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San Juan College planning virtual career, internship fair Feb. 22-26

Event planned for two hours a day each day

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Jill Bishop
  • The event will feature dozens of companies and organizations.
  • It is being held virtually because of the social distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Each day of the fair will feature a series of career pathways.

FARMINGTON — While the labor market in San Juan County is far from ideal, Jill Bishop, the director of the San Juan College Center for Student Careers and Employment, has a message for local job seekers who may be letting their frustration get the best of them.

"Even if you're discouraged, even if you've applied for 100 jobs, it's good to get out there and do some networking," she said. "It doesn't hurt, and networking is huge in finding you a job."

Bishop is the organizer of a sizable networking opportunity set to take place through the college later this month. The virtual Career and Internship Fair takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily from Monday, Feb. 22 through Friday, Feb. 26. The event will feature dozens of companies and organizations, and the event is being held virtually because of the social distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We needed to be pretty creative," Bishop said of her institution's efforts to hold a job fair this year despite the pandemic. "We do not have a lot of money to spend on software, so we thought this would be easier to navigate."

The virtual fair will be held in the form of a large Zoom meeting each day. Bishop said those "attending" the fair will be welcomed into a virtual lobby each day before they are moved into separate rooms for breakout sessions with the representatives of companies or organizations that interest them.

"It'll be like moving from table to table, and they'll be able to choose which employers they want to speak with," she said.

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Each day of the fair will feature a series of career pathways. The first day will focus on business and entrepreneurship, part-time retail or service positions.

The second day will be devoted to education, public services and public safety, along with arts, communication and humanities.

Day three will be devoted to energy, manufacturing and transportation, and the fourth day will focus on health sciences.

The final day will be devoted to computer science, information technology and cybersecurity, along with science, math and engineering.

Bishop emphasized that the fair is open to anyone in the community who is looking for work, not just San Juan College students.

More than 50 companies and organizations will be represented, including Four Corners Materials, the San Juan Regional Medical Center, Centura, Kodiak Gas Services, C.R. England and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Bishop said even the FBI will be represented at the event, as it is seeking people to fill IT and cybersecurity positions.

While she isn't sure how the virtual fair will be received, Bishop is hoping for the best. She said she will be satisfied if at least 100 job seekers take part.

"We usually have a large (in-person) fair featuring hundreds of employers in the spring," she said, adding that she hopes it will be possible to hold an event of that nature later this year. "We hope (this event is) flexible for people and that they can join in on their lunch break or between classes."

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The event also will feature companies or organizations that are offering internship opportunities, and a special effort is being made to include those with hiring preferences for veterans, she said. There are likely to be several job opportunities that feature remote work, she said.

Bishop said her center is planning an interactive workshop at noon on Thursday, Feb. 18 to help job seekers prepare for the fair. Participants will be coached on how to introduce themselves to employers and how to navigate the fair.

"I suggest having a list of employers you might want to get interested in yourself," she said. "We'll have a refresher on how to pitch who you are and what your qualifications are."

Bishop said that even though the fair will be conducted in a virtual format, it is still important for job seekers to present themselves in a professional manner. That means giving some thought ahead of time to joining the Zoom meeting from a quiet space and being aware of the background against which you are framed.

"It's also important to dress to impress, just like you would in person, and be aware of your body language," she said.

If the virtual fair attracts enough participation, Bishop said she would seriously consider adding it to her center's list of annual offerings, even when it is possible to conduct a job fair in person again.

"We'll kind of assess how everything goes," she said. "Since this is our first time around with the logistics, we could have some issues. But I think it will be fine and that we'll get good participation."

Those interested in taking part in the interactive Feb. 18 workshop can find a link for it by clicking on the "Workshops and Events" header on the center's website at sanjuancollege.edu/careercenter. Links to join each day of the virtual career and internship fair can be found on the first page of the center's website. The fair also can be accessed at https://zoom.us/j/91630961646 using the meeting ID 916-30961646.

Those with questions about the virtual job fair are encouraged to call 505-566-3423, visit sanjuancollege.edu/careercenter or email careercenter@sanjuancollege.edu.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.