutes in a classroom asking questions and learning about the career opportunities with a company. The week after, I spoke with many of my students who attended, and they loved the opportunity to visit with companies!
I couldn’t have been prouder – and yet, when I asked if they wanted to send an email or stay in touch, many students would look away or say they were nervous to send out that message. I do know that a few did take that step (with multiple prods along the way), but Gen Z has a difficult time being the ones to reach out first. Once a conversation gets started, you will NOT be able to get these kids to stop talking, but getting that door to open can often be a challenge.
5 Tips to Stay Engaged with Students Post-Career Fair
So, what can you do differently to help stay engaged with students after the Career Fair (or job shadow, classroom project, internship, etc.) wraps up?
1. Use Sign-Up Sheets
The first thing would be to have a sheet where students can sign-up to stay in touch. Know that some students may be required to speak with a certain number of companies at this event, but find the ones who are actively engaging and asking questions. Also, recognize that for some students (especially freshmen or sophomores), engagement may not come through questions but rather attentiveness.
2. Simplify Follow-Up with Career Profiles
Second, through your Compass account, you can offer Career Profiles (a snapshot of a career at your company) and encourage students to search for it on their Compass accounts. All students in North Dakota have an account through RUReady – if they are unfamiliar with the name, encourage them to speak with their school counselor. Students are able to reach out through Compass just by clicking a button, removing the stress of sending out an email, and now your company has made a direct connection to a student who is actively looking for future employment opportunities.
3. Build Interest Ahead of Time with Work-based Learning
Third, if the school is local, consider setting up a few Work-based Learning opportunities within your Compass account prior to the event. Students will be able to view these WBL opportunities, as well as the Career Profiles, ahead of time, increasing their interest and raising the chances that students looking to connect with your company will visit.