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Virtual Career Treks offer all UW System students online industry exploration

| Denise Olson

Traditionally, a Career Trek is a site visit that companies and organizations have provided on UW System campuses, giving students the chance to learn about a company of interest, any job or internship opportunities they have available and what they seek in candidates who apply.

For the fall 2020 semester, career services offices across the UW System have teamed up to provide 13 weeks of Virtual Career Treks, hosted every Wednesday at 2 p.m. UW-Eau Claire will host their session of Career Treks on Oct. 14, presenting the Menards Corp., the Eau Claire-based home improvement company founded by John Menard. 

Staci Heidtke, associate director of the Advising, Retention and Career Center at UW-Eau Claire, is looking forward to this new way to engage students online. 

Staci Heidtke

Staci Heidtke, associate director of UW-Eau Claire's Advising, Retention and Career Center

"I’m very excited to bring Career Treks to Blugolds," Heidtke says. "These treks are a chance for students to learn from and connect with employers across the state. For the foreseeable future, career networking for Blugolds is primarily happening online. Offering these events virtually is actually an advantage because it opens UW-Eau Claire students up to networking and engaging with industry professionals across the state with no cost, travel or time lost away from the classroom. This is an easy way to learn more about the organization, recruitment process, and potential internships and full-time opportunities." 

Alyssa Slaby, career counselor in the Advising, Retention and Career Center at UW-Eau Claire, is the coordinator for this event and part of the systemwide team selecting the lineup of presenters for the fall.

Alyssa Slaby

Career counselor Alyssa Slaby is excited to be hosting the Menards Corp. Oct. 14 for the UW-Eau Claire edition of the online Career Treks series.

"We have come up with a really nice variety of for-profits in insurance, manufacturing and retail, and nonprofits and health care organizations as well," Slaby says. "The recorded 30-60 minute Zoom sessions will consist of a company overview, a virtual company tour and a live Q&A for students. The wide geographic base of these 13 campuses provides a bit of an advantage over in-person treks by allowing students to attend presentations by employers all over the state, see what different types of employers are looking for and get some leverage for their own application process down the road."

Slaby encourages students to attend as many of these Career Treks as they can, even if the presenter is not necessarily an industry or type of organization they see themselves in. It's all useful experience, from getting ideas about different types of business structures and functions to having the chance to hear what other students are asking employers during the Q&A.

"Attendees will benefit from preparing their own questions and hearing those responses, and will also hear answers to questions they may never have thought to ask but can be valuable added information," Slaby says.

Morgan Meyer

Morgan Meyer, a senior from Becker, Minnesota, works as a career services intern and has helped to prepare students for various career steps and opportunities, such as the upcoming Career Treks online events.

Senior organizational communication major and Career Services intern Morgan Meyer also has been hard at work preparing for the Career Treks series, especially promoting this virtual series on social media. As a student minoring in workforce development and engagement, Meyer is thrilled to help students prepare for this important opportunity to engage with major state employers in a format that may become more of a new norm in a post-COVID job market.

"This program is unique. Companies are coming to the students, right where they are," Meyer says. "There's no need to go out seeking an informational interview, they're right here. All students have to do is attend online, accept the free event and learn about these organizations. Students stand to learn about a type of job they never even knew existed, but could be a good fit for their interests."

According to Meyer, the benefits of the Career Treks are numerous, including:

  • Practice preparing questions for interviews and posing questions to employers.
  • Practice responding to questions.
  • Learning the types of questions other students are asking employers.
  • Hearing a variety of companies describe their organization and the various positions they offer.
  • Getting their name and face out there and start building professional contacts and relationships.

By way of preparation, both Slaby and Meyer suggest that students approach this as an actual interview, not just an online session they may not really engage with.

"Despite the group virtual meeting format that includes students across the UW System, this is still each student's chance to prepare intentionally for each presenting company and get the most from each session," Meyer says. "If the company isn't an exact match for a student's career goal, every chance to learn about what employers are looking for is a valuable experience."

Registration details for students

Registration for each virtual session is available on the Career Treks webpage, which will bring students to Handshake to complete each registration.

Career Treks sessions will take place in a Zoom meeting on Wednesdays at 2 p.m., lasting approximately one hour depending on the length of Q&A sessions.

Students are encouraged to dress as they would for an in-person career fair, taking this chance to professionally present themselves to employers in this virtual format.