Henry Ford College’s First Virtual Career Expo
Henry Ford College’s Career Services Office hosted its annual Career Expo on Oct. 24. The event was open to students and alumni and was attended by over 60 employers from various different fields, including Jacob’s Electric, Henry Ford Health System, and DTE Energy. The goal of the Career Expo is to connect as many students to potential employers as possible and allow them to have conversations about their career paths with them.
This year’s event was completely virtual, with participants needing to RSVP to gain access to the Expo. HFC students were able to access the list of employers who would be attending the event beforehand, through the Career Services website, allowing them to research businesses they may be interested in having conversations with. On the day of the Expo, participants were presented with a list of representatives that were available to meet (virtually). They would then place themselves into a queue, in which they would wait their turn for a meeting with the representative. When it was their turn, they would be presented with a link that would take them to various calling platforms, from Zoom, to Google Meets, to Microsoft Teams. From here, with the representative on the other end of the call, participants were able to ask any questions they had for them. After their conversation, participants were able to type a follow up message to the representatives they spoke to, allowing them a possibility to expand their network.
The Career Expo was forced to go completely virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. While many businesses are taking various steps to slow the spread of COVID-19, such as reducing their workforce or requiring workers to work remotely, Career Services Officer Chad Austin explains that employers are still hiring, some more than ever. “People assume that every company is in survival mode,”Austin says. “When in reality, there’s a lot of companies that have responded very well to a very tough situation and they’re looking to grow.” Austin adds that some employers may be interested in bringing on new people. Austin explains that while companies are still hiring and bringing on new talent, he also says “how you go about job searching has never been more unique and challenging. You’re not going to walk in and shake hands with someone sitting across the table from you and conduct a meeting.” As the pandemic has increased the amount of companies conducting virtual interviews and meetings, the Career Services Office plans to incorporate training in these virtual spaces into their work to better equip students.
Representatives from various fields who attended the event all had one thing in common: they loved students from HFC. From our Automotive and Engineering programs, to our Optometry and Nursing programs, participants of the Career Expo agree that the curriculum of our programs closely match the knowledge that they are looking for potential employees to have. Many of the representatives who attended the Expo this year have attended similar events in the past, but never a virtual one. Terri Donato from Jacob’s Technology mentions that they have attended one virtual career fair in the past, but not one at HFC. Representatives from Henry Ford Health System agreed that they have not attended a virtual career fair in the past either.
Most representatives from the fair also had similar views on what they see as an ideal candidate. Many of the representatives agreed that their ideal candidates were interested in their field of study and had an interest and passion to learn more. They also said that a positive attitude and the aptitude to perform well were important qualities in their candidates. Overall, the representatives are not searching for experts in the field, rather they are looking for employees who are eager and willing to learn.
According to Austin, the Career Services Office’s goal is threefold: “we help you explore, we help you prepare, and we help you connect.” In terms of exploration, Austin explains, “we help with exploration of self” and “figuring out who you are, what your interests, abilities, skills” are. He continues, “we also help you explore the job market, and what that looks like, and what jobs are in demand.” Austin continues that the office tries to “get you to go out into the world of professional working and have success” by focusing on “resume writing, cover letter writing, how to interview, how to dress professionally, how to conduct yourself in a professional environment.” In addition, the office attempts to connect students to employers by having a job posting board, “having career fairs, mock interviews” and “all these other things that are designed to give you face to face contact with employers.” Lastly, the Career Services Office coordinates all of the student workers on campus as well as being responsible for cooperative education on campus, allowing students to get the chance to have “practical experience while you’re still in school by going out and actually getting college credit for the work that you do.”
Altogether, it is the overall goal of the Career Services Office to prepare students to step out into the world of work and professionalism. The Career Services Office is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM, with extended hours until 6 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Since Aug. 24, a staff member has also been standing by on a Zoom session, taking questions in a remote setting. To access the call, students just have to visit their website: careers.hfcc.edu. The Career Services Office plans to hold a virtual Nursing Fair in November, as well as continue to offer virtual career fairs, workshops, and networking opportunities through their website in the coming months.