Are you ready for your college’s next career fair?
Most colleges organize career fairs for their students to meet recruiters and prospective employers. Typically, each participating company has a table where students can talk with representatives and get information about working for the company.
Career fairs, also known as job fairs, are usually aimed at third and final year who are either looking for internships or entry-level jobs in their industries. That said, even second-year students can take part in career fairs, getting a head start in building the right networks for internships and future employment.
Some career fairs are general, bringing employers and recruiters from different fields. However, in many cases, colleges organize career fairs that focus on specific areas such as media, law, or engineering.
With the pressure of impressing recruiters and employers, career fairs can be overwhelming for most college students. What should you expect? How do you stand out among all the other students clamoring for attention?
Here are a few effective tips on how to make the most of career fairs when in college:
1- Research the Participating Organizations in the Career Fair
Before the date of the job fair, find out which organizations will be participating—this information is usually available on your school’s website. Of these companies, which ones are you most interested in interning or working with?
Create a priority list that will guide you when engaging during the career fair. Research each company you’re interested in, paying attention to its recent successes and challenges. Your goal is to find a genuine angle to appeal to them with your skills, values, and interests.
Take notes on each company and prepare a list of questions to ask. These questions will give you something to talk about with the recruiters, which will make you more interesting to engage with and help you make a good impression.
2- Prepare an Elevator Pitch
With plenty of other students competing to speak with the organization’s representatives, you’ll have limited time to make an impression. Therefore, you need to come prepared to make the most of the few minutes they’ll spare for you.
Prepare an elevator pitch — a short presentation that introduces you to prospective employers and recruiters. Your elevator pitch should be about one minute long. Think of three reasons why you add value to prospective employers.
Think carefully about what you bring to the table and what makes you unique. Are you a student leader? Have you had volunteer experience in the area of interest? Do you have amazing grades? Which extra-curricular activities will make you stand out?
If in doubt, consult your college career advisors and professors for guidance on crafting your elevator pitch.
3- Dress the Part for the Career Fair
Think of the career fair as your chance to make a great first impression on prospective employers. To do so, you must dress professionally. This is not the time to wear a hoodie and jeans and casual sandals.
However, you don’t have to wear a suit. Career advisors recommend that students should dress in “smart casual” or “business casual” attire for career fairs. This usually means smart khaki pants, button-down shirts, pencil skirts, sweater sets, and professional-looking shoes.
Look up ideas online if you’re not sure how to dress. In general, it’s better to appear overdressed rather than dressing too casually.
4- Engage Strategically
On the day of the career fair, you need to have a strategy on how to engage with potential employers and recruiters. Arrive early so you can get ample time to engage with them before they’ve overcrowded with other applicants.
Before the career fair date, make sure to update your resume and print at least 10 copies. Hand out a copy of your resume to employers that you connect with. If applicable to your area of work, you can also bring a portfolio to show employers.
Don’t overlook smaller, less well-known companies. The bigger, well-known companies will probably have more competition and may not necessarily provide the best opportunities for fresh graduates. Smaller companies are more likely to give younger employees more responsibility early in their careers.
It’s important to maintain a positive and cheerful attitude throughout the day. Don’t get tired of articulating your elevator pitch over and over to different employers. Remember, for each person you meet, it will be the first time they’re hearing it—so keep it fresh.
Smile warmly and shake hands. Maintain an open posture that exudes positive energy and inspires confidence in your abilities.
5- Follow Up and Stay in Touch
During your conversation with each employer or recruiter, make sure to ask for ways that you can stay in touch. In most cases, they’ll provide you with email or phone numbers through which you can reach them.
If you had a great conversation with someone, follow up with them and let them know. Mention specifics about your conversation to remind them who you are and keep you at the top of their minds for vacant positions.
Well-thought-out planning before a job fair, efficient execution on the day of the event, and excellent follow-up afterward can all significantly increase your chances of receiving job offers as a result of your career fair experience.