Large posters, colorful flyers, bustling gymnasiums — the traditional career fair, with students and employers rushing back and forth among cluttered booths and crowded aisles, is a familiar scene at universities nationwide.
But after 12 years, the annual career fair will no longer be a fixture of the fall semester at Yale.
After considering feedback and requests from both students and employers, Undergraduate Career Services has decided to replace the annual fair with a series of smaller, industry-focused events throughout the year that will concentrate on specific career fields, such as health care, education and finance. These events are aimed at tailoring career opportunities for students and providing chances to interact one-on-one with industry professionals and potential employers.
“We started to think about this change last year,” said UCS Director Jeanine Dames, recalling the six pilot industry-focused events that UCS held in 2012–’13, in addition to its usual career fair. “Feedback has been very strong. The smaller events are so much more of an asset.”
Dames said these types of focused career events have been highly successful at other institutions at which she has worked, particularly in law schools and at the Yale School of Management. Planned events for the new system at Yale also include networking nights, in which students will have the opportunity to attend on-campus interviews or meet more casually with potential employers.
Jane Edwards, dean of international and professional experience and associate dean of Yale College, said in an email that the structure of the new system will allow for events to be tailored to the needs of employers and students. Additionally, UCS can now plan events around the appropriate hiring timelines of different industries.
Robyn Acampora, who coordinates nonprofit and government events, said UCS has already lined up a series of general information sessions pertaining to job-hunting. In the coming weeks, UCS will host sessions for students interested in marketing, consulting and finance, in addition to a variety of other events throughout the year. Acampora said recruitment in the nonprofit sector normally takes place in the spring.
According to an Aug. 7 release from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, institutions are increasingly encouraged to move away from traditional career fairs into smaller, more focused events, if “resources and logistics permit.”
“Students have often complained that they do not really know how to use big fairs very well,” Edwards said. “Those events date to an era before you could learn all the basic information you needed from the Internet.”
Rather than hosting one large fair in Payne Whitney, Dames said the new events will now be dispersed around campus at locations that include the Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design and the Omni New Haven Hotel. Dames acknowledged that the lack of one large career fair could make it more difficult for students to explore all their career options, but she added that students have told her they would be willing to attend multiple events to gauge their interest in a variety of fields.
Despite the potential benefits of these new events, however, students interviewed had mixed reactions to the lack of an all-inclusive career fair. While some said they think job-hunting will now be more efficient, others were wary of the complications that could arise.
“It’s not as convenient, especially for seniors because we’re very busy with other classes and there’s no one-stop opportunity to just drop off a resume,” James Cheng ’14 said. “I’m a computer science and economics double major, and I heard that the individual events are later in the fall [than last year] — this means we don’t get as much time to review the information before we decide to apply. Everything’s going to be pushed back.”
But Brian Frenette, the UCS staff member who coordinates events focused around science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, said he believes breaking down events will be beneficial for students who might otherwise feel overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at them at a large-scale career fair.
“In this case, there’s a flavor to the event that allows the student to better strategize which events they’d like to go to,” Frenette said. “If you were to attend a general event, you might walk in and say, ‘Where do I begin?’”
In addition to events focused on specific careers, UCS will continue to hold panels and workshops focused on topics such as applying to graduate school, social media management and resume-writing throughout the year.