The coronavirus pandemic has caused many to press pause on their traditional events, but Westminster continues to find ways to adapt events for students, including this year’s Professional Networking Symposium. The event, which has previously been held on a Saturday, will commence on Friday, Sept. 25 from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm. To comply with COVID-19 guidelines, the event will move to a virtual platform.
The Professional Networking Symposium will kick off with the Career and Networking Fair from 8:30 to 9:30 am on Handshake, according to Director of the Professional Development Center Jennifer Hough. Employers attending the event are listed on Handshake and the list is updated daily as new employers register. Hough notes that all students have a Handshake account through the college, but some may need to finish setting up their account. She also encourages students to have their accounts filled out as thoroughly as possible, because this is where employers will go to reconnect with students after the event. Because of the virtual platform this year, Hough joked, “The nice thing is you don’t have to shake hands, right?”
Breakout sessions will be hosted on Zoom. Hough wants students to note the difference in platforms between the Career and Networking Fair and the breakout sessions. Students will be able to sign up for the breakout sessions in advance, but they can also wait until the morning of the event to do so. Zoom breakout sessions will be closed five minutes after the official starting time to allow panel moderators to focus on the panel. An additional networking session will be hosted on Zoom from 7 to 8:30 pm. This session is open to students as an opportunity to further connect with alumni in different regions of the country.
The Professional Networking Symposium this year also introduces a new resume competition. Submissions were due to Hough on Sept. 18. The competition will be judged on both layout and content. Alumni donors have funded substantial prizes for those winning first, second and third place.
Hough said that this year’s circumstances provide a “silver lining” for alumni. Many alumni who haven’t been able to physically attend the symposium in the past can attend virtually this year. This has created a new facet in the planning process, as time differences are also considered.
The Professional Networking Symposium is the “brainchild” of Ben and Christie Nelson, who both graduated from Westminster in 2006. Though this year’s event is virtual, future symposiums will likely be in-person. Hough notes that in-person events fit Westminster students better, and they more closely resemble life beyond college. She hopes to continue holding the event in lieu of classes in the future stating, “This year is the first year we’ve gotten the permission and buy-in to say ‘You know what? We’re going to cancel classes. This is THAT important.’ We want our students to succeed not only here at Mother Fair but afterwards.” The event is intended to resemble the Undergraduate Research and Arts Celebration (URAC).
Hough encourages all students to be involved, including first-year students. Westminster has a large alumni support network. Events like the Professional Networking Symposium allow students to learn more about their future career fields. “I want (students) to start networking in their first year… This is where you’re able to make some mistakes and able to get some feedback from alumni who care and who really want to see the best happening for the students here.”
Click here for the full schedule of events.