Disappointment and pride after suspension of Career Expo

A phone call from the rector at 4.15 in the afternoon, a completely dismantled exhibition floor just three hours later. The organizing committee of the Career Expo, one of the largest career events in the Netherlands, had to display an unexpected example of crisis management on Tuesday. Boris Zwaan, chairman of the Wervingsdagen, looks back with mixed feelings of great disappointment and much pride.

Chemistry student Zwaan proves to be a man of a ‘glass half-full.’ Because naturally, he’s terribly disappointed by the fact that the two-day Career Expo was suddenly suspended after the Coronavirus guidelines were sharpened in Noord-Brabant. “But if that decision had been made one day earlier, or if the entire event would have started on Wednesday, all of our preparations would truly have been in vain. Now, we were successfully up and running for at least one day.”

Zwaan says that president of the Executive Board Robert-Jan Smits received a phone call from the mayor of Eindhoven, John Jorritsma, around three o’clock Tuesday afternoon. Jorritsma was about to give a press conference (article in Dutch) with his colleagues from Tilburg and Den Bosch in one hour. Rector Frank Baaijens phoned Zwaan at a quarter to four and asked him “if he could stop by.” While day one of the Career Expo was still in full swing, the chairman of the Wervingsdagen met with the entire Executive Board, which presented him with a clear message: the event is over.

“Of course, we were disappointed,” Zwaan says. “But we also thought: this is what it is, we need to turn the corner and start to dismantle everything. We were practically finished by seven in the evening; everything was dismantled, packed, and all of us had finished our meals.”

He is very satisfied with how the Executive Board supported the organizing committee. The board helped by informing all TU/e students and the many support services involved in the event. “We, in turn, phoned and emailed all the companies that were scheduled for day two.” They had to contact some sixty companies; some of the approximately nineteen companies and startups that were supposed to be present on the exhibition floor today had previously cancelled on their own initiative. There were some empty spots on the exhibition floor Tuesday as well. Zwaan: “I believe there were sixty to seventy companies present.”

Revenue losses

At this point, Zwaan can’t say much about how the decision to suspend the Career Expo will affect the Wervingsdagen financially. “We need to look into that, together with the Executive Board. But it will certainly have consequences.” One of the things they need to do is calculate the revenue losses for the Career Expo, which is a “six-figure project,” Zwaan says.

Zwaan: “The Executive Board simply can’t say much about this matter either. As such, the Career Expo is a major event, but for TU/e it’s only a small part of the problems currently associated with the coronavirus. If we end up in a situation similar to the one in northern Italy one week from now, so to speak, it might have a significant impact on the entire university. You just don’t know how the virus will develop.”

He continues: “In any case, we are going to let the events of this week sink in for a moment; we’re not going to evaluate yet, or make any decisions. But whatever happens: we have the utmost confidence in the support we receive from the university. I also think it’s terribly kind how they looked after us and helped us yesterday.”

Read on below the photo.

Arjen Lubach

Zwaan is also very happy that the opening of the Career Expo with comedian and television maker Arjen Lubach Tuesday morning wasn’t cancelled. “We worked really hard to get him to come here. I phoned him the night before just to be sure, he had also seen the news about the advice to people in Brabant to stay at home, but he said: ‘Did you really think I would cancel?’ His management did however ask us to make sure that he wouldn’t be surrounded by dozens of students asking for selfies after the Q&A.”

The Interviewing Days of the Wervingsdagen, which are scheduled to take place between 20 and 24 April, are still on the agenda for the time being. “They take place in a hotel, with mostly one-on-one conversations and dinners. It’s not an open space with hundreds, thousands of visitors. So, as long as hotels won’t be put under lockdown, the event will take place as planned.”

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