Amongst the mayhem and change from the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been crucial for students to begin considering how this may affect their professional endeavors. The Risk and Insurance Career Fair was held October 1, 2020, through an online platform (Handshake), and included more than 60 employers from all over the country. More than 250 UW-Madison students attended. The fair is intended to provide an opportunity for students interested in actuarial science, risk management, insurance operations, and analytics to converse with employers. Due to the change in format, there were significant differences between last year and this year. However, the spirit and enthusiasm of students and employers did not change!
Prior to the fair, I met with my career coach to discuss potential improvements for my resume. I also attended the Career Fair preparatory session (conducted by the Risk and Insurance Department that provided crucial information on the new online format, attire, and conversational topics). The preparatory session was extremely beneficial and gave me guidance on how to carry out intellectual and personable conversations with employers. I also used the career fair booklet to research companies I was interested in. Being a sophomore, I primarily focused on companies offering full-time internships for next summer. I also considered factors such as location, type of insurer, size of company, etc. I ranked the companies I selected in order of importance and compiled my researched information onto an accessible form. This year, due to the virtual format, students were allowed to sign up ahead of time for ten-minute individual sessions or 30-minute group sessions. There was also an option to speak with employers impromptu. Since I prioritized my preferred companies, I signed up for one-on-one sessions with all of them. I also applied to a few internship positions before the fair.
On the day of the fair, I ensured that I kept a notepad, pen, and my research sheet on hand. Although I was initially nervous, I took advantage of the online break room, where I could speak with career coaches and supportive peers, to ease my nerves. Before each one-on-one session, I reviewed a few details about the company and kept one or two questions in mind for the representative. The employers who attended the fair were extremely enthusiastic and kind. They made the conversations feel easy and casual rather than interview-like. Most of them allowed me to guide the conversations by encouraging me to ask questions. They were very open to discussing a wide variety of topics. Many of them gave me their contact information and also asked me to apply online to certain positions. After each session, I took note of a few topics we discussed and important points to remember. At the end of the fair, I applied online to the positions I had heard about, and I informed the company representatives that I spoke to.
I felt that this career fair, although untraditional in format, allowed me to make very strong connections with employers. I learned how to engage in conversations for longer periods of time and how to ask concise questions. I was grateful to have been able to be a part of this event, as it alleviated some of my concerns in terms of pursuing my professional endeavors going forward!