What happens when you work in career services but the global pandemic has not only forced your team to work remotely, it’s also sent most of your students to their home countries? At the Career Design Lab (CDL), we decided to plan the School of Professional Studies’ very first international virtual career fair in less than three months.
With the generous support of Columbia’s Beijing Global Center, the UNESCO Creative Cities - Shanghai Promotion Office and the Global Talent Service Center of Shanghai Human Resource & Social Security Bureau, the Career Design Lab hosted its very first Virtual China Career Fair, a week-long recruiting and networking event to connect SPS students and alumni with prominent employers based in China. From August 17th to 21st, more than 900 SPS students and alumni met with 35 companies clustered around a variety of industries including education, consulting, technology and marketing.
Monday evening saw tech firms like Huawei, JD.com and Siemens deliver short presentations, hold Q&A sessions and later move into their own networking breakout rooms to speak with small groups of students and alumni about available internships and full-time positions. Tuesday featured employers from consulting, marketing and communications including Accenture, Nielsen and the CCE Group which drew large numbers of attendees. Wednesday was all about financial services with Cybernaut Investment, Willis Towers Watson and Wind Information capturing a lot of audience attention. The fourth day of the event featured a mix of companies ranging from automotive and fashion to biotechnology and consumer goods. Representatives from businesses like BMW China and Estee Lauder attended and students and alumni learned about available internships in areas such as supply chain logistics and brand strategy. NetEase Youdao, GEC Academy and several other organizations in the education field capped off the event with presentations and recruiters were looking to fill Academic Specialists and other positions.
In a post-career fair survey, the vast majority of students, alumni and employers said that they found value in the event. Here are some stats:
- 97% of students and alumni said they would recommend this event to their friends.
- 92% of employers said that they would participate in future virtual Columbia SPS events.
- 87% of students and alumni either strongly agreed or agreed that the event expanded their job search options.
The Career Design Lab created the virtual fair to be responsive to the unique needs of the SPS student body, which is approximately 60% international — many of whom are from China — and facing an especially challenging job market amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. Committed to continual improvement and responsive programs and services, we are always eager to receive feedback from employers. For instance, a company representative asked the team to consider using a video conferencing software with which more Chinese companies are familiar. We consulted with the Beijing Global Center and ultimately decided to use Tencent’s VooV platform. As the Career Design Lab plans similar virtual recruiting events, there will undoubtedly be more platforms to explore in order to be as accommodating as possible. Employers looking to partner with the CDL should contact us at careerdesignlab [[at]] columbia [[dot]] edu.
On the student side, we received feedback that suggested bringing in Chinese employers that reside outside major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Additionally, students and alumni would like to see a greater presence of employers in the financial services and consulting industries for the next virtual career fair.
The Virtual China Career Fair was truly an experiment, but one that we wholeheartedly agree was a success based on feedback that’s come in from all our participants and event planners. It proved to our Career Design Lab team that we can respond — and quickly for that matter — to the needs of our students, alumni, and employers wherever they are in the world and during a time when people are concerned about their futures and struggling to connect with opportunities. We are dedicated to supporting students and alumni in all phases of their career development, and we hope the Virtual China Career Fair demonstrates itself as another example of that.