OCS kicks off annual networking series; virtual events to continue post-COVID
OCS staff and students shared their experiences with virtual career fairs and weighed in on the future of college networking.
Ryan Chiao, Photo Editor
Last Friday, the Office of Career Strategy brought together 24 firms and over 100 students for a virtual boutique consulting career fair — the first of six industry-specific networking events scheduled for the 2021-22 academic year.
The event — which was hosted on Yale Career Link, an online platform powered by Symplicity — emulated an in-person networking fair. According to OCS Associate Director Denise Byrnes, student attendees were able to engage in one-on-one conversations with employer representatives and attend group video calls to learn more about specific companies and opportunities. Byrnes, along with another administrator and student, expressed both benefits and drawbacks of the virtual event and hopes to hold both virtual and in-person events post-pandemic.
“I was able to talk with two or three consulting firms and have one-on-one conversations, and ask them questions about their job, about their day in the life, about traveling as a consultant … and just like the general culture of their firms,” said Meshach Cornelius ’22, who attended the Friday event. “This was a way for me to learn more [about consulting] from the people who are doing it themselves.”
Though Cornelius has already secured a job in finance, he saw the consulting fair as an opportunity to expand his network and learn more about a related industry.
According to Jeanine Dames, director of OCS and associate dean of Yale College, the networking events for this academic year were designed to take place virtually in accordance with the University’s public health recommendations. Though Dames expressed hope for a future return of in-person events, she noted that OCS has seen “tremendous positives” to virtual programming — such as increased accessibility for students and employers from around the world. Dames anticipates that OCS will offer a combination of in-person and virtual networking events after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
Byrnes echoed Dames’ thoughts, adding that some industries are particularly well-suited for virtual engagement with students.
“While I’m hopeful in-person events will return in the future, the virtual nature of these events makes them more accessible for certain employers,” Byrnes wrote in an email to the News. “This is especially the case for employers from within the Common Good & Creative Careers industry sectors. These employers may not have the resources to travel to in-person events, so the virtual nature of these events offers these employers an avenue to engage with students and promote opportunities within their organizations.”
Cornelius suggested another potential benefit of virtual career fairs: the intimate setting of a private Zoom room, in contrast to the noisy commotion that typically accompanies an in-person event, can be more comfortable for students who are less extroverted, Cornelius said.
Still, Cornelius personally prefers in-person networking, although he said he was able to connect well with employers through the virtual platform. He too expressed support for a hybrid model of in-person and virtual networking in the future, emphasizing the increased accessibility that virtual programming offers.
“[Before] you had to come in the suit and tie and go all the way to, you know, some other location,” Cornelius said. “Whereas now, if you’re just like doing homework and you want to talk with one company, for example, or two, you can quickly put on a shirt — maybe not the pants — and then just have a conversation for 15 minutes, half an hour, and then get back easily into the rest of your schedule.”
In addition to the consulting fair last Friday, OCS hosted a finance event this Tuesday and has three more industry fairs planned for the next several weeks: a government event on Sept. 17, a STEM event on Sept. 22 and a nonprofit event on Oct. 1. The final career fair of the series, which will focus on common good and creative careers — a broad collection of sectors that includes the arts, media and education — will take place in the spring.
As of Wednesday afternoon, a total of 520 students and 116 employers attended or are registered to attend at least one of the five industry-specific career fairs taking place this fall.