ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – When COVID-19 hit Virginia, at its peak unemployment was above 11% throughout the Commonwealth. Now, the Virginia Employment Commission is trying to help get people back on their feet through a series of virtual job fairs.
“I think people need to realize that it does give people an opportunity to speak to employers and take advantage of every opportunity you can to do that,” Toni McLawhorn, the one-stop coordinator for Virginia Career Works, said.
Meeting potential employers online looks different than in-person job fairs. Companies have online “booths,” which are really more like chat rooms for employers and job candidates to message back and forth.
“It’s just sitting at the computer and typing in a conversation,” she said. “So the person needs to keep in mind that using correct grammar and spelling and punctuation and things of that nature, because that all makes an impression.”
From there, employers will often book online video interviews for the next stage of the hiring process.
“The job fair three weeks ago, we had someone who ended up with interviews getting scheduled at the job fair and they came back in here and used our computers the following day to do those interviews,” McLawhorn said.
One of the most important reasons to get a job now instead of relying on unemployment benefits or waiting for the pandemic to end is to minimize the gap in your employment history.
“It’s easier to find a job if you have a job, because an employer sees you as being engaged and being willing to put yourself out there,” McLawhorn explained.
Virginia Career Works is partnering with the VEC to help facilitate this event. McLawhorn said these kinds of job fairs will likely stick around even after the pandemic ends.
“They have found that virtual recruiting allows them a lot more opportunities to reach people that they might normally not have been able to reach,” she said.
Whether you want to participate in that recruiting session or simply be ready for your next job interview, Virginia Career Works in Roanoke is here to help.
“We would encourage them to take advantage of our services,” McLawhorn said. “Coming in here, letting us help them with a resume because they are being asked to upload a resume in advance.”
Not only can Virginia Career Works help you prepare before this job fair; you can also use its computers to attend the fair and then to participate in any virtual interviews you may book after the event.
“From how to dress to what questions, and we can put them through a mock interview and it would be a mock Zoom interview,” McLawhorn said.
She added it’s important to review the potential job opportunities ahead of the event, research the companies and have all your resumes and paperwork uploaded in advance.
“We’ve got manufacturing and warehousing, but there’s also law enforcement, social services and education,” McLawhorn said. “A couple of universities have jobs that are posted. Local governments are participating. Obviously, healthcare is a big one so there’s just a wide variety of opportunities. It’s not just focused on one industry.”
Southwest and Central Virginia’s regional job fair is Wednesday from 1-5 p.m. The VCW is offering extended hours that day so you can use their facility to participate in the event, but you have to book an appointment.
There are about 9,500 jobs being offered around the Commonwealth and about 150 employers are in Southwest and Central Virginia.
The Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia will host a virtual job fair Tuesday, March 9. Greater Richmond and Hampton Roads will host on Thursday, March 11.
Click here to see all the businesses and organizations that will be in attendance.
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