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ISU taking lead on virtual career fair trend for Southwest MBA Alliance
AMES, Iowa -- College seniors and job-seekers know the drill. Take a few days off to venture to some relatively close population center to meet with prospective employers at a career fair about future job opportunities and internships.
But that's all changing. Now, meeting with prospective employers about their jobs is as simple as turning on the home computer -- literally.
That's according to Mark Peterson, director of MBA graduate career services in Iowa State University's College of Business, who is managing the software being used this year for the second annual Southwest MBA Alliance Virtual Career Fair from November 6-20. Peterson projects that the online event -- which allows MBA students and invited employers to participate by logging on from any computer with an Internet connection -- will bring some 800 students and 200 employment recruiters together online.
"That's about a thousand people exchanging jobs and resumes, and that's kind of cool," said Peterson.
The organization's last physical "bricks and mortar" career fair in Dallas more than two years ago only brought out about 30 companies, and far fewer students.
The Southwest MBA Alliance is a group of 12 top MBA programs located in the central and south-central United States that combine efforts each year to foster connections between progressive businesses and MBA students. Member business schools are: University of Arkansas, Baylor University, Iowa State University, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, University of Missouri-Columbia, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Oklahoma, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, and Texas Christian University. The alliance was formed to offer high profile MBA-only career recruiting events each year.
That event used to be the annual career fair conducted in Dallas. Previously, Iowa State would charter a bus to allow its MBA students to attend. But when the number of companies sending recruiters to the event began to diminish, it became far less attractive to students -- in terms of both time and money. That got alliance organizers considering alternatives.
"Since 2001, many companies have been eliminating extra travel, and that means fewer of them were sending recruiters to consortia career fairs," said Peterson. "Even in 2002-03, it was still a struggle to get an event like this together. So a couple of years ago, we learned of some colleagues (University of Tennessee-Knoxville) in a different consortium who tried an online career fair and reported at our professional organization's conference that it was pretty successful."
The alliance's first virtual career fair last year was pretty successful too. Using the popular "Symplicity" career services manager software, the event attracted 173 companies which posted 276 jobs for the 611 MBA students who participated. What's more, the virtual career fair's Web site received over one million hits during the two-week period.
"At the last bricks and mortar career fair, there weren't even specific jobs available from every company that attended," said Peterson. "The big advantage to this online career fair is that there are specific jobs posted from each participating company that are targeted for our participating students during that two-week period, and students can post their resumes directly to the companies for those particular jobs. At the end of the two weeks, the computer program creates a book of all applicants' resumes in a .pdf format for the employer to review."
Peterson and his ISU staff are responsible for managing the software for the event this year -- customizing it to produce all the desired results. He and the career fairs' organizers have also tried to improve upon this event's initial success.
"Last year, we didn't take a real measured approach with recruiting companies that had job opportunities specifically requiring MBAs," Peterson said. "This year we've been more selective that way. Each school has invited 10 companies that they thought would be likely to participate and post truly MBA-level positions. But we still had some other companies that were already registered, and also invited some others back from last year. So, there were a total of 220-230 companies invited to participate."
And with all of those companies posting opportunities, online job seekers are now being provided a more direct "link" to post-graduation employment -- even if they don't meet the employer in-person.
Mark Peterson, director of MBA graduate career services in ISU's College of Business, is managing the software being used this year for the second annual Southeast MBA Alliance Virtual Career Fair from November 6-20. Peterson projects that the online event -- which allows MBA students and invited employers to participate by logging on from any computer with an Internet connection -- will bring some 800 students and 200 employment recruiters together online.
"That's about a thousand people exchanging jobs and resumes, and that's kind of cool."